Manny Rios smiles as he works on physical therapy with his sister on June 12, 2013. Rios was paralyzed in a bike accident four years before he walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma in May 2013.
The outpouring of support for a paralyzed teen in need of a service dog has been “overwhelming” for his family, who extended their heartfelt gratitude Wednesday to the donors who are helping Manny Rios regain his independence.
“Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart. From the bottom of my brother’s heart. For my whole entire family,” Rios’ sister Mirna Hennicke said. “What you are doing is you are helping my brother gain independence.”
NBC4 visited Rios Wednesday at his Riverside County home, where he practiced taking several steps with some help from his sister and a railing.
He was paralyzed from the chest down in a bicycle accident four years ago. Family members never thought Rios would walk, talk or even eat again.
But he astounded them all on May 29 when he stepped out his wheelchair and slowly walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma from Sultana High School in Hesperia, with some help from a walker and his therapist.
After conquering his goal of walking at graduation, Rios set his sights on a new dream: regaining his independence with the use of a service dog.
On June 3, when NBCLA first reported the story, Rios’ online fundraiser had garnered $140. Nine days later, Manny is more than a third of the way to his goal of raising $12,500.
“It is very surprising and overwhelming,” Hennicke said. “Especially now, with these economic times, that people are finding it in their hearts to donate, even if it’s 10, 15, 20 dollars, because right now, every dollar helps.”
Donors had given $4,269 as of Wednesday. You can donate to Manny’s fundraiser by clicking here.