K’Hairi’s Christmas wish, three years later: Army veteran remains grateful, worries about others

(Photo: Charlie Thell and Tim DuBois get a hug from Carla Ross as son K’Hairi looks on during the 2017 dedication of their new Fuller Center home in West Point, Georgia.)

Few children have captured the hearts of Fuller Center supporters the way K’Hairi did in 2017 when he saw his long-time Christmas wish come true — thanks to the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project and dozens of volunteers who endured two weeks of brutal June heat in 2017 to build a new home alongside him and mother Carla Ross in West Point, Georgia.

Before that build, K’Hairi would climb upon Santa’s lap at Christmas and ask for one thing. He didn’t ask for toys or even for his sickle-cell anemia to go away. He simply asked for his mother, an Army veteran, to have a good home. And his puppy would appreciate it, too, he might add.

Santa may have gotten all the glory, but the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project tackled the hard work of making that wish come true. Executive Director Kim Roberts recruited experienced house captains Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell to come down from Minnesota and lead the build along with West Point Mayor Steve Tramell. In two weeks that June, it went from a slab of concrete to a beautiful new home.

Carla & K’Hairi

That was three years ago. Today, K’Hairi is “10, going on 100,” his mother says with a laugh.

“K’Hairi’s been doing real good,” Carla says. “We’ve been doing blood transfusions once a month, and that has helped keep him out of the hospital, so that’s been real good. It’s been a very crazy year, but everything is still going good.”

K’Hairi, who turns 11 later this month, is not without occasional ill days, but he has seen his health improve since they moved into the new home. Before that, they lived in an unhealthy rental unit where they paid more in rent than they now do in zero-interest mortgage payments that allow them to own their home. Instead of dealing with mold in the walls that exacerbated K’Hairi’s health issues and paying high utility bills that made it difficult to keep up with medical and other costs, they are now comforted by having a simple, decent and affordable place to call home.

Not having to worry about housing has been a relief, Carla says, during a time when there have been plenty of other things to worry about. She has lost three siblings to illnesses in the past two years, her oldest daughter is due to have her first child later this month in Texas, and like so many others they’ve been concerned about the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the pandemic has made K’Hairi downright angry at the virus.

“He wanted to be in school,” Carla says. “When we started the transfusions, he had been doing so well. He was excited to go back to school that following Monday. When he found out he wasn’t going back to school, it hurt his feelings. He was mad because he was excited about all the things they had going on, like field trips because he was able to go this year. He hadn’t been in the hospital and could go on all of the field trips, and then coronavirus hit.”

The Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s Robin Pierre (left) and Kim Roberts with Carla and K’Hairi at the new home in 2017

School plans may remain uncertain, but she says K’Hairi is excited about entering the sixth grade and starting middle school. He is looking forward to just being another kid dealing with the ups and downs of a normal school year. For now, he is staying home with his mom as much as possible and taking afternoon walks. During those walks they have plenty of time to reflect, particularly as they pass houses in various states of disrepair. For Carla, it’s a reminder to be grateful.

“Having a good home makes a very big difference because I know my environment is clean and secure,” she says. “That helps me cope with a lot of stuff, my military depression and stuff like that”

It’s also a reminder that there are many people dealing today with the kinds of issues she and K’Hairi left behind three years ago.

“I’ve been worried about a lot of other people during this time because a lot of these houses are old mill houses, so the breathing environment with the mold and all of that like my old house is not good,” she says. “And I went by that old house we used to stay in and people have moved in, but the owner didn’t do anything besides patch up a little bit. It kinda hurt because I knew it was all about money. It was not about taking good care of the home or making sure it was decent enough for them.”



2017 story — How an ailing child’s Christmas wish became a home for the holidays





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