Ohio father builds wheelchair-accessible snow fort for his special needs children
Gregg Eichhorn along with his sister built the wheelchair-accessible snow fort so that two of their wheelchair-bound children could enjoy some time having fun outdoors
Gregg Eichhorn from Cincinnati, Ohio, is a father who is always looking for creative ways to make life easier for his nine special needs children. That's why when it started snowing in the area last weekend, 34-year-old Eichhorn and his sister Sarah Brantley spent close to five hours building a wheelchair-accessible snow fort so that two of their wheelchair-bound children, 19-year-old Zahara and 11-year-old Elijah, could enjoy some time having fun outdoors.
Eichhorn along with his wife Katie have adopted nine special needs children, who range in age from 4 to 19-year-old.
Speaking to PEOPLE about his children, he said: "I keep telling everybody, it’s really no big deal. We were already building a snow fort so when we were doing it I said, 'Hey, let’s build it so that Elijah and Zahara, my two kids in wheelchairs, could use it as well'. I said, ‘They’d love to use the snow fort!’ It was all very passive, we just wanted to be able to include the handicapped kids who wouldn’t be able to participate in the building of it."
The proud father said that most of his children helped the two adults build the igloo but the main effort of building it came from him and his sister. For a father who has adopted nine children with special needs, however, the effort was all worth it.
Eichhorn said while noting that Elijah and Zahara are nonverbal: "They loved it! They were having a blast. The day afterward, we even put a slide on the top so they could slide off the top of it. Elijah opened his eyes up in there, and that was a big deal because he has cortical vision impairment. Our kids were so excited to see that."
He continued: "It’s just fun to build those kinds of things for nice family moments. [Zahara] just lit up. She smiled real big. I know she felt really special and included. She’s either bored or she’s happy –– and she was very, very happy to be out there."
Eichhorn said that he and his 32-year-old wife Katie have dedicated their lives to looking after children with special needs. It's because of this that they didn't expect the accessible igloo to get so much attention on social media.
Eichhorn first shared the pictures of the snow fort on Facebook and wrote: "Built this handicap accessible igloo today with my sister. Includes mini igloo and second-floor snowball deck. Not the first ambitious (sic) I’ve done."
Friends of the family who saw the images quickly shared them on Reddit where it went viral. Eichhorn told PEOPLE: "We didn’t know about all the people that were gonna be interested. For me, this is no big deal."
He continued: "People have told me, 'Getting the word out about medical and special needs adoption, that’s part of our family’s vision'. You can have special people in your family, that weren’t part of your family and you can love, and your family is better."
Eichhorn and Katie's children all range in age from 4 to 19-years-old. Zahara is the oldest of the lot and her special needs include heart issues, cerebral palsy, vision impairment and more.
Eichhorn said: "My life is so much better having special needs kids. I don’t know what I would have done in life, but I would not be the person I am today. I would not have the compassion, the love."
He concluded: "All the things I learned that I get to experience that other people don’t. People don’t know what they’re missing out on by not having people that are special around them."