ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The family of a boy with special needs is aiming to make a big difference for all children.
Hayden Chadwell is only 6-years-old and making waves with Team Hayden. He lives with his mom, dad, and older brother in St. Johns County. Hayden has special needs, but in so many ways, he's just like many other children. He loves Star Wars and is a big fan of the Chicago Cubs. Hayden and his family know what it's like to live with limitations. That's why they're working to make things better for families just like theirs.
You don't have to look hard to see the love Toni Chadwell has for her son, Hayden.
His condition won't allow him to independently respond through words. But Hayden communicates through his eyes, his mouth, and hands. They’re all signs he is listening. You can even see his face light up whenever he hears music by John Legend.
Hayden's parents were told none of this would be possible.
"We were told flat out in the hospital, he would never hear, think, feel, see, breathe, or respond. He has all the sensory motions that we have," said Chadwell.
Shortly after birth, doctors found a blood clot in Hayden's brain. It turned into a stroke, creating a massive bleed on both sides of the brain- basically eliminating all chances he had of functioning as a normal child.
"It was a really hard time for us. We were given almost 1% chance of survival. We were in the NICU for 82 days," said Chadwell.
Somehow, this little fighter made it through. But going home from the hospital with a special needs child was no easy task.
"You leave a dark world and you try to face the light and see what's next for you. It's almost like you're given a road map without instructions," said Chadwell.
With that in mind, the family formed Team Hayden, a support group for other families impacted by similar medical issues.
To date, it has helped over two dozen families navigate their way through the entire process.
Despite his limitation, Hayden is just like many other children. He verbally communicates with a specialized computer. He goes to school, and regularly eats lunch with this big brother, Evan, and is almost always in a great mood.
"95% of the time, he is smiling happy smiles," said Chadwell.
Team Hayden is just getting started. The group's dream project is the Boundless Playground of St. Johns County. Partnered with Field of Dreams, it would be built in Aberdeen Park with children of all ages and abilities in mind. This way, all children could have a place to play together.
The Boundless Playground is still in the first stages of fundraising. If you'd like to help, there is a GoFundMe page to help make it happen.