Delaney's Story

Meet Delaney!

Renovating a home helps rebuild the life of a child

Variety, the Children’s Charity and the Renovators Council of the Manitoba Home Builders Association use all the tools in their toolbox to help rebuild a child’s life.

The opportunity to gain independence begins in childhood with practical supports in the home that include a kitchen to cook in or a safe place to hang out with friends.  Having a disability shouldn’t exclude a child from having these experiences but it almost did for Delaney Kolowca. That is, until Variety, the Children’s Charity, and the Renovators Council of the Manitoba Home Builders Association, laid the foundation for a complete home renovation.

“Besides just giving her a basic bedroom and a bathroom that the government was giving us, Variety and the Manitoba Home builders are giving her a home that she can live in,” said Heather Kolowca, of her daughter, Delaney Kolowca, age 15.

Delaney Kolowca was a typical 14-year teenager and grade nine student last year.  She loved playing sports, swimming, dancing and hanging out in the basement of her home with her friends.   Unfortunately that all quickly changed with a recent surgery and resulting mobility challenges that have left her wheelchair bound.

Delaney was born with scoliosis and suffers from Gorlin syndrome and in 2013; she was diagnosed with numerous non-cancerous, but dangerous jaw tumors as well as basal cell carcinoma, or skin cancer.  She ended up with 120 different skin cancerous lesions that required further surgery and the surgical removal of 17 jaw tumors.  But after each surgery, Delaney was again, a typical active teen, playing volleyball and badminton, swimming and getting back into a regular routine until her scoliosis began affecting her mobility.

“She was losing sensation in her feet,” said Heather as she described how the scoliosis began physically impacting Delaney.  Her doctor recommended surgery. “The doctor felt that if she had surgery, he had a 75% chance of making things better in restoring her sensation and her mobility, 20% of staying the same, and 5% of being worse.” Sadly, Delaney fell into the worse category and became paralysed from the mid chest down with a T-2-spinal cord injury.

“After the days and weeks went on it became evident that she was not going to regain any impulses in her lower body.  We had to look at what life would be like with Delaney as a paraplegic,” said Heather. After spending over eight months in the hospital, and exceeding therapist’s expectations due to her tenacious and hard working personality, Delaney could finally go home.  But in order for her to learn to live independently, rehab and significant modifications need to be made.

The new challenges Heather and Derek Kolowca faced were the extensive renovations to their house required to accommodate Delaney’s disabilities and help her gain some independence.  With new costs not covered by Medicare, and both parents taking extensive time off work to be with their daughter in the hospital, they weren’t sure how they were going to finance the extensive renovations needed to rebuild Delaney’s life. Although the government eventually committed to assist in renovations to give Delaney a specialized bedroom and bathroom, it wasn’t really providing a home and ensuring independence for this highly determined, courageous and social girl.

The first step in obtaining help was from Manitoba Society for Disabilities who, through a social worker, contacted Variety, the Children’s Charity and shared Delaney Kolowca’s story.

“My understanding is that this is a very unique endeavor for Variety.  They haven’t done anything quite like this before, so it’s so exciting for us,” said Heather. Variety began their efforts with a fundraiser and successfully raised several thousand dollars towards the renovation goal.  The Renovators Council of the Manitoba Home Builders Association committed additional funds by way of time and materials.  The total monies collected are helping Delaney get closer to her goal of greater independence.  Renovations will include a wheelchair accessible kitchen where she can eventually prepare her own meals, opening up the doorways, and changing out the carpets for linoleum and giving her access to the basement – her hangout spot.

“Without Variety we would be very lost.  We would have very limited government funding to give Delaney a bathroom and a bedroom, eventually.  But with Variety and their partner, Manitoba Home Builders, we will be able to give Delaney a home to help her learn how to be independent,” explained Heather.

Written by: Holly Bochurka

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