- Associated Press - Saturday, February 13, 2016

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - Hunter Kelch has never been much of a talker, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything to say.

The 23-year-old lives with cerebral palsy, a disorder that, when he was a baby, degraded Hunter’s motor skills, speech and vision. Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways; the term refers to any one of a number of brain disorders that begin in infancy and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The condition can’t be cured, but it also doesn’t worsen with time.

Because Hunter’s speech is often slurred and is marked by spurts and interruptions - he stutters as well - he often avoids speaking, Wausau Daily Herald Media (http://wdhne.ws/1PdWRFX ) reported. However, his mind is sharp and unaffected by the cerebral palsy that was caused by a brain infection he had as an infant. The end result: Hunter is an introspective person with a vibrant inner life. As a child, he discovered that he could be heard through writing.

A few years ago, Hunter discovered that his writing skills, advances in technology and the Internet offered him a stage. He started a blog called “Accessing the World” at http://hunter-kelch.squarespace.com. He used the forum to post restaurant reviews that looked at not just the food and drink an establishment has to offer, but also accessibility issues.

“I was kind of anxious at first, because I had never blogged before,” Hunter said. “But I started to find that it became easier and easier.”

Read the blog now and you’ll find that his writing voice is direct, honest and funny. It offers a unique perspective about living life with disabilities. “Some people assume that because I am physically disabled I am limited in my interest(s),” Hunter wrote in a recent post. “Believe it or not, my hobby is sports and cooking. I cannot play sports, nor can I cook. However, since I was a little kid, I have found ways to reroute ‘can’t’ into ‘can.’ In other words, I do it my way.”

He’s written about the pros and cons of living on his own, the equipment he uses to expand his capabilities and how he’s prone to some mishaps with his wheelchair. “I have a metal rod that sticks out from the back of the headrest,” he wrote in one post. “People (mostly my mom) have walked into it when I stop my chair suddenly. I have also gouged out walls and elevators when I am trying to turn around in a tight spot. … I guess you can say I like to leave ‘an impression!’”

And people started to notice, said his mother, Sandi Kelch, 49, of Wausau. The blogging platform that Hunter uses now doesn’t offer its users metrics about how many hits posts get. But a prior blogging platform did offer that service, Sandi said, and Hunter’s posts typically got around 1,000 hits, “from all over the world.”

Hunter’s writing and attitude has won him plenty of friends, and a group of them are now coming to his aid.

Sandi and Hunter have a handicapped-accessible van that they purchased about a decade ago.

Hunter has grown a bit, and his head scrapes the door frame when he enters or exits the van. The hydraulic system that lifts him and his chair, together several hundred pounds, is outdated and prone to breakdowns. Those mechanical issues have left him trapped inside the van on a blazing hot day and kept him out of the vehicle in the cold after watching Wausau’s holiday parade.

“The van has become quite uncomfortable and very dangerous,” said his aunt, Gretchen Ugoretz via email. “I am working with a dedicated group of his friends and GoFundMe to get the word out. … He is an amazing person who has overcome so much in his lifetime. He has endured painful surgeries, discrimination and other hardships. But he does not let it get him down.”

The fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Hunter’s favorite restaurant, Trail’s End in Wausau.

The van is key, Hunter and Sandi said, for him to continue and expand his writing. Their goal is to travel around the state and write about accessibility matters, with some good eating thrown in.

“Without that van have no way of getting around,” Hunter said. “It’s kind of a lifeline.”

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Information from: Wausau Daily Herald Media, http://www.wausaudailyherald.com

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