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Family's love displayed at Fall Fest (video)

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 27, 2013 at 5:27 a.m.
Updated Oct. 28, 2013 at 5:28 a.m.

Zander Cuellar, 8, center right, of Victoria, waits in line to be judged for the costume contest at Faith Family Church's fall festival. Zander, who has cerebral palsy, was  in an elaborate police vehicle with flashing lights. Zander later won fourth place in the overall competition.

Zander Cuellar looks up at the flashing lights blinking above his head.

His eyelashes flutter with excitement as he rolls his head back on his wheelchair headrest - disguised as a Victoria Police Department patrol car.

"Wow! What a great car, Zander!"

"That is so neat!"

"Hi, Zander! Great costume!"

The 8-year-old's father, Eric Cuellar, who built the LED red and blue flashing lighted police car, said his son's costumed wheelchair is always a big hit at Faith Family's annual Fall Family Festival.

"The other kids love it. They see him and the car, and they come ask what's wrong with him. It's an opportunity for them to get to know him and see that he's like the other kids," said Cuellar, 38.

Zander was born at Citizens Medical Center with cerebral palsy, a muscular and brain disorder that limits his ability to walk and speak.

"When he was born, we were told he had 15 minutes to live," Cuellar said, pausing to halt the tears welling in his eyes. "But 15 minutes became 30, and 30 minutes became 45, and 45 minutes became an hour, then two hours."

Zander spent many weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit and was finally released to his parents.

"There was no indication that he would have cerebral palsy," he said. "He was a full-term baby. We were excited to be new parents."

Pam Cuellar, Zander's mother, said when their friends and family learned of their baby's condition, people began covering them in prayer.

"All of Victoria was praying for him," Pam Cuellar said. "We didn't know what was happening from one moment to the next."

Since Zander's birth, the couple, Pam and Eric, have had two more children, Ava, 5, and Diego, 7, neither of whom are special needs children.

The parents are determined to give each a normal, equal childhood experience.

"It would be real easy to pay attention to the other two and put Zander in a corner. But we're not going to let that happen," Eric Cuellar said.

They've also been pushed in their faith, and they know God is using their son and his cerebral palsy to touch lives.

"He's been such a blessing to us," Eric Cuellar said. "I pray for him every day that God would just make him all that he is supposed to be."

Last week, Zander watched in his wheelchair while his father built him a cardboard police car in their garage.

Underneath the black and white painted boxes, Eric Cuellar's friend, Jerry Storz, installed red and blue flashing LED lights to make the police car appear more real.

As the family moseyed through Faith Family's annual fall fest, Cuellar said he's just proud to be out with his family, giving his son a Halloween experience that he can enjoy with other kids his age.

"He's like a little celebrity around the church," Cuellar said. "I just want him to have a good time, and I pray other people's eyes would be opened and their hearts would be changed."

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