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Firefighters to raise funds for Downers Grove student with taco dinner Friday

ADDISON – Calvin Herion of Westmont has had to ask for help since he could talk because of his limited mobility, so it’s not too surprising he’s becoming an incredibly persuasive 13-year-old.

“He’s great with words,” said 14-year-old Brock, Calvin’s brother.

Even with his charming smile, it took Calvin about two years of persistent requests to convince the Addison Firefighter’s Association, of which his dad is a member, not only to host a benefit for him, but to make it a taco dinner instead of one of their traditional pancake breakfasts.

“I think that’s a good skill to have,” Calvin said of his power of persuasion.

For a wheelchair-bound teenager, it’s a life skill needed every day. While Calvin has scoliosis, arthrogryposis and needs a respirator to breathe, he doesn’t let his physical challenges get in his way.

He always finds a solution.

A master problem-solver, Calvin earned himself a spot in the elite math seminar at O’Neill Middle School in Downers Grove where he works on challenging problems with his fellow math enthusiasts once a week.

“It’s a way for you to do math that’s not straight from the book,” Calvin said.

At home, Calvin has no trouble keeping up with his two brothers, Brock, who he refers to as BJ, and Beau, 11. With one hand on his Xbox controller, Calvin gives his brothers more than an adequate opponent during Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and all three boys laugh when their dad joins the game but loses because of their vague directions.

“Dad, can I have a drink of water?” Calvin interjects quickly while trying to continue a story about the family’s latest vacation to Disney World.

The casual event is a reminder of Calvin’s dependency on his family. Calvin hopes that with the money raised at the taco dinner fundraiser he can increase his independence.

He wants a motorized wheelchair.

“Beau and Genevieve don’t have to fight over who is pushing me,” Calvin said.

While he admits his 6-year-old sister, Genevieve, and Beau enjoy helping him and usually argue over the privilege to push his wheelchair, Calvin’s ever-present smile widens when he thinks of his life in a motorized wheelchair.

He could move around his home without asking for help. Even the simplest movement like turning his chair around to see something would now be in his control. Then his imagination starts racing. He could go shopping with BJ and look at whatever he wanted. What if he had the motorized wheelchair in Disney World?

His analytic brain stops him at the thought of Disney World because he’s now scheming how to get the not-yet-his motorized wheelchair onto an airplane. He quickly turns to his iPad to research the predicament.

“I just like being there,” Calvin said about his family’s annual trips to Disney World. “It really does feel magical.”

A fan of fantasy and science fiction movies, books and Syfy’s reality show “Face Off” – coincidentally Westmont resident and FX artist J. Anthony Kosar won the show’s competition last season – Calvin wants to put his creative problem-solving to work as a movie director when he grows up.

He wouldn’t mind acting either. Not afraid of the spotlight, Calvin gave a speech at a charity event for Easter Seals, a pediatric outpatient rehabilitation center in Villa Park.

While he used Siri on his iPad to type his speech for the Easter Seals beforehand for that event, Calvin insists on not preparing anything for the taco dinner because he wants his words to be genuine.

“I want it to sound not rehearsed,” Calvin said.

Even thought Calvin dreams of moving around on his own in a motorized wheelchair, he finds little to complain about in his life. He keeps perspective on his life with a phrase he likes to say.

“If I die tomorrow, I don’t really care because I’ve had the best life,” Calvin said.

If you go
What: Taco Dinner benefit for Calvin Herion
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Addison VFW, 446 W. Lake St.
Tickets: Available at the door. $10 each and $5 for kids 8 and younger

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