East Penn Press

Sunday, September 23, 2018
PRESS PHOTOS BY JIM MARSHFive-year-old Niko Keeler’s bedroom is transformed from an infant’s nursery to a little boy’s superhero theme by Lehigh Valley Phantom’s charity volunteers. PRESS PHOTOS BY JIM MARSHFive-year-old Niko Keeler’s bedroom is transformed from an infant’s nursery to a little boy’s superhero theme by Lehigh Valley Phantom’s charity volunteers.
The Keller family, of Macungie, dad, Clint, and mom, Jilian, with their five-year-old twins, Niko and Ava, say they are overwhelmed at the number of well-wishers gathered for their return home after a week-long renovation by volunteers. The Keller family, of Macungie, dad, Clint, and mom, Jilian, with their five-year-old twins, Niko and Ava, say they are overwhelmed at the number of well-wishers gathered for their return home after a week-long renovation by volunteers.
Getting the Keller family back into their home for the big reveal of interior renovations is momentarily put aside when Macungie police officers present battery-powered miniature police vehicles to five-year-old twins Niko and Ava. Getting the Keller family back into their home for the big reveal of interior renovations is momentarily put aside when Macungie police officers present battery-powered miniature police vehicles to five-year-old twins Niko and Ava.
Jim and Rob Brooks, owners of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, hold the ribbon for five-year-old Ava Keller as she cuts the ribbon for the family’s big reveal. Jim and Rob Brooks, owners of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, hold the ribbon for five-year-old Ava Keller as she cuts the ribbon for the family’s big reveal.
MeLVin, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms mascot, welcomes the Keller family back to their Macungie home after their week-long hotel stay. MeLVin, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms mascot, welcomes the Keller family back to their Macungie home after their week-long hotel stay.

Superheroes abound to help Macungie family

Thursday, March 15, 2018 by JIM MARSH Special to The Press in Local News

With lights flashing and sirens blaring, officers from the Macungie Police Department escorted the Keller family from a Fogelsville hotel back to their Macungie residence March 9 after the family’s week-long absence to allow volunteers to renovate portions of their home to better accommodate the needs of their five-year-old son Niko.

The renovation was the third annual Building Hope for Kids project sponsored by the charity arm of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey team, who partnered with Shane Patrick Associates, an Allentown-based general contractor. The firm coordinated tradesmen contractors who volunteered their time and materials to accomplish the renovation of bedrooms for Niko and his twin sister, Ava and the basement area in the West Chestnut Street residence.

Niko and Ava were born prematurely five years ago to Chris and Jilian Keller, 23-weeks into the mother’s pregnancy. The children were the youngest premature twins born in the Lehigh Valley Health Network to survive and thrive.

Niko, who has cerebral palsy, has endured years of medical procedures and therapy through Good Shepherd rehabilitation services. The family’s home was not designed to accommodate the safety and therapy needs of the youngster and the family has made sacrifices to make do with what they had.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms charity, under the direction of executive director Jennifer Keeble, and their partners, volunteered their time and materials to renovate the youngsters’ infant nurseries into contemporary age-appropriate bedrooms, with princess and superhero themes.

In addition, the basement was completely renovated to add open-and safe-play space, storage, laundry facilities and a bathroom to better accommodate Niko’s needs.

To allow access for multiple craftsmen to accomplish the renovation in the week’s target timetable, Homewood Suites, along Route 100, in Fogelsville, provided accommodations for the family’s stay while the work took place.

For their journey back to Macungie for the big reveal, as a partner in the project, the Macungie Police Department provided a lights and sirens escort from Fogelsville to Macungie.

Well-wishers from the partnering businesses stood in the family’s residence parking area applauding as the family returned to an overwhelming reception.

Before stepping inside the home to see what changes had been accomplished, Macungie police officers presented the youngsters each with a battery-powered miniature police vehicle, pink for Ava, and black and blue, modeled after the department’s vehicles, for Niko.

For the youngsters, getting into the seats of the play vehicles took momentary precedence over seeing the changes which had taken place inside.

Before their entrance for the big reveal, Phantoms owners Jim and Rob Brooks held a ribbon of Phantom fan colors, while young Ava took cutting honors for the ceremony. Phantoms mascot, MeLVin surprised the family on the doorstep to usher them into their home.

The rest was “ohhs and ahhs” and a few tears as the family saw the changes to their home accomplished on their behalf. Mom and dad provided effusive thanks while the youngsters took in all the changes in their personal space.