Lukas Rhoe, age 10, who suffers from non-verbal cerebral palsy, is the son of Anthony and Kellie Rhoe.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – For the past few years, the Children’s Western Wish Foundation has been a part of the Fall River County Fair in Edgemont by helping to make the dreams come true of a local child.
The organization’s mission is to share the blessing of our western heritage with individuals and their immediate family who are affected by daily challenges, afflictions and hardships of any nature. Their website states, “We want everyone to fully recognize and appreciate that we are, ‘All Children of God.’”
One of the ways they do that is by making the child a V.I.P. at the annual county fair with free passes along with special recognition and gifts at each of the main events.
The organization’s founder, Glee Nett, said that having been blessed to be a cowgirl herself, rodeos and fairs are the perfect arena for the Children’s Western Wish Foundation to grant wishes. “We have a great and wonderful rodeo family who finds great joy and satisfaction in sharing their lifestyle, their love and who give unconditionally.”
This year’s Children’s Western Wish Foundation honoree at the 2019 Fall River County Fair is Lukas Rhoe – the 10-year-old son of Anthony and Kellie Rhoe, and younger brother to Kaleb (age 17) and Garrett (age 15), all of rural Hot Springs. Kellie is the Fall River County Treasurer while Anthony is a Fall River County rancher and both are 2000 graduates of Hot Springs High School. All three of their children also attend school in Hot Springs, where Kaleb just graduated this past May.
Lukas has non-verbal cerebral palsy and has had many struggles since birth, according to his mom Kellie, including restless sleep, low muscle tone and low motor skills, along with a high pain tolerance and no fear of danger, which requires him to have constant supervision.
Fittingly with the theme of this year’s 109th annual Fall River County Fair which is “Grow With The Green,” the color Green is also the color of cerebral palsy awareness.
Over his short 10 years of life, Lukas and his family have endured countless doctor visits, from Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls to another children’s hospital in Highland Springs, Colo., along with several meetings with specialist of all kinds.
While in Sioux Falls at a very young age, he was set up with leg braces to stabilize him enough to build enough muscle so he could walk. Other studies done while in Sioux Falls, like an MRI, revealed spaces in his brain that needed monitoring, along with sleep and swallow and genetic studies, all of which eventually came to the diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
Since he was six months old, his mom Kellie said Lukas has a steady schedule of Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy, with this therapists coming to his daycare, home and school. He is enrolled at Hot Springs Elementary School in the S.T.R.I.V.E. Room, where his class is small and accommodates to his needs, along with a couple of other children, Kellie said.
“When I have a bad day, I come home to Lukas and everything is better again,” Kellie said. “Lukas has the ability to make people smile and be happy. He knows when you need a hug. He doesn’t know a stranger. He reminds me, his dad and his brothers how to enjoy life. His eyes sparkle with happiness and brings out the good in people.”
Kellie said Lukas loves to “roughhouse” with his brothers and uncles, and also do chores with his dad while waving at every single cow on the place, splashing the water in the tank, pushing the horn on the tractor, riding the four-wheeler and pushing calves into the chute. He also loves helping his mom cook and having books read to him, she said.
“Lukas has taught his family patience and a love that you could never imagine,” Kellie said. “He has the best big brothers that love everything about him.
“He has the best time exploring his surroundings. We have learned to let him make the mess, let him learn, let him experience, let him be happy, because he is the one who teaches us.”
One of Lukas’ best friends is his dog Newt, and according to his mom, the two like to get into quite a bit of mischief when they’re together.
“They like to explore and wander,” Kellie said. “With his dog always by his side, Lukas has been known to let himself into the corral of weaning calves. He knows no fear. He enjoys being pushed on the swing and getting piggy back rides by his brothers and uncles, and if a good song comes on, Lukas dances. He dances and laughs. He reminds us of all the simple things to enjoy that we sometimes forget.”
“I don’t know what the future will hold for him. But I do know that Lukas is capable of anything he wants to do, just in his own time.”
“My kid will just take longer to grow up and that’s OK,” Kellie said. “He makes a good helper in the shop, in the tractor, in the kitchen, fishing, and all the things he can do. But most of all, he can love you like no one else can.”
“And even though he doesn’t talk, he can show you and communicate in so many other ways. This is Lukas’ world and we are so lucky to be a part of it,” his mom said.
For more information about the Children’s Western Wish Foundation, or to make a referral or donation, call 970-390-4033, or visit their website at www.cwwf.org.