An 8-year-old boy in California raised funds to buy his best friend a wheelchair after he discovered that the friend's family couldn’t afford one, according to NBC's "Today."
Paul Burnett and Kamden Houshan became friends after they met in kindergarten. Kamden’s mom, Yvonne Houshan, told "Today" that, while others sometimes focused on her son’s wheelchair, Paul bonded with him over shared interests like superheroes and making videos.
“What really contributes to their friendship is that Paul does not see Kamden as someone who has a disability. He sees him as Kamden. Because of that, Kam truly is himself around him,” Houshan said.
Kamden, also 8, who lives in Poway, California, was born with a tumor that surrounded his spinal cord. He has had three surgeries to shrink the tumor, but Kamden is paraplegic and must rely on a wheelchair. Kamden’s wheelchair is too large and heavy, sometimes making it hard for him to move around freely.
Jenny Burnett, Paul’s mom, told "Today" that during a recent playdate, Paul was horrified when his friend’s wheelchair tipped forward and Kamden fell out.
“Paul was just in shock,” Burnett said. “We didn’t know that it had a lot to do with the chair … it wasn’t really fitted for him.”
Houshan said that California’s Medicare pays for a wheelchair only once every five years, which means that Kamden has a wheelchair that doesn’t fit him properly.
“We couldn’t afford another chair,” she said. “We put it on the back burner.”
Paul told his mom that he wanted to help his friend get a new wheelchair. He had recently seen a video about fundraising websites and asked his mom to help him make a GoFundMe page.
Paul, with his mom’s help, wrote on the page — “Keep Kamden Rollin'” — that his friend has a “really hard time” pushing his wheelchair because it is too heavy. Paul also wrote that his friend even needs help using the bathroom because his wheelchair can’t fit in the bathroom.
“If he gets a new wheelchair he’s going to be more comfortable and he'll do more things on his own,” Paul wrote. “I think he would go super fast if he got this new chair and we can play more. Please help Kamden.”
In just two weeks, Paul’s campaign exceeded its fundraising goal of $3,900. He raised $5,455, enough for Kamden to get a customized wheelchair.
Paul said he wanted to help his friend because Kamden is “a good friend and he’s kind.”
Kamden said Paul is “helpful.”
"He just thinks about [me],” Kamden said. “I like to have a friend who just thinks about [me]."
Houshan said Kamden will get his new wheelchair in August. He was able to try out a demo version, and there was a vast improvement.
“This new chair is a lot lighter,” Houshan said. “It will make things so much better. He could push himself more and do more.”
Houshan said she was touched when she realized that Paul noticed the problems that Kamden was having with his wheelchair.
“Paul was definitely paying attention,” she said, adding that she is thankful for Paul's kindness.
“Paul is really just a sweet kid,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. Who would have thought? I never guessed it would be like this, not in a million years.”