Nothing like having your picture on the front page of your local newspaper--again! Many thanks to Sean Dieterich for covering this story. He wrote a great article. This is Sean's third article he has written about our family and our mission to increase awareness about mitochondrial disease and raise money for a cure. He's a great guy and an excellent writer!
Helen Keller once said: "Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." This story written below describes someone who lives by these words. It was an honor to meet this philanthropist.
The full text of the article is included on this post below. I have also included a link to the article on-line if you have a subscription to the White Mountain Independent.
Belnap family visits philanthropist’s ‘Batcave’
Sean Dieterich - The Independent | Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013 5:00 am
SHOW LOW — One family’s mission to find a cure for their kids caught the attention of a Phoenix philanthropist recently. A philanthropist, as it turned out, who is a big fan of the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader and the World’s Greatest Detective. In other words, Batman.
The Belnap family; parents Newell and Becky and children Sydney, 19, Spencer, 16, Sierra, 11, and Seth, 7, was invited by Charles Keller to check out his replica Batcave, re-created in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse on North 20th Street in Phoenix. Keller has re-created the Batcave and parts of Wayne Manor, all from the ‘60s television show, using his own time and money.
Keller’s charitable organization is called Wayne Industries, after Bruce Wayne, the man behind Batman’s signature black cowl. The foundation donates to various children charities and takes sick children to his Batcave to have fun with friends and family.
Keller said it all started when he picked up a Batmobile from the TV show. For about five years, he said he and Wayne Industries have been making charitable use of that Batmobile and another picked up along the way. As for the Batcave, he said it took 18 months to build, and there is also something to do to improve it.
Wayne Industries, Keller said, has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to over 60 children’s charities, and they are not slowing down.
“We don’t help children,” he said in an e-mail interview. “We help families. The Belnaps are a great case in point. Sure, the kids we serve have had medical misfortune, but that impacts everybody. Parents have financial, emotional and a zillion other kinds of stress. Some siblings must do with less attention. Grandparents, friends and extended family must all pitch in and ask ‘What could have been?’”
The Belnap family’s visit came on Oct. 13. The Belnaps, along with 25 of their friends and family, got the grand tour in a fun and interactive way.
It all started, Becky said, when Keller, posing as Batman’s butler Alfred, picked up the family in Phoenix in a sleek, black limousine. At Wayne Industries, the family filed into Bruce Wayne’s study to watch a video Keller made. During the video, an “emergency” broadcast interrupted things, and Keller moved the family into action. After Sydney pressed a button on a bust of William Shakespeare, the Batcave opened up, and the family entered the subterranean command center by sliding down firehouse poles.
Keller has filled the Batcave with the many gadgets and gizmos Batman and Robin used in their pursuit of The Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin and the other troublemakers of Gotham City, and they were all on display. The tour included exact replicas of the Batmobile, Batcycle and Catwoman’s Cat-illac Deville.
The family got to ride in the Batmobile, and one member of the family even had the pleasure of getting behind the wheel. “Spencer just turned 16 and got his license, so he got to drive the Batmobile,” Becky said.
Spencer’s drive in the Batmobile just went around the block, around three-quarters of a mile in the industrial park, but photos taken of tour seemed to indicate he enjoyed every second.
The Belnap children chose which charities Keller and Wayne Industries would donate to. Keller donated a total of $2,500; $1,250 to T-Gen, a Phoenix institute researching rare childhood disorders, and $1,250 to the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine in Georgia. Sydney, Spencer and Seth have all been diagnosed with forms of mitochondrial disease, which affects the body’s ability to produce energy.
Becky said at the end of the tour, Keller gave all four kids a “key of hope,” a key on a miniature Batmobile chain. She said Keller told them the key was to the Batmobile, and to come back when they had their license so they could also drive it.
Newell said all of his children are doing “amazingly well” when it comes to coping with their diseases. Spencer has a mild form of the disease, diagnosed back in August 2012, but Becky said he has gone back to playing soccer and played on Blue Ridge High School’s junior varsity team.
Sydney graduated from Blue Ridge High School earlier this year. Becky said Sydney has Leigh’s disease, a progressive neurological disease, and functions at an 8-year-old’s level, but she volunteers with kindergarten children and enjoys it. Sydney was diagnosed with Leigh’s disease at 16.
Seth, however, seems to have made the most progress. His doctor in Georgia said he is getting better, Becky said. Seth also has Leigh’s disease, diagnosed when he was 4, and is a first grader at Blue Ridge Elementary School. Newell said, “He’s not only surviving, but he’s thriving. That just doesn’t happen with Leigh’s disease.”
Keller said, “Clearly, Becky and Newell are great parents. Nobody could blame them and their kids if their outlook on life was dictated by what was on a medical chart. For them, however, a prognosis is not their life, but merely a small part of it.
“For my part, me and my family are made all the richer for having the opportunity to do our small bit to help them and families like theirs.”
Back in February, the family created Team Belnap to raise money to find a cure for mitochrondial disease by taking part in athletic events. Becky said Team Belnap took part in the Tri in the Pines back in August, with Newell participating as a member of the relay team.
Newell said the family is still “actively involved” with Team Belnap. Becky said the team will take part in a marathon in Utah in June. “That is going to be our big fundraiser next year,” she said.
Keller said he was thrilled to meet the Belnap family and help them out. He said families like theirs provide a reminder as to why he donates so much of his time and money. “The reason we like helping families is that most of the families we have met on this journey are brought closer together and made stronger by adversity,” he said. “Not to say this is a road anybody would choose, but true families who do wander this path are all the more appreciative of the things they have, and less bothered by what they don’t.”
Likewise, Newell said he and the family was thrilled to meet Keller and see what he does for sick children. “It was an incredible experience,” he said. “And what this guy does, donates all his money and his time for kids with chronic, incurable diseases, this guy is an incredibly nice guy. He does it because he wants to give back.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Navajo County editor
White Mountain Independent
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