BELDING — When Belding Fire Captain Don Eady was informed of a family’s financial struggle to replace car seats damaged in a recent car accident, he didn’t waste any time taking action.
On Monday afternoon at the Belding Fire Department, Eady presented Greenville residents John Hohl Jr., his wife Courtney and three of their five children with two new car seats and one booster seat just hours after having been informed of their need to replace the seats damaged in the accident.
“It’s the reason we’re here and it makes every day worthwhile,” said Eady of the donation on behalf of the Belding Fire Department. “We’re helping people that need some help and that’s what it’s all about for us.”
On Feb. 14, Courtney Hohl was driving her family of seven south on Lincoln Lake Road to Lowell to pick out a second vehicle for the family when a driver failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Lincoln Lake and Five Mile roads, just south of M-44.
Unable to avoid the driver, Hohl’s Ford Expedition slammed into the driver’s side of the PT Cruiser moving through the intersection, totaling both vehicles.
In what could have been a deadly accident, only the Hohls’ 4-year-old son Kelton Smith suffered injuries beyond bumps and bruises — a broken leg.
But on Monday, Kelton was rolling throughout the Belding fire station in his temporary wheelchair with a smile on his face, anxious for the opportunity to sit in a fire truck with the rest of his family.
Kelton had to wait patiently as Eady helped fit two new car seats for Kenton’s 1-year-old brother, John Hohl III, and 3-year-old sister, Falon Hohl.
For Courtney Hohl, it was an act of kindness she will never forget.
“I am just so thankful,” she said holding her son John in her arms. “After the accident, we didn’t have enough funds to purchase two new car seats and a booster seat. Out of the kindness of their heart, (the Belding Fire Department) helped us and donated the seats. For people to step up like that, it’s truly touching.”
John Hohl Jr. was shocked at how quickly Eady responded to their plea for help.
“This morning I had to make a few phone calls to see if I could get some assistance with getting help for new car seats,” he said. “We were informed that the fire department here in Belding may have some available. I called Fire Captain Don Eady and he called me right back, met me at work here in Belding and showed me the new car seats in person.”
But Eady didn’t stop there.
“He offered to have the kids come to the (fire) station so they could see the fire trucks and also so he could help properly fit the kids in their new car seats and fit them in our new vehicle,” Hohl said. “We’re very, very grateful for the Belding Fire Department.”
Eady said what seems like a treat to the children is actually more about teaching parents how to properly install new car seats, something he says is commonly overlooked.
“Probably 60 percent of the people who put in car seats do not do it correctly,” he said. “It’s not because they’re lacking the ability, it’s because they don’t realize what they have to do for proper installation.”
According to Eady, anytime a car seat is involved in a car accident it is recommended that the seat be replaced, which can be an unexpected hardship on families recently involved in an accident.
“It’s recommended any car seat involved in a crash be replaced,” he said. “If (the Hohls) had called that night, we would have done what we could to bring seats to them. We’re one of he last ones in the area that are still doing this. We’re hoping, before we run out of seats, to come up with more funding.”
Eady said the funding for car-seat donations was cut five years ago, but the department purchased as many as 80 seats while funding was still available. Today, Eady says the department only has about a dozen car seats left to donate.
“I think we’re down to about 15 (car seats) now,” he said. “We have people come in who are having some issues financially and have been in an accident. We’ll replace the seats if they have old seats or damaged seats. We take those old seats, destroy them and then we hand over the new ones.”
According to Eady, part of the requirement is that the parents or guardians have to meet with someone in the department, in person, who will help make sure the new seats are adjusted properly and installed in the vehicle correctly.
John Hohl Jr. said once his family is “back up on its feet” he hopes to give a donation back to the fire department so others can be helped the way he and his family have been.
“I want to do whatever I can,” he said. “This has been such a big help to us, I can only hope to give back so others can be helped in the future as we have been today.”