Cody Kusler squealed with excitement at the sight of his mother Angela Kusler walking into his classroom. Trying to peer out from his table, he couldn’t wait to greet her and his younger brother, Kaden Kusler, who were visiting to help Cody receive a specialized supportive positioning chair he has needed for years.

The smile on the Midway High School senior’s face said everything there is to know about the surprise $3,000 donation Baylor Helping Hands made Wednesday, his family and supporters said.

Cody, 17, was diagnosed with low-functioning autism and has epilepsy, his mother said. He has been in Midway Independent School District since he was 3, and while the family has used different versions of chairs through the years, he has either outgrown them or they didn’t stand up to heavy use, school officials said.

“It was definitely a blessing for us, because we have students who may have extensive needs, and this was just perfect timing,” said Sharon Blanchard, the district’s special education director. “We had tried some different chairs with Cody that weren’t effective, and we were able to borrow this one as trial basis and found out it was very effective. They (Helping Hands) contacted us, and we said we actually have the perfect opportunity for you. It was a great match.”

Helping Hands works to meet the needs of community members with physical or mental disabilities, according to the organization’s website. It was started in February 2016 after an initially informal effort to help a Baylor student gained steam.

The group reached out to Blanchard at the beginning of October to see if there were any opportunities to offer help, she said.

Blanchard told the group Cody was using the chair on loan through the end of October, but the department couldn’t afford to buy the chair to offer it on a full-time basis, Helping Hands President Taylor Ernst said. A few days later, after sending out emails, networking through social media and in-person outreach, Helping Hands raised $4,500, more than enough for the chair.

“To raise that much money in three days, that stuff doesn’t just happen,” Ernst said. “There’s got to be something else involved. It was just God using people to do his work.”

The new chair keeps Cody secure when seizures hit, which has been about once a day recently, Angela Kusler said. It also helps support and control his overall posture, and it has plenty of room for Cody to grow and become more independent, she said.

“There’s the great, the good and the not good, or OK, and he’s having more great days because he can be successful in that,” Angela Kusler said. “I just love how it makes him sit up, makes him focus. ”

Cody won’t be able to keep the chair once he finishes school, because the chair was donated to Midway ISD. But the chair is his until he leaves the district, Angela Kusler said. Helping hands plans to use the remaining money from its fundraising blitz to help another special needs student, Ernst said.

“We’re just real appreciative of Baylor Helping Hands and the Midway ISD special education department coming together,” Angela Kusler said. “They did that on their own. We didn’t even know it was happening until midway through them talking about it and asking us permission. … It was very quick, so we’re appreciative of the public and everyone who gave for the new chair for Cody.”

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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