Wheelchair fundraiser gets rolling with outpouring of donations

Chris Pence and his family are having a three-day garage sale starting Thursday, July 16, to raise funds to buy a motorized wheelchair for his 13-year-old son Caleb. More than 20 families have donated items for the fundraiser in an attempt to raise $15,000.

Chris Pence and his son Caleb sort through items in their garage for a three-day garage sale starting Thursday at 20415 Whitetail Circle south of Merrifield. More than 20 families have donated items to be sold to help raise $15,000 to purchase Caleb a motorized wheelchair. Caleb suffers from brittle bone disease and needs an all terrain wheelchair to go for walks with his family. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

When Chris Pence looks around his overflowing pole shed and garage, he doesn’t just see stuff but the chance to make his son’s dream come true.

More than 20 families donated items to his garage sale that starts Thursday, July 16, a three-day fundraiser to purchase a motorized wheelchair for his son Caleb.

“He has a disease that’s called ‘osteogenesis imperfecta,’” Pence said. “The common name for it is called ‘brittle bones disease’ and so he breaks a lot of bones — so many of them that we stopped counting because there were just too many to keep track of.”


The 45-year-old husband and father of five from Unorganized Territory hopes to raise $15,000 for an all-terrain wheelchair with ramp for the 13-year-old boy so they can go hunting together.

“What he lives with, because of that, he has chronic pain. He’s just in a lot of pain. And it’s very difficult for him to walk long distances,” Pence said. “He enjoys being outside, and that’s one of the things that’s been very heartbreaking for him.”

Pence used to work in the Crow Wing County Land Services Department before he took a job in 2017 with the local Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources in Brainerd. Pence’s love of the outdoors extends to his son.

“I like to go hunting, he likes to hunt, but he’s unable to go out and, say, go deer hunting, grouse hunting — any of those things out in the woods because he just can’t walk the distance to get there,” Pence said.

The boy has a wheelchair that he uses, for example, to go to the park or shopping at Walmart, but the family found a more rugged one from Action Trackchair that includes treads.

“It’s like a mini-tank, to be perfectly honest,” Pence said. “It’s got tracks on it. And it would allow him — it’s battery operated — allow him then to go and use that to go out when we go hiking at state parks, when we go out hunting, when we go out walking around the woods.”

An Action Trackchair promises “freedom, independence and mobility,” according to the provider’s website. The motorized wheelchair is customizable and can move a seated user to a standing position with the push of a button.


071620.N.BD. WheelchairFundraiser4.jpg
Caleb and Chris Pence sort through their garage before a three-day garage sale beginning Thursday. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“Right now a lot of times he doesn’t always get to go with us … because he just physically can’t do it,” Pence said.

Donated clothes, toys, books, movies, board games, shoes, kitchen items, fishing poles and life jackets are just some examples for sale in Pence’s pole shed for $1 each.

“If people want to come on to that garage sale and see what we got, I think they’d be surprised,” Pence said. “I think it could be the biggest garage sale of the year in the area from just from what we’ve been getting or what people have been donating to us.”

But the Pence family has already received donations in the form of financial support, too.

“Right now, we’ve had some local organizations that have donated some funds, so we received some funds from the Brainerd Lions Club. We’ve seen some funds from the Brainerd Knights of Columbus,” Pence said.

Pence’s attached garage houses the bigger items that have been donated for the fundraiser, such as a double stroller, jogging stroller, cribs, scooter, new Pampered Chef, bicycles, a new wedding dress and a china set, according to a Facebook post promoting the three-day sale.

“We’re getting donations from people I’ve never met. … I’ve had people drive up in their vehicles dropping off stuff. … They just heard about it from a friend who told a friend and next thing you know they’re bringing stuff up to our house,” Pence said.


Pence said he has run out of room to house the donations he has already received for the fundraiser and also said the family has raised $5,000 as of Wednesday.

”It's amazing to see how the community comes out to support people and to help them out. And, you know, for my son, I think it’s hard for him to really grasp just how generous people are. I think he’s just amazed that people who don’t know him are willing to donate,” Pence said.

There will also be a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and silent auction featuring Caleb and Sous Chef Matt Annand from 4-7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at The Woods Event Center/Gather on 3 at 19624 County Road 3 north of Brainerd. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for those ages 5 to 12.

If you go

  • What: “Track Chair for Caleb” garage sale fundraiser.

  • When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; Thursday, July 16, through Saturday, July 18.

  • Where: 20415 Whitetail Drive, Brainerd.

  • Payment: Cash, check or

  • More info: 218-232-3508 or 218-839-9294.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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