This Thanksgiving, a family from New Hope has so much to be thankful for. After battling health problems, bills pilling up and a house that made every day even more difficult for the soft-spoken Petties family, they are about to move into a new home built by Habitat For Humanity.
"It's amazing," says Khalilah Petties. "I never thought something like this would happen, but experiencing it has been really great."
For 16-year-old Khalilah, every single step is a struggle. She was born with a one-of-a-kind case of spina bifida. Her spine splits in two and she has lost feeling her in left leg, and that forces her to rely on her brothers to get up and down the stairs in her home.
"I have a brother on each side and one in back just in case I lose my balance and my leg gives out on me," Khalilah said.
So far, Khalilah has been through more than 20 surgeries and has more scheduled in February.
"It's been pretty difficult for us to get her up and down the stairs in a three-level town home. It's hard," admitted Khalilah's mom, Kenisha Petties. "When she first came home, she had a wheelchair. With the carpet and everything, you can't move the chair."
Moving from their New Hope rental home filled with stairs hasn't been an option for the family. Kenisha Petties is a single mother of four who works at HealthPartners as a medical office assistant and has struggled to keep up financially with her daughter's frequent trips to see specialists in Ohio.
After she finally got fed up with their living situation, Kenisha applied for a Habitat for Humanity house. Her first attempt was denied, so Kenisha worked many hours of overtime to pay down debt and qualify for the program.
"She works all day and night for us," Khalilah told FOX 9 News. "My brothers have football games, basketball games -- I have doctor's appointments. She has to move her schedule around."
Thirty days later, the call came. Construction on their new home in Fridley was ready to begin.
"It's truly a blessing. So exciting and overwhelming -- everything all in one," said Kenisha.
At their home's dedication, the Petties got to see the completed home for the first time and meet the dozens of volunteers who helped build it.
"It's amazing. I never thought something like this would happen, Khalilah told FOX 9 News. "Experiencing it has been really great. People care about other people and people with disabilities. They try to help anyway they can."
The new home features specialized modifications for Khalilah's needs, from grab bars in the bathroom to wheelchair accessible ramps, doors and floors.
"People, if you don't know them, they care -- and they help anyway they can," Khalilah said. "They helped by building me and my family a house and making things easier for me to move around."
The Petties home was one of three handicap accessible homes that Twin Cities Habitat built in partnership with Access Solutions this year. Access Solutions provides home modification services and helps design living spaces that meet clients' unique needs.
After meeting with the Petties, accessibility consultant Alissa Boroff made several recommendations. Khalilah suffers from migraines so dimming lights and a dark, relaxation room were added to the plans. A fully-accessible bathroom and other features were also added, including adjustments to closets and shelving in case Khalilah needs to use a wheelchair in the future.
If you are interested in volunteering for a Habitat for Humanity House or volunteering, got o http://www.tchabitat.org. To learn about how Access Solutions helps people with special needs live safer, more independent lives call 612-238-5429.