One man’s labor of love for his disabled daughter now benefits the community

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 5:15 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s barely light out and Patrick Sullivan is hard at work, wearing a Santa hat and using a snow blower to remove the snow on the boardwalk at Potter Marsh. Sullivan isn’t doing the job because he has to, but because he wants to.

“A lot of people come here — hopefully year round more — and I just want to make it accessible for everyone,” he said. “A lot of kids come here, a lot of schools, field trips, daycares, all that, so you know I want to make it a good, safe place for everybody to be.”

In particular, Sullivan is motivated by his 23-year-old daughter, Mikayla to keep the boardwalk clear. Mikayla is disabled, and walking isn’t easy for her. Sullivan’s wife Denise said her daughter really likes being outdoors, and the boardwalk at the marsh is a favorite destination in the summertime. When it snows in the winter, it’s difficult for her Mikayla navigate because of the snow.

When the Sullivan family learned that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages the refuge — but didn’t have the budget to keep the boardwalk clear in the winter — they decided to try and tackle it themselves.

“We decided that we were going to try shoveling and learned just how hard it is and just how time consuming it is, especially when you have a lot of snow,” Denise LaFlamme-Sullivan said.

The family asked for and received permission from the department to use their snow blower to clear the boardwalk, and Patrick Sullivan was made an official volunteer. Now Sullivan goes out to clear snow almost every morning after it snows, but Sullivan says the community also began helping after the couple posted about their situation on Facebook.

“Oh yeah, all the time,” Sullivan said. “They see the Facebook posts and they ask to donate gas money for the snow blower, it’s cool.”

The family says they pretty much have the boardwalk covered, but they could still use some help. If people want to help clear off the handrails on the boardwalk or shovel in a couple of spots that their blower can’t reach, they would appreciate the assistance.

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