Legionnaires provide 'blessing' to family in need

Born nearly five years ago, Landon Masirovits was born with a very rare condition called arthrogryposis. It affects his joints and has given him clubbed hands and feet. He’s already undergone eight surgeries so far and will have another one in Philadelphia next week that will leave him in a wheelchair for six weeks.

Faced with the prospect of pushing Landon up and down stairs leading to his house was daunting for Landon’s parents, so they started a GoFundMe page to raise money to build a ramp at their home.

But thanks to The American Legion family from Post 103 in Ashtabula, Ohio, the Masirovits now have a ramp in place – at no cost to the family. A group of Legion Riders recently built the ramp for the family after the entire Post 103 Legion family chipped in to help make it possible.

Once members of the post learned about the family’s situation, they wanted to do something to help. It took one trip to the house to ensure that happened.

“Although the Riders and the Legion are about veterans particularly, our concern is our community as well, and we can’t lose sight of that,” said ALR Chapter 103 President Harry Godfrey. “When we saw this boy and saw what he was going to end up going through, we couldn’t not do something for him. Once we saw (Landon) and how spirited he was and the smile on his face, we had decided … we were going to (build the ramp) one way or another.”

Mitch Masirovits, Landon’s father, works second shift while his wife Robyn works during the day and would have to have pushed Landon up and down the stairs on her own.

“She’s not a very big women, and (Landon's) already pushing 40 pounds,” Mitch said. “So it will be a whole lot easier getting him in and out of the house. For them to build it for us is a huge blessing. We were kind of at a loss over what we were going to do.”

It was the sixth ramp built by Chapter 103, including one last May for a bed-ridden Korean War veteran. "They are very community-minded,” Mitch said of Post 103. “They want to do more than just help veterans. They want to help in their community whenever they can. They’re great people.

“Each one of them, when they talked to Landon they got down on his level. There were grown men on their knees in the front yard talking to Landon. You don’t see a lot of people do that: be willing to get down on a child’s level to talk to them and take the time to let him know they care.”

Godfrey said those type of encounters are what motivate the Riders. “We get a more fulfilling feeling by going and meeting the people we’re actually helping,” he said. “By being there and building the ramp we get closer to them.”

Sometimes building those relationships does create a bit of sadness later. “We just did a ramp for a three-tour Vietnam veteran about a month and a half ago, and he lived right around the corner from Landon,” Godfrey said. “When we were doing Landon’s ramp we found out he’d had a heart attack and passed away.

“In the unfortunate sense, once we get to meet people we get close to them. I’d been to his house a few times and talked to him. When we built that ramp for him, him walking out of his house for the first time on his own, he said after all this time he finally felt appreciated. When you’ve got a three-tour Vietnam veteran telling you something like that, there’s nothing more heartwarming than that.”