Emmanuel Jenkins has cerebral palsy, but he’s not the type of person who allows that to limit his life.
The 29-year-old Harrington resident gets around in a motorized wheelchair and lives in a handicap-access home. His wife, Sharliena, drives him around as needed and takes care of his other needs, assisted by their son, Kailyin.
They soon hope to add another member to their family: an assistance dog that will help him become even more independent.
Jenkins has been approved to receive the animal from California-based Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit group that provides assistance animals free of charge.
Jenkins makes a living as “Da Mann on Wheels,” delivering motivational speeches to area schools and community organizations. But it’s a modest income, one that allows for few frills.
To help supplement the family budget, Jenkins is working to raise funds to help feed and care for the assistance dog once it arrives.
It’s a unique program: in addition to accepting cash donations, Jenkins is asking people to bring him bags of aluminum cans that he can recycle for cash.
It won’t bring in a lot of money all at once, but with an 18-month waiting period to meet a dog that probably hasn’t been born yet, Jenkins figures he has the time.
An upbeat spirit
A native of Seaford, Jenkins was diagnosed with CP when he was less than 2 years old. Individuals with CP have extremely limited motor functions, and must rely on other people or mechanical devices even to perform simple tasks such as getting dressed or going from room to room.
Growing up, Jenkins only could watch as other children played outside and did all the other things children do.
“I wasn’t really bitter,” he said. “I’ve always had an upbeat spirit. But I didn’t understand why, why I had to be like this.”
Because of his limitations, except for going to school Jenkins spent much of his time at home. It wasn’t until he obtained a powered wheelchair that he was able to get out and see more of the world. He graduated from Seaford High School in 2004 and worked at the Boys & Girls Club, and then at the local Walmart. He took up motivational speaking around the time he met Sharliena and moved to Harrington.
The couple got together on a chat line and talked for more than a year before meeting in person. Married four years ago, Jenkins counts his family as his biggest blessing.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’d always dreamed of getting married and having a family,” he said. “And having a child, well, he just teaches me so much.”
‘You don’t just give up’
When he was notified he’d been accepted at Canine Companions, Jenkins knew he’d need extra money to get the dog settled in its new home. Canine Companions pays for almost everything, but once the dog is put with a family, they are responsible for its care, including all veterinary bills and inoculations.
That’s when Sharliena came up with the idea of collecting the cans.
“I was thinking of a way he could raise money where he didn’t have to go ask for donations,” she said. “I just thought about the cans. People normally just throw them away.”
Jenkins said they don’t have a set goal for how much they want to raise, adding that donations of any kind are appreciated. He and Sharliena already have a modest number of plastic bags filled with discarded soda and drink cans stacked in their garage. If need be, they’ll even drive to someone’s home to pick up donations.
Raising the kind of money they’ll need will be a major task, but Jenkins feels it’s just one more difficulty he will meet and overcome.
“Life has obstacles, life has challenges,” he said philosophically. “But you take them on and you don’t just give up.”