Glendale man loses $13K power soccer chair in house fire

By: 
CARY HINES, Assistant editor

Submitted photo
Dalen Soto, left, plays wheelchair soccer at Ability 360 in Phoenix. The Glendale resident recently lost his brand new $13,000 custom-made power soccer chair in a house fire.

Submitted photo
Ability360’s Football Club power soccer team — Austin Cuaderno (13), left, Dalen Soto (7), Marc Schwab (56) and Chris Schwab (46) — pose with their coaches, Nick Bright and Alison Baionno, last year after winning first place in the Duel in the Desert tournament. Soto recently lost his $13,000 custom-made power soccer chair in a house fire.

On July 6, Mica Dalley got a call from Dalen Soto. He was frantic. His house was on fire.

The 35-year-old Glendale man has muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy he was born with.

“I tell people, it’s like if your nose itches, you can feel that you have to scratch it, but you can’t, you have no control over your muscles,” said Dalley, United Healthcare case manager for Soto. “He’s bed bound.”

Soto lives with a woman and her family who cares for him. He met the woman at his former residence, an assisted-living facility, where she worked. When the facility closed around 2012, Soto lived with family members for the next year and a half, but the two stayed in touch.

“When his circumstances changed where it was no longer the best for everyone, for them all to be living together, they all went their separate ways, and that’s when Dalen came to live with me and my family,” she said.

She said they just marked five years of living together.

“Which I think is incredible, because they are not blood related and the care he requires is immense,” Dalley said.

The home that burned down, near 68th Avenue and Windsor, was a rental and the family didn’t have renters insurance.

“I guess it was just nothing I’d ever looked into,” Soto’s caregiver said. “Nobody ever said, ‘Hey, you need renters insurance.’ It’s one of those things that if you didn’t look into it, you’re not educated in what the rules and regulations and how everything works.”

They lost everything in the fire, including Soto’s new $13,000 power soccer wheelchair. He spent about three years saving up for the chair, throwing every dime he had into his own Gofundme account. He only had the chair about 90 days. He got it before soccer season started, so he hadn’t even had a chance to use it yet.

“So he had just gotten this incredible chair made and it was in the fire,” Dalley said.

Soto said he was heartbroken.

“Because I’d been saving for about three years, maybe longer, been planning on trying to get a power soccer chair when it came out,” Soto said.

The chair was custom made by Power Soccer Shop in Minnesota.

“Because his needs are so significant, for example, he has to have a special seat because it has to be weighted, he can’t hold his own head up, he has to be strapped into his chair, so he has to have a certain headpiece, and his feet have to have custom-made footplates,” Dalley said.

Soto plays wheelchair soccer at Ability360 in Phoenix.

“It’s an amazing, huge sports complex,” Dalley said. “They have this entire sports complex for people who are disabled, particularly those in wheelchairs.”

Soto has been playing power soccer for about 10 years.

“I’m not bad,” he said.

He practices at Ability360 Tuesdays and Fridays.

According to its mission statement, Ability360 offers and promotes programs designed to empower people with disabilities to take personal responsibility so that they may achieve or continue independent lifestyles within the community. Soto currently plays on Ability360’s Football Club power soccer team. He’s lucky No. 7.

“I enjoy being competitive,” Soto said. “Being able to have camaraderie with my teammates. It just gives me something to look forward to to stay active.”

Soto has been playing power soccer in his everyday wheelchair that he modified with a guard. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles that a power soccer chair has and it’s not as responsive.

“(The power soccer chair) just gives the person that is playing the extra advantage, more equal opportunity to compete on a competitive level,” Soto said.

The soccer chair was in the heart of the fire, as it was stored in Soto’s bedroom, where the blaze began.

Dalley described the chair as a “charred skeleton.”

The frame has been determined to be structurally sound, but the electrical system “is completely shot,” Dalley said, so it’s being sent back to Minnesota to be evaluated.

“They do think that parts of the chair are salvageable,” Dalley said.

Dalley set up a Gofundme account to help with the repairs. Anyone wishing to donate can do so at Gofundme.com/dalen039s-power-soccer-chair.

“Mica has just gone above and beyond to give any sort of help she can, more than she is required by United Healthcare for sure,” Soto’s caretaker said.

She said Dalley was one of the first to arrive the day of the fire.

“She was there, right away. Once she got called, she was there on scene offering any sort of help, whatever she could do and continues to offer help,” his caretaker said.

Soto said it means a lot to him, and the feeling appears to be mutual.

“Dalen is really exceptional. He’s kind of this bright light for me,” Dalley said. “The job has been really tough and it’s pretty new to me, so he’s been this warmth, this bright light.”

The Glendale Star

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Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
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