(JANESVILLE, Wisc.) — Vinnie Natale, 4, of Janesville, Wisconsin, absolutely loves Target. The store holds a special meaning for him since he grew up associating it with happy memories as he overcame milestones in his battle with a joint condition.
He was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that causes joint contractures and makes it difficult for him to move his legs.
“They told us that based on what they could see in the ultrasound, they didn’t think he would walk or bend his legs and knees,” Vinnie’s mom, Stephanie Natale, told ABC News. “They can never say for sure, but it was definitely a very doom and gloom outlook.”
But Vinnie was determined to prove his doctors wrong. He worked extremely hard, and after his intensive therapy sessions, his parents would take him to Target to practice walking down the long aisles.
“Around two years old when he got his walker, we started going there and would have him walk up and down the aisles,” Natale, 39, recalled. “As he got older we’d go more often and it got to be a reward thing. It was a fun little place for him to go.”
He would also get to pick out little toys like LEGOs or a book, so the trips became a special treat for him.
When Natale asked her son where he wanted to have his birthday party, Vinnie’s answered: Target.
“We talked to the managers and they were over the moon with the idea,” said Natale. “One manger said, ‘We’ll get him a name tag from corporate,’ so they ordered him a legit name tag.”
They had red and white polka-dotted decorations, they had a storewide scavenger hunt and Natale found oval stick-on labels for all the other children to wear nametags too.
“We just had so much fun,” said his mom. “When he walked in, he was really surprised and thought it was pretty awesome. He loves putting his little Target outfit on.”
Vinnie has made such progress in his therapy, he started soccer practice yesterday.
“Seeing him running up and down the fields and knowing the hours of therapy and practicing with his walker he’s put in, it’s really amazing to see how determined he is,” his mother said. “He realizes that he has braces that help him walk, but he doesn’t let it define who he is. That’s humbling too, it doesn’t stop him.”
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