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8-year-old boy raises money to buy his bestie a new wheelchair

After 8-year-old Paul Burnett saw his best friend fall out of his wheelchair, he started a fundraiser to buy Kamden Houshan a new chair.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

When Paul Burnett first met Kamden Houshan in kindergarten, the two boys quickly became friends. They bonded over playing superheroes and creating goofy videos. While others often focus on Kamden’s wheelchair and disability, Paul never acted like Kamden was different.

“What really contributes to their friendship is that Paul does not see Kamden as someone who has a disability. He sees him as Kamden. Because of that Kam truly is himself around him,” Yvonne Houshan, Kamden’s mom, told TODAY.

Kamden, 8, who lives in Poway, California, was born with a tumor on his T2 and T3 vertebras. The tumor was so large it engulfed his spinal cord. While he has had three surgeries to de-bulk the tumor, Kamden is paraplegic and relies on a wheelchair.

The wheelchair gives Kamden freedom, but it is heavy and bulky, which sometimes makes it hard for Kamden to push himself. And, it’s causing accidents. When the boys were visiting a farm on a playdate, Paul looked on in horror as the wheelchair tipped forward and dumped out Kamden.

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“Paul was just in shock,” Jenny Burnett, Paul’s mom, told TODAY. “We didn’t know that it had a lot to do with the chair … it wasn’t really fitted for him.”

Medical, the state’s Medicare, only pays for a wheelchair once every five years, said Houshan. The chair isn’t really made for Kamden as he grows.

“We couldn’t afford another chair. We put it on the back burner,” Houshan said.

But Houshan didn’t realize that Paul noticed all the problems that Kamden experienced with his wheelchair.

“Paul was definitely paying attention,” Housan said.

In a school talent show, best friends Paul Burnett and Kamden Houshan did a Michael Jackson routine.
In a school talent show, best friends Paul Burnett and Kamden Houshan did a Michael Jackson routine.Courtesy Jenny Burnett

After the boys finished second grade this year, Paul told his mom he wanted to help Kamden get a new wheelchair. He had recently watched a video about fundraising websites and he thought if he started a campaign for Kamden he could raise enough money to get him a customized wheelchair. Burnett interviewed him and the two wrote an intro for the Go Fund Me.

“His wheelchair has fallen forward many times and that sucks. Also, he has a really hard time pushing it because its so heavy,” Paul wrote.

In two weeks, the campaign exceeded its goal of $3,900 and raised $5,455, which covers the cost of a customized wheelchair.

Paul said he wanted to help Kamden because “he’s a good friend and he’s kind.”

The Houshans feel thrilled that Paul helped Kamden.

“He’s helpful," said Kamden. "He just thinks about [me]. I like to have a friend who just thinks about [me]."

Kamden Houshan appreciates his bestie Paul Burnett because Paul doesn't see Kamden as disabled.
Kamden Houshan appreciates his bestie Paul Burnett because Paul doesn't see Kamden as disabled.Courtesy Jenny Burnett

Kamden tried out a demo wheelchair like the one he will receive in August and Houshan noticed an immediate difference. The boy was out on the dance floor at a family member’s baptism, rocking the chair from side to side.

“This new chair is a lot lighter,” Houshan said. “It will make things so much better. He could push himself more and do more.”

She feels so grateful for Paul's kindness.

“Paul is really just a sweet kid,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. Who would have thought? I never guessed it would be like this, not in a million years.”