From the heart
Hartselle business paints wheelchair for man with spina bifida
Larry Byrd said he never imagined he’d own a wheelchair like the one he has now. The 25-year-old Hartselle man sports an Auburn–themed wheelchair complete with black and sparkling silver pinstripes, a sticker with his name and the Auburn University logo.
Larry’s mother, Harriet Byrd, decided to surprise her son, who was born with spina bifida, with the new paint job for his birthday in early October. “He had some little problems with the wheelchair, and for his birthday, I just wanted to surprise him and boost him up,” Harriet said. “I thought maybe they would buff it out or something, but they went all out for us.”
Larry said he was shocked by the outcome, agreeing he expected just the basic paint job – instead of all the extras.
“It looks cool, and sometimes I call it my hotrod,” Larry said. “I was kind of shocked, and it didn’t look anything like the same wheelchair.”
“It really boosted is self-esteem,” Harriet added. “I didn’t know what to do with it, but I just knew Larry was uncomfortable with his wheelchair, and I wanted show off his personality with it.
“Now no one has a wheelchair like it. The guys at Colors met him and got to know him and they just said ‘Ok, we will see what we could do.’”
“It shimmers in the sunshine just like a car,” Larry added.
An act of kindness
Harriet said Phillip Gurley and his crew at Colors Paint & Body have impacted the Byrds more than they know. The wheelchair renovations were donated, something Harriet said she never expected.
“An act of kindness like this really goes a long way for people with disabilities,” she said. “A lot of the time you’re treated differently, and people look at you differently, until they meet you and get to know your story.
“They didn’t have to do all of this for us, but they did. They took time out of their day to show kindness to us, and from the bottom of my heart, I’m grateful.”
Through the process, the Byrds have made friends for life. “He’s made nine new friends,” Harriet said. “We just wanted to shake their hands and give them a high five and say ‘Wow.’”
Gurley said through the job, he has made a connection with Harriet and Larry that will last a lifetime.
“Larry would do it for me too,” Gurley said. “He knows it’s from the heart, and he’ll pass that on to someone else … That’s all that matters.”
From concept design to finished project, Gurley said it took a couple of days to complete.
Dalton Worley also worked on the passion project. “We knew he was an Auburn fan, and the wheelchair was already blue, so we wanted to make it into Auburn colors … We went through probably five different sets of them before settling on a set that would be close to Auburn colors,” he said.
“After it was finished, we said, ‘That’s great, but we want to do more,’ so I got out some pinstripes and started experimenting a little,” Worley explained. “We liked the silver pin strips because they’re metallic and go well with the blue … They sparkle in the sunlight and stand out without being too flashy.
“This is more important to him than a car,” Gurley added. “This is his every day.”
Inspired by Larry’s story and courage in the face of adversity, Gurley was able to introduce Larry to another lifelong friend, Carl Flemmings. Flemmings also uses a wheelchair, and Gurley said he doesn’t let it get him down. “He’s always on the move and independent. He rides motorcycles and flies airplanes – that’s one reason I wanted Larry to meet him.”
“Carl will be his friend from now on – he’s an angel. I’ve known him all my life,” Gurley said, adding being able to connect the two men who have become friends is “more of a gift than the chair.”
“This kind of thing is better than actually receiving something,” Gurley said. “Carl is a motivator, and he’ll make Larry go and help him see that he can pay it forward to someone else.”