Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
We Carry Kevan
Before Kevan Chandler was even born, his parents knew that he would likely suffer from
major health issues. That’s because his sister Connie, who is three years older than him,
was born with a neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which impeded the
growth of her arms and legs and weakened her muscles in general. Doctors told the
Chandlers, “If you have more children, it will probably be the same case again.” The couple
looked at their good-natured, joyful daughter and responded, “If the worst that can happen is
that we have another child like Connie, that’s okay with us.”
Needless to say, Mr. and Mrs. Chandler – an airplane mechanic and the director of a crisis pregnancy center, respectively – soon welcomed Kevan into the world. As doctors predicted, he also had Spinal Muscular Atrophy and eventually wound up in a wheelchair. But his parents focused more on building on his strengths than dwelling on his weaknesses, filling him with a “can do” spirit as he grew into adulthood.
The Chandlers’ positive attitude stemmed from their Christian faith. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview about his memoir “We Carry Kevan: Six Friends, Three Countries, No Wheelchair,” Kevan explained, “Their pro-life approach to life is certainly derived from their relationship with the Lord – and then my own as I grew to understand Jesus and His love for me, the story of His salvation and how that applies to me. In Romans, it talks about our adoption as sons and daughters of God being the redemption of our bodies. That’s how Paul puts it. So no matter what’s going on with my body as it continues to decline…what really matters is what’s going on in my heart and in my mind and my relationship with the Lord. He is where my hope has been found, and He’s the one that keeps me going.”
As the title of his book suggests, Kevan also has friends that keep him going, friends who serve as the arms and legs of Jesus in his life. The group decided it would be both fun and educational to take a trip through Europe together. Kevan especially had always wanted to visit there because of his interest in music, literature, his family history, and Christian history. Yet the difficulties of finding wheelchair accessibility everywhere had kept him grounded in the U.S. This time, however, Kevan’s friends got creative. They designed a special backpack in which they could carry him wherever they went. And it worked beautifully. They visited France, England, and Ireland.
Community was at the heart of the trip these six friends took through Europe, so Kevan is working to expand experiences of community for others with disabilities through a nonprofit he created, also called We Carry Kevan. For instance, Kevan traveled to China, and visited Maria’s Big House of Hope, a care center for orphans with special needs. He noted that he and his friends had developed their special backpack just for fun.
“Two years later,” he said, “we’re sitting in that care center in China watching children with disabilities using the backpack, seeing how the nurses and nannies and caregivers use that as a tool to further what they’re already doing, which is saying, ‘Hey, we love you, and we care about you.’ Seeing the backpack…as a tool to further what they’re doing and be a part of that process, it was humbling and also encouraging. It’s become so much bigger than just us.”