Featured Story: Afterburn Family


Caruso Family Charities' Featured Story: Afterburn FamilyAfter losing his wife to breast cancer in 2009, Donovan Arterburn became the main caregiver for his three youngest daughters diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuromuscular disorder. Two of his daughters, Bellamy, 18 and Savannah, 17 live with him. Skylar, Savannah’s twin sister lives with her aunt and her sister Madison, 20, who take care of her in a separate home, as there is not enough room in Donovan’s small apartment to accommodate everyone.

The disease first made its appearance when the girls were six and has progressed to the point where they are now in wheelchairs. There are several side effects, including scoliosis. Donovan explained, “All three of my girls affected with this disease have had spinal fusion surgeries. Their backs were becoming hunched and it was affecting their circulatory and digestive systems.”

Savannah suffered problems with her digestive system and Bellamy had heart and breathing problems. She still has severe concentric hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Their doctor advised that their life expectancy ranges between 20 to 25 years of age. “They are very intelligent, beautiful well-mannered, wonderful children. I love them very muc,” added Donovan.

As his 600 sf apartment is not handicap accessible, Donovan leaves their wheelchairs in his car because they don’t fit through the hallways. Whenever they have a medical appointment or Savannah goes to school, he has to physically carry his daughters out to his car and then put them in their wheelchairs. This also involves taking Savannah and her wheelchair to the bus stop to get a ride to the Denver School of Arts where she is studying stagecraft and design. Bellamy is enrolled in college where she is studying behavioral science in an online program through Red Rocks Community College.

Caruso Family Charities was contacted when Donovan’s car required major repairs and had been deemed unsafe to drive. This was a major concern for Donovan, as he didn’t have thousands of dollars to pay for the necessary repairs.

Generous supporters of Caruso Family Charities came to the rescue of the Arterburn family, donating funds to purchase an SUV for them. Through other gracious friends of CFC, Jerry was also able to locate a nearly new Ford Excursion that could accommodate the entire family including the three wheelchairs.

When presented with keys to the SUV, Donovan thanked Jerry, saying, “We’re so very appreciative and feel so very fortunate to have been introduced to Caruso Family Charities. They are a wonderful, wonderful group of people. Jerry is an amazing person. He’s easy to fall in love with.”

Jerry said, “We couldn’t do our good work without the generosity of our donors and are so thankful for everyone’s donations on behalf of the Arterburn family as well as the many other families who need our help.”