Stepping up: Calgary repairer helps little girl get back on her feet

Rachid El Madawi, Julia Khaled, and the Fiat 500 El Madawi's shop refurbished for auction. Proceeds from the auction will help to pay for an operation Khaled needs due to her cerebral palsy.

By Barett Poley

Calgary, Alberta — November 18, 2016 — A little girl with cerebral palsy will soon be able to walk for the first time in her life, thanks to a donation from a shop in Calgary. The collision repair shop, Rachid’s Auto Sales, has restored and customized a Fiat 500 for auction. The funds raised will help cover the costs of operations for Julia Khaled, a young girl who is wheelchair bound as a result of severe cerebral palsy.

Julia and her mother came to Canada as refugees from Lebanon, so she doesn’t yet qualify for Canadian health care. The operations need to be done as soon as possible, which is why the donations are so necessary.

Rachid El Madawi is the owner of Rachid’s Auto Sales. He became aware of Julia’s situation when he befriended and exchanged numbers with a dentist on a visit to Lebanon. El Madawi came back home to Calgary, not expecting anything more to come of it. Everything changed, however, after a desperate call for help in the night.

The dentist called El Madawi and asked him to help out with a despairing situation. Her cousin is Julia’s mother. She informed El Madawi that her cousin and her cousin’s daughter were at the Calgary Airport, after having escaped in the middle of the night from an abusive relationship. Julia was wheelchair bound, however, and needed some serious medical help, including surgery, physiotherapy and chiropractic care. El Madawi went immediately to pick them up, giving them a second chance without a second thought.

Cerebral palsy affects two out of every thousand children born each year. Julia has a particularly severe case which has had her in the offices of specialists as far away as Houston, Texas. Julia’s next operation will take place as soon as she is healed and ready, and will cost upwards of $90,000. El Madawi hopes the soon-to-be-auctioned Fiat will help to mitigate some of the costs for the family.

“We will do one of these cars every year,” says Rachid. He says they are more than willing to help any child who has these sorts of needs.

“Whatever we get for the car, the whole amount will go into a fund for Julia for when she’s ready for her next surgery,” says Salima Jima, Financial Sales Manager at Rachid’s Auto Sales.

The Calgary community, and El Madawi’s friends and family, are all coming together to assist with funding and care. Jima’s cousin is a chiropractor and has helped Julia as much as possible, but there is much still to be done. Her first surgery, which cost $60,000, took place in Houston, Texas. El Madawi personally paid for the plane ticket and accommodations, and donations from the community helped fund the surgery. After the procedure, Julia was able to stand on her own for the first time in her life, a wonderful milestone that will improve her quality of life and that of her family immeasurably. All she needs now is the ability to take a few steps on her own and she’ll be ready for the next surgery, which will make walking on her own a reality.

El Madawi says that he wants to do things like this more often to give back to the community. “I would like to do one car every year around Christmas, for a different child,” he says, adding “Anyone can email me if they have an idea of who to help.”

The replacement panels for the repair came in the form of a generous donation from Keystone Automotive.

“We really value and respect Rachid, and when he came to us and described the situation, well, we’re very proud to be able to help,” says John Miller, a Sales Manager for Keystone Automotive. “You want to step up and do whatever you physically can to help this little girl.”

There is far more left to be done, however, and the family is trying to set up a Gofundme account to help with the medical costs. “The car initiative is a valiant effort, but it’s just a drop in the ocean, really, compared to everything that she needs,” says Miller. You can email Rachid El Madawi at rachid04@telus.com if you are interested in donating to the Khaled family to help with the costs of Julia’s surgeries.



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