They come from all over the United States, Germany, Turkey, and there was even a package from NASA.
Cards, letters, photos, books — all addressed to 14-year-old Springfield resident Lucas Hoelscher.
But Lucas — part of triplet sons born to Bill and Patty Hoelscher — isn’t your typical teenager.
Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type I when he was 10 months old, doctors told Lucas’ parents that he only had months to live.
Nearly 14 years later, Lucas is preparing to experience another holiday season with one request in mind: Send him mail.
Lucas, who is unable to talk or move, enjoys receiving letters and cards in the mail because his life completely revolves around his visual skills. He is only able to communicate by making sounds or moving his eyes.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, SMA is a genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement.
“His day is so routine, (the mail) gives him something to look forward to,” said Patty, a Fairborn High School graduate. “We don’t tote him to the mall. We don’t go anywhere,” except mainly for doctor’s appointments and school or family photos.
Lucas was the third of three sons born May 1, 1999, following his brothers Cameron and Bailey. Even though his brothers were born before him, Lucas was the first to come home from the hospital because, at the time, he was the healthiest.
Shortly thereafter, Bill and Patty became concerned because Lucas wasn’t meeting milestones. His brothers were rolling over and holding their heads up, and Lucas was not.
Patty said doctors informed the family that the disease would cause Lucas to “expire” at 1 year old, so A Special Wish Foundation arranged a trip for the family to visit Disney World in June 2000.
“He’s pushed the odds,” said Bill, a funeral director and part owner of Littleton & Rue Funeral Home & Crematory in Springfield.
Because his life is entirely visual, Lucas spends the day watching Sesame Street, learning shapes and colors on the iPad, looking in the mirror, and having his mail read to him by one of his six nurses or a family member.
Patty used to send Lucas mail herself, but he quickly caught on. So a month ago, Patty put a solicitation on Facebook asking friends to send Lucas mail, and he’s received about 550 pieces of mail since then. A Letters for Lucas Facebook group has more than 1,100 members.
“It’s an extremely difficult disease to deal with from a care standpoint, and the amount of support that’s really out there lets you know you’re not the only one fighting for him,” Bill said. “To take the time to actually write a letter or send a card to wish him well means a lot to us.”
Bailey and Cameron are eighth-graders in the Clark-Shawnee school district; Bailey runs cross country and Cameron plays football. They both spend time with Lucas, talking about school, reading him pop-up books, performing puppet shows and watching football together.
“We’re not the same as other families,” Cameron said. “We’ve had to change. But it makes us better.”
Lucas recently lost muscle movement in his cheeks, which has prevented him from smiling, and he’s suffered on average a seizure per month over the last year.
“It’s a simple life and a complicated life, all in the same,” Bill said.
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