Pay-it-Forward builds new wheelchair-accessible bathroom for Wyatt Hamlin after car crash

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(ABC 6 News) – After spending months in the hospital, an Austin teen is getting ready to come home after being severely injured in a car crash by a driver police say was driving drunk.

Now, a Mower County non-profit, Pay-it-Forward, is doing some reconstruction to 16-year-old Wyatt Hamlin’s home to help ease the transition.

“Two seconds earlier or two seconds later and that guy would have missed him he was driving so fast,” said Sheila White, Hamlin’s mother. “I mean he currently cannot walk unassisted.”

Hamlin, who loves playing hockey, is now stuck in a wheelchair for a little while.

“He’s a super, super good boy. He has a good heart, has good friends, he’s an A and B student with no homework,” said White.

The crash left Hamlin with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a shattered pelvis, and a traumatic brain injury.

Hamlin’s home now needs something special.

“Knowing Wyatt would need a little more mobility help than just a bathtub, I said ‘Don’t worry about it, Pay-it-Forward will take care of it,” said Gina Grundmeier, the founder of Pay-it-Forward Inc. “That’s what Pay-it-Forward does. When we see a need in the community and feel like there’s a way, we can sure rally troops to come in and help with what were looking for or what we wanna do. It’s just the right thing to do.”

White says she was never expecting Grundmeier and her team to come and build the bathroom for free. She says the support from the Austin community has been overwhelming.

“I never expected so many people, I mean people we don’t even know message me and show their support, I am very grateful,” said White.

“Our community is just amazing, just to watch them do all this so I’m very, very proud to be a part of this project and a part of Austin,” said Scott Fox, the owner of Fox Electric Company and a member of the Pay-it-Forward team.

The Pay-it-Forward team knew this project hit a little closer to home, because Hamlin’s story is not the only reason the team has spent the last few weeks tearing down and rebuilding his bathroom.

They say they are doing it because of the kind of person Hamlin is.

“Wyatt’s coming home in nine days and everything has to be ready,” said Fox. “It’s near and dear to me because Wyatt is a personal family friend and just a great kid. I am so excited that he is getting better and really happy to be involved here.”

Grundmeier orchestrated the team to widen door frames in Hamlin’s home, build a new shower instead of the bathtub and even replace the vanity with a hung sink so that he would be able to roll underneath it.

Hamlin has been in the hospital since the crash happened in July and everyone says that his homecoming cannot come soon enough.

“I just need him home,” said White. “With a traumatic brain injury, they wont give you a prognosis because every brain is different everyone heals different. I know the PT, OT and speech therapist that he’s working with are all very impressed with the progress that he’s made in such a short time.”

Hamlin is expected to return home to Austin on Oct. 12.

“Because of the entirety of the tragedy and the circumstances with the accident and how things happened, the Austin community has been amazing in wanting to do everything they can to help with Wyatt’s needs and some of the expenses of him being in Rochester,” Grundmeier said. “They know the clock is ticking so I don’t have any fear in it being ready for him because I believe in everyone on the team.”

This is one of many projects that the Pay-it-Forward team has done over the last ten years. Grundmeier says they cannot do it without the support and donations from the public.

If you are interested in donating, click here.

You can also Venmo ‘PayItForward-Inc’ or mail a donation to PO Box 442 in Austin, MN.