Company surprises 9-year-old battling multiple disorders

Nine-year-old Alabaster resident Kaitlyn Weaver, left, smiles as Safe Step Walk-in Tubs National Sales Manager Phil Melfa explains the therapeutic tub the company surprised her with on June 23. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Nine-year-old Alabaster resident Kaitlyn Weaver, left, smiles as Safe Step Walk-in Tubs National Sales Manager Phil Melfa explains the therapeutic tub the company surprised her with on June 23. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The list of 9-year-old Alabaster resident Kaitlyn Weaver’s favorite things is fairly simple: The color pink, puppies and peace signs.

On June 23, the Safe Step Walk-in Tub company found a way to incorporate all three into one of the biggest surprises Kaitlyn had ever experienced.

When returning to her house from a five-day hemophilia camp in Alexander City, Kaitlyn was greeted by a few dozen of her closest friends, supporters and family members as they celebrated the company’s gift to the Weaver family.

As Kaitlyn arrived at the house at about 1 p.m. riding in her mother, Michelle’s, car, Safe Step lifted a large box sitting in the front yard to unveil a new walk-in therapeutic tub.

After Kaitlyn – who was all smiles throughout the afternoon – sat in the model tub for the first time, the company unveiled another surprise: The real tub was already installed in her bathroom.

A short time later, Kaitlyn got a demonstration on how to operate the tub from Safe Step representatives Phil Melfa and Derek Farley. And to add a custom touch to the tub, the company placed a logo on the front depicting a peace sign, a heart and a dog paw, and ensured LED lights would illuminate the water pink, among other colors.

“It will feel amazing, especially with the arthritis in my feet,” said Kaitlyn, as she looked down at the medical boot on her foot.

For Kaitlyn, the tub is especially meaningful.

For the past five years, she has battled multiple disorders including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, which prevents her blood from clotting correctly, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an autoimmune disorder causing her blood vessels to become damaged easily.

Melfa, Safe Step’s national sales manager, said he was particularly impacted when he saw a video explaining Kaitlyn’s medical struggles.

“One thing that really hit me was when her dad, Scott, said ‘As a dad, I’m supposed to be able to fix everything, and I can’t fix this,’” Melfa said, referencing the video. “I started balling right there in my driveway, and I said, ‘We are going to do something great to help this family.’”

Safe Step donates about one tub a month to families in need across the country through its “Safe Step Cares” program, but the ceremonies typically are small family affairs.

For several weeks, the Weavers worked to invite everyone they could to Kaitlyn’s surprise ceremony. In addition to friends, family members and neighbors all wearing matching pink shirts, the event also drew the Alabaster police and fire departments, the Alabaster mayor, members of the Thompson High School marching band, the Frio’s Gourmet Pops truck, UAB volleyball players, local cheerleaders and more.

Kaitlyn became the second Shelby County resident to receive a free Safe Step tub after Helena resident Anna Grace McDonald received one in 2013.

Scott Weaver said the tub will greatly help Kaitlyn, who has difficulty standing in a shower.

“This will make all the difference in the world. You just don’t know how excited we are,” Scott Weaver said, noting his daughter often is too sore to play with her friends. “It will help with her arthritis, it will help with her skin condition, it will really help with all of her disorders.

“The biggest thing is that it will create a better quality of life for her,” he said.

To donate to help the Weaver family with Kaitlyn’s medical expenses, visit Gofundme.com/KaitlynWeaver.