Emily de Boer

Building a home for Emily

Business owner helps rebuild a home for wheelchair-bound child

By Lauren Kramer, Special to the News – December 6, 2012

There are angels among us in Richmond, and though he may look like a regular man in jeans and shirt, Brian Williams is surely one of them.

The owner of The Ashton Service Group, a 25-year-old plumbing company in Richmond, Williams is orchestrating the reconstruction of Emily’s House on Springhill Crescent.

The $500,000-rebuild will include an elevator, as well as rooms and bathrooms that are handicap accessible. Oh, and the owners won’t pay a cent towards it.

That’s because after his friend Rick Hansen sat Williams down over lunch several months ago and told him Emily’s story, Williams knew he had to do something.

Emily de Boer is a 12-year-old Richmond child who walked into BC Children’s Hospital for a spine curvature procedure on Valentine’s Day last year.

Something went horribly wrong during the surgery, resulting in a catastrophic T11 injury and leaving Emily a paraplegic.

Over the months that followed, this determined, optimistic youngster refocused her goals.

Instead of becoming a hockey and soccer champion, she decided she’d turn to swimming and make it her goal to excel.

Her living conditions were a challenge, though. At the time of her injury, the de Boer family had just moved into a newly-built, three-level Steveston home.

Entirely impractical for a wheelchair-bound child, it had to be sold.

Instead, they purchased an older house on Springhill Crescent in May, one with a swimming pool, but no greater handicap accessibility.

“We thought we’d modify it, piece by piece,” said Charmis de Boer, Emily’s mother. “But when we started working with an architect to find out what we’d have to do, we were pretty overwhelmed by the costs involved.

“Everything needed to be redone so that Emily could be safe and move fluidly through the house.”

Enter Brian and Julie Williams, who were so moved by Emily’s courage that they made a point of sitting down with the family, meeting Emily and discussing their situation.

“Initially I thought they just needed a bathroom renovated,” Brian Williams said. “But once I gained a deeper understanding of their needs, I spoke with my friend Ken Johnson, who owns Carrera Projects in Surrey, and we decided that rather than renovate, we were going to rebuild this home.”

A leader with a big heart and a large database of friends and connections, Williams set about forming a committee and requesting donations for Emily’s new house.

Moen offered to supply the faucets, Kohler stepped in for the plumbing fixtures while local supplier BA Robinson agreed to supply all the mechanical, heating and plumbing equipment for the project.

The offers came pouring in, Williams said.

“My relative works for Coniflex Lumber in McKenzie, B.C., and when his boss heard about the project he said they’d supply all the lumber for the house.”

Delta Aggregate volunteered to demolish the existing property on Dec. 17, Disposal King supplied the bins for the demolition and Pure Image in Vancouver has set up a webcam that can be viewed from Williams’ website, ashtoncaringteam.org.

The company will also donate a sound system for the new, 3,400-square-foot home.

“Forty per cent of the job is done, the big things have been donated already and we’ve spent very little so far,” said Williams.

He’s still looking for companies to step up and take care of roofing, landscaping, paving stones for the driveway and pool deck, cabinets, tile and finishing material such as doors, paint, drywall and insulation.

But once that’s all done, Martina Wilson, an interior designer, will wave her wand and make Emily’s new house an attractive new home for the family when they move back to Springhill Crescent next Christmas.

De Boer has no words to express her appreciation and surprise at what Williams and his team are doing for her family.

“It’s just beyond what anyone would ever expect of human kindness,” she said. “I can’t even say what this means to me without bursting into tears. There are no words to express how grateful we are for the help and support.”

After close to two years of severe financial and medical obstacles, challenges and struggles, she’s anxious to get some normality back in her family’s life.

“Our new normal is going to be a long, long marathon, forever far from what normal is for most people,” she said.

“But I can’t stress enough how important it will be just to have a family home that’s fluid and free of barriers for a child who would never have expected, at 12 years old, to be in a wheelchair.”

No stranger to acts of kindness, Williams says he has three children of his own and knew that “this could happen to any one of us. But Emily is so positive, she’s going to be the next Rick Hansen,” he said with a big smile.

Every now and then he receives emails from the de Boer family expressing their heartfelt appreciation for the project he’s initiated and is overseeing.

“I told them, ‘this is just a stop on the road for us. We’ve got to get your house done because we have a whole bunch of other people we need to help – and you’re coming in with me on the next one.’”

“With just a little bit of effort from everyone, we can go from me to we pretty easily and make a difference in our town,” he said.

Read more: http://www.richmond-news.com/life/Serving+across+religious+nets/7558654/story.html#ixzz2FLY0Zn6R

Read the full story on Richmond News’ website here: http://www.richmond-news.com/news/Building+home+Emily/7663328/story.html

This site is being presented in part by the Vancouver plumbing company Ashton Service Group. For more information about plumbing, drain repair or heating service in Vancouver please visit their website.