The walls in the Banry home on Beaverton Valley Road have looked better, especially the battle-scarred corners near the kitchen. Steering a wheelchair, it turns out, can get a little tricky, especially when a sister gives a bit too much of a push.
Gordy and Deanna Banry’s younger sons, Clayton, 19, and Sam, 17, rely on wheelchairs, and mobility has become more challenging in the home.
The past year has taken its toll on the entire family as both boys’ conditions have changed, leaving the upstairs part of the house, where the boys’ rooms were at one time, completely out of reach.
“They’re completely wheelchair-bound. They can’t walk at all,” Deanna said. “They need help standing now, which is all part of it. We knew that would come. It actually came a lot later than we thought it would.”
Clayton and Sam’s mobility has declined because of Mucolipidosis type 3, a rare biochemical disorder that impairs cellular metabolism. There are several types of Mucolipidosis. Theirs is one that wreaks havoc on their mobility, but thankfully leaves their minds untouched. The boys are as sharp as ever.
The Banrys’ light-colored farmhouse just outside of town on Beaverton Valley Road — the former Erickson Homestead — was barged up to its current location when Boeing Field was built in the 1920s. It’s a small house for a family of five, only 1,400 square feet, and needless to say, wasn’t built in the last century to be ADA-compliant. Thresholds are elevated. There’s a step down to get into the bathroom. There are narrow angles throughout — a real nightmare for the boys whose options are now more limited.
Last year, as they moved the boys into wheelchairs full-time, Gordy and Deanna looked into their family’s future and thought they may have to move. But they didn’t have the money.
The community responded with a fund-raiser in December that eased some of their burden, or at least gave them options.
Instead of moving, the Banrys decided to take the nearly $100,000 in charitable donations and build an extension onto the side of their house. The addition will ease the mobility problems that confined the two boys to the living room and an adjacent small bedroom.
Local builder Bobby Ross missed the fund-raiser — an outpouring of community support that was attended by hundreds — but was so struck by the family’s story that he decided to spearhead the efforts to make their home improvement a reality.
“He wanted to stay anonymous, but there’s no way,” Deanna said. “He’s amazing.”
Ross designed an addition that will add another living space for the family to share, so the boys won’t have to sleep on the couch anymore. The 24-by-24 addition will have a deck around it, with a ramp to help get the boys in the house that much easier.
“I’ll be able to pull the car in and wheel the boys right up. It’ll be a straight shot to the kitchen,” Deanna said.
Clayton and Sam make it into the kitchen, but not as often as they used to, the boys said. They don’t make it upstairs at all anymore. Instead, they spend their time — most all of it when they’re not at school — on the couch where the family watches TV and plays video games. The boys now spend their nights there too.
Clayton and Sam have made the best of it, not complaining at all. They don’t know quite how to feel about the outpouring of community support directed their way. “It’s kind of difficult. I’ve never been the center of anything before,” Sam said.
Accepting an outpouring of community support — pretty much to keep their family here on the island — has been difficult for fiercely independent Deanna and Gordy.
Gordy works for San Juan Pest Control; Deanna is an EMT. Together, they coached the Friday Harbor High School wrestling team for 17 years, devoting much of their spare time to their team members.
When Deanna’s co-workers at San Juan EMS found out about the family’s needs, they put together the fund-raiser to put the Banrys on the receiving end of the community for a change.
“I would say that she and Gordy are both people in the community who are pretty quick to jump and help everybody else,” San Juan paramedic Weyshawn Koons said. “And so I think the idea of actually accepting the help was really hard for them. I think they’ve done it well, but I think it’s been rough.
“They’ve brought a lot of joy and a lot of good lessons to people in the community and let’s let the community give it back.”
Deanna said this process has been incredibly humbling, and that she’s had to let go of a lot in the past year. “I’ve had to realize that it’s OK not to be in control,” she said. “It’s OK not to bull through something and strongarm your way through it. It’s OK to step back and let people help you, you know? And I’m – … not good at that.”
Their neighbors, Dale and Georgia Kaufman, felt strongly about keeping the Banrys nearby and sold them the additional 50 feet of land, cheaply, that made the project possible. “They approached us. They didn’t want us to go,” Deanna said. “They were awesome.”
Right now, the Banrys and Ross are waiting for a few clear days of weather so that concrete can be poured for the floor. Then, Deanna said, with joy and love and compassion, Ross plans on framing the whole addition in a hurry.
“He is unbelievable. Just kind, kind, kind,” Deanna said. “He’s gone after it. He’s gotten volunteers, approached other contractors. His huge goal is to have it framed and roofed in 24 hours. He can do it.”
Koons, who handled much of the finances for the project, said that if people want to help the Banrys meet the costs of the home project, they can do it and receive a tax deduction by contacting Joyce Sobel at the Family Resource Center, 378-5246. Otherwise, a Banry family account has been set up at Islanders Bank.
“I will never, ever live anywhere else. This community is unbelievable,” Deanna said.