Educators step up to give girl a lift 

Ashlee Alves, 11, of Naugatuck, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She needs to be lifted to go up and down stairs. There are fundraising efforts under way to get her family a wheelchair lift for their house. – CONTRIBUTED

Ashlee Alves, 11, of Naugatuck, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She needs to be lifted to go up and down stairs. There are fundraising efforts under way to get her family a wheelchair lift for their house. – CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Eleven-year-old Ashlee Alves is a fighter who does not let cerebral palsy stop her from doing just about anything.

She plays sports and sings in YouTube videos that she creates and shares with friends.

But every now and again, Ashlee needs a lift, and educators in Naugatuck are trying to give her one.

Hillside Intermediate School teacher Jenna Dufresne has started a Go Fund Me page to get a wheelchair lift for the Alves family’s two-story house in Naugatuck so Ashley can get to and from her room.

The Alves live in a split-level house, and Ashlee’s mother, Christina Alves, has carried her daughter up and down stairs for several years when her husband, Manuel (Tony) is working at night, which is often. Carrying Ashlee has become more difficult as she has gotten older. Christina Alves, a paraprofessional in Naugatuck public schools, also has eosinophilic pneumonia, which causes white blood cells to accumulate in her lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

The wheelchair lift would be a major help, said Christina Alves, who also has help from her parents.

“We are so thankful to everyone in the community for their support,” she said. “People have been amazing. It’s overwhelming.”

Dufresne, who works with Christina Alves, said she has put out the Go Fund Me site to members of the school district, who have stepped up in droves. In three days, the fund had raised more than $1,400. The lifts range in price from thousands to tens of thousands, depending on the house and what is required for installation.

Ashlee, a fifth-grader at Cross Street Intermediate School, is confined to a wheelchair. Still, she is involved in track and field and basketball with the Hospital of Special Care.

Recently, she posted an inspirational video trying to walk with supports, which Dufresne described as amazing because of Ashlee’s clear determination.

Her inspirational spirit has garnered attention districtwide. Maple Hill School will hold a dress down day where teachers pay to dress more casually to raise money for the fund, and Hillside is holding a similar event. Other schools across the district are expected to participate, Dufresne said.

“Ashlee is a wonderful girl and everyone wants to help,” she said.

To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/24qpu3w.