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St. Joseph's Hospital, Specially Fit Foundation team up to find home for athlete with special needs

Everald Nelson lived at St. Joe's for 288 days
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Posted at 3:03 AM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 08:52:20-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Everald Nelson spent 288 days at St. Joseph's Hospital.

The 38-year-old man with special needs had a tumultuous stay, one filled with renal failure and dialysis and, most tragically, the death of his mother, his primary caregiver.

And yet, through it all, one thing never changed.

"Nurses, techs, doctors, social workers, everyone really loved Everald because of his vibrant spirit," says Melanie Marraffa, a social services specialist at the hospital.

He was determined to bring joy wherever he went.

"They took good care of me," says Everald.

Without his mom, his future residence was in jeopardy, so they also made sure Everald's new home after the hospital would be one that matched his abundant optimism. There would be no nursing home for a young man like Everald.

"We were relieved to find such a perfect fit," says social worker Laurel Powers, who credits the St. Joseph's Hospitals Foundation with making sure Everald's story had a positive ending.

Enter Mark Oliver, founder of the Specially Fit Foundation, a nonprofit providing weight training, exercise therapy, proper nutrition guidelines and group homes to people with developmental disabilities.

"Everald is one of our true success stories," says Mark. "This is why the services through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities are so vital for people like Everald."

Not only is Everald now living in a Specially Fit group home, but he's also powerlifting in the Special Olympics.

For more on the Specially Fit Foundation, click here.