PLATTSBURGH - Chris Mashtare knows what it's like to hear earth-shattering news. His son, Alex, was diagnosed with mild to moderate spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, at 6 months old. It was something that took Mashtare and his wife, Heather, completely by surprise.
"We thought, 'How could this have happened? What could we have done different,'" he said. "It was really devastating."
However, rather than wallow in despair and continuously ponder what-ifs, the Mashtares accepted Alex's diagnosis and moved forward with doing whatever they possibly could to make his life with the neuromuscular condition more comfortable.
Now 2 years old, Alex regularly goes through occupational and physical therapies to counteract the extreme tightness of the muscles in his lower extremities. Alex must also utilize special braces for his legs, shoes for walking and be assisted by a special walker to get around.
"It's just amazing how much it affects a kid's life," said Mashtare. "He sees other kids who can walk and is probably wondering why he can't."
Though Alex and his family have been through a lot because of his condition - which currently has no cure - Mashtare said he knows it could be worse.
"We're fortunate that we have insurance for him," he said. "We know there are families out there who don't."
Knowing that and feeling grateful for all that others have done for them is what fueled the Mashtares in putting together a benefit this Saturday, July 31, for local children living with cerebral palsy, particularly ones whose families don't have insurance to cover their necessities.
"We're looking to raise money for those kids so they can get what they need and deserve," said Mashtare.
Having a passion for kayaking, the Mashtares reached out to their friends, Patty and Dave Husband, owners of the Kayak Shack, for help in putting on a rather unique benefit.
"We had never heard of anyone kayaking for a benefit so we wanted to try it," said Mashtare. "We approached Patty and Dave and they were more than happy to help out."
"We're looking forward to it," said Patty Husband. "We're going to have a full staff on board and we're going to be kayaking all day and running shuttles down to the river. It should be fun."
This Saturday's event will consist of morning and afternoon kayaking expeditions for a minimum $10 donation. The outing will begin at 8 a.m. at Carpenters Flats Bridge, five miles south of the Kayak Shack over the Ausable River on State Route 9.
The day will also consist of raffles, games and food served by Hometown Deli. Proceeds of the day's events will benefit the United Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country.
Every dollar raised is another dollar parents of children with cerebral palsy don't have to worry about finding if they don't have insurance, said Mashtare.
"One of Alex's foot braces costs $800. The walker he has that he'll grow out of in a year is $3,000," said Mashtare. "It's amazing how much equipment costs, not to mention customizing your home for a wheelchair ramp or wheelchair-accessible bathtub. Even a bed with hand rails. It adds up, but we want to make our kids' lives easier."
Those unable to attend this Saturday's event, but are still interested in helping children with cerebral palsy, may send donations in care of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country to the Mashtares at 3997 State Route 9, Plattsburgh N.Y. 12901. The donations collected will be given to the association with money raised this weekend.
For more information, call Chris Mashtare at 420-7283 or Heather Mashtare at 534-8654.