Mark Honey deeply loves his three sons, but he also knows he can't lift them in and out of their wheelchairs forever.
The boys — Joshua (15), Andrew (13) and Anthony (12) — were all born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare genetic disease primarily found in males that causes muscles to deteriorate. The boys weigh between 100 and 150 pounds. Each day family members estimate they lift the boys a combined average of 33 times per day, starting each morning with bathing, getting dressed and off to school or church meetings on Sunday before tucking them back into bed at night.
Transporting the boys is one of the most strenuous chores as each son is individually lifted into a truck. Their power wheelchairs are then loaded onto a flatbed trailer, a process that takes about 20 minutes.
"It gets tiring for sure. Andrew is the largest of the three and he's full burrito, the heaviest kid," Mark Honey said with humor in his voice. "It's crazy how it adds up."
This month, friends in their Latter-day Saint ward and the community are doing something to help lighten the load.
A thoughtful group of friends familiar with the Honey family's situation organized a service project earlier this month. If $25,000 can be raised through a GoFundMe campaign, Shamrock Auto Group, a local car dealership, has agreed to customize a vehicle with a mechanical lift and other needs for safely loading and transporting the boys.
The online fundraiser, launched Nov. 13 with a minute-long video showing Mark Honey loading his sons into their truck, has already earned more than $14,500, more than half of its goal.
Penny Chinchay and her husband Peter are friends of the Honey family and fellow members of their ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While participating in their ward's self-reliance program, Penny suggested the idea of raising money for a customized vehicle. The group jumped at the idea.
"The thing about the Honeys is they never complain. They are very happy. This is their life and they love their boys. Nothing negative ever comes from them," Penny Chinchay said. "I had thought for a long time what I could do to help alleviate some of the strain in their life. When I suggested the idea, they were all on board with it."
Greg and Debra Orhn, Kiefer Cox, Ben Hodson, John and Dia Buckner, Anne Teerlink, Drew Nicholson, Whitney Nicholson and others pitched in to get the project going. One created the GoFundMe account, another had the business connection, and others created the video and wrote a summary of the details.
On the day they made the video, Penny Chinchay remembers a chilling, brisk wind blowing and the Honeys' newest motorized wheelchair breaking down. She wondered how the family gets by when there are problems loading the boys in bad weather?
"It was eye-opening to see," Chinchay said.
Mark and Sharon Honey are the parents of eight children, including four boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The oldest of the four special needs sons, Richie, died in 2015. They also have three daughters, Jessica, Rachel and Rebekah, and a son Nathan, who was not born with the disease.
When they were young, the three boys were "little terrors, getting into everything," their parents said.
"Those boys were Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3, but they could walk and I miss that," Sharon Honey said. "Now I look back on that and say, OK, that wasn't so bad. They were mobile."
The boys started using manual wheelchairs around age 9. The family had a suburban but the wheelchairs didn't fit. They got the truck, but when the boys moved to power wheelchairs, they were too heavy to lift into the truck, so they added the trailer. At one point, they also had a lift, but it didn't work out.
"A couple of years back we dumped a wheelchair off the lift and it broke pretty good," Sharon Honey said. "A 400-pound wheelchair doesn't like to bounce."
Despite the difficulties, the Honeys acknowledge everyone has unique challenges in life.
"We shouldn't be looked on as, oh, feel sorry for them," Mark Honey said. "We feel very fortunate to have these boys. We don't feel picked on or whatever. We're glad to have them and would never send them back."
When Chinchay introduced Mark and Sharon Honey to their self-reliance group and told them about the project, the deep gratitude in Mark Honey's face was obvious. If the rest of the money can be raised before Christmas, Chinchay hopes it will allow the Honey family more freedom and greater quality of life.
"I feel a lot of joy knowing this could be a life-changer for them," she said. "It also shows that despite the negativity we see in the world, there's also a lot of good."
Over the years, many people have asked how they can help the Honeys. This is a tangible way to help any family with multiple special-needs children, Mark Honey said.
"It's pretty incredible," Mark Honey said. "Getting a vehicle like this is a wonderful blessing. We feel like we are being blessed. This will be more help than anyone can imagine."