Injured Marine Delivers Cycle To Disabled Md. Boy

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Injured Marine Delivers Cycle To Disabled Md. Boy

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Sgt. Jeff Chaffin, a disabled Marine athlete, delivered a special gift to Ethan Yamashita, a young boy who suffers from a debilitating bone disorder.

The gift is a hand-powered cycle. Chaffin first showed a picture to 8-year-old Ethan when they chanced to meet in Philadelphia International Airport more than four months ago. Chaffin had missed a connection flight, and that's when he met little Ethan.

Ethan was born with a brittle bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta. According to his mother Angela Yamashita, when Ethan was born, he broke pretty much every bone in his body. Since then, he has had metal rods inserted in his legs or else his bones would break on impact. His condition requires him to use a wheelchair. Ethan will never be able to ride a standard bike. 

The chance meeting with Chaffin occurred just as the Yamashita family was researching adaptive sports for Ethan. In fact, research showed that the hand-cycle was a potential activity for Ethan. And by luck, the Yamashita family suddenly meets a man who utilizes the hand-cycle. Chaffin remembers the moment he learned of Ethan's plight and showed him a picture of the hand-cycle.

"The kid just lit up. It was like he realized he didn't have to sit in a wheelchair all the time and do absolutely nothing," Chaffin told myfoxhouston.

Ethan's mom also remembers her boy telling her, "Mom, I can still be fast even when I have a broken leg!"

Sgt. Jeff Chaffin also uses a wheelchair. Chaffin suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after his tour in Iraq. A suicide attempt resulted in the loss of one of his legs. He says that the sport of hand-cycle racing saved his life by making him realize he could still be active.

"It's therapeutic for me when I'm on the bike. It's a short period of clarity for me. Whenever I'm out riding I don't have PTSD. I don't think about anything but the wind on my face." he told myfoxhouston. Chaffin races for Team Semper Fi, a project of the California-based Semper Fi Fund. The fund benefits injured and critically ill service members.

After finding out that there were no charities or non-profits to help Ethan obtain a hand-cycle, Chaffin took it upon himself to begin an online fundraising campaign to purchase a hand-cycle for Ethan. The campaign gained momentum and inspired Chaffin to organize a 200-mile-in-24-hours hand-cycle ride in the Houston summer heat. Following the ride, he had raised the $4,300 required to purchase a handbike and accessories, including a vehicle rack to transport it. He delivered the cycle to the family on a Saturday.

Imagine the shock on little Ethan's face when he saw a brand new XLT hand-cycle for him. For a few hours, Chaffin sat with the Yamashita family as they watched Ethan cycle around the cul-de-sac.

"Jeff really is a marine with a big big heart!" Angela Yamashita told FOX 29.

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