OLATHE — With a broad smile and enthusiastic greeting, Dan "Tiny" Parker introduced his wife and eight children Wednesday.
The smile stayed in place as his older girls helped the younger kids with their home-school tasks, and all through grace, after which he served up homemade chicken salad sandwiches.
Parker and his wife Chavell are committed to caring for kids — and the disabilities four of the eight children have don't diminish that commitment. It's reflected in the kids, who are polite, well-spoken and affectionate — "I love my mommy," 16-year-old Ali said, spontaneously hugging Chavell.
There's no shortage of what it takes to make a loving home, one Chavell has decorated with flowers, angels and family photos. It's just that, by Feb. 16, there won't be a home for the Parkers, their cat and two dogs.
"We're going to lose it," Tiny said. "And we don't want to."
Tiny, known locally as the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival's corn-eating champ, was injured in a workplace accident in 2000. He then fell, permanently damaging his leg. Disability payments and Chavell's paid home-health work kept the family afloat.
But the company that paid Chavell, a certified nurse's assistant, to provide healthcare to their adopted son, Kyler, recently sold.
She lost her job.
They fell behind in mortgage payments.
And if the Parkers don't come up with $25,000 for back payments, interest and attorney's fees incurred by their lender, the family home goes on the auction block.
"We've been struggling, but we never went into foreclosure before," Tiny said. "There's no way we could make ends meet."
The Parkers already had to refinance their seven-bedroom home once. That, coupled with interest, increased monthly payments to more than $2,000. The family has also incurred substantial hospital bills.
Tiny said in a hardship letter to Litton Loan Servicing that the family income is $4,100 per month, with disability and SSI payments, while bills, excluding the ones they are behind on, total more than $4,500.
They spend up to $1,000 per month on food and $400 every 45 days to fill the propane tank. The one bill they don't have is a credit card statement. "Nobody would loan me enough money to buy bubble gum," Tiny said.
In some ways, the Parkers' plight is similar to a housing nightmare being played out nationwide. Last year, according to Associated Press statistics, more than 2.3 million people faced foreclosure — 81 percent more than in 2007.
But the wrinkle in this tale of hardship is the kids' needs. Twelve-year-old Kyler is in a wheelchair and requires round-the-clock, total care. He cannot bathe himself, and must always be supervised; the result, Tiny said, of injuries sustained from shaken baby syndrome before the Parkers adopted him.
Ali has cerebral palsy, while Shelby, 15, had an infection that required her intestine to be surgically shortened. The Parkers' son, Cody, 17, has an enlarged aorta and diabetes.
The Parkers also have permanent custody of Tiny's niece, Annie, 17, and raised her brother, Ray, who is now in the Marines. Another son, Dusty, 18, is in college.
They adopted Lacey, now 7, the day she was born and are currently also caring for her natural siblings, Anthony and Haley.
"He never wants a child to feel unloved or unwanted," family friend Tami Hernandez said, detailing Tiny's volunteerism. "I couldn't take care of the kids he takes care of. He's absolutely amazing, he and his wife both. He's larger than life. I know everybody's hurting right now, but they're the only ones I know that have handicapped children."
Hernandez hoped others in the community could contribute. If just 50 people donated $500, the Parkers could stave off foreclosure, she said. She hoped such a fund would buy the Parkers' time to look at other finance options.
Alternately, Hernandez hopes the community could help the Parkers find a new home they can afford — because of the unique situation, it's not as if they can just move.
"He understands he may lose his home, but where is he going to go with eight handicapped kids?" Hernandez said.
"We would have to get two places," Tiny acknowledged. And those homes would have to accommodate Kyler's wheelchair and other needs.
"The children come first and we'll do whatever it takes. No child should have to suffer," he said.
"Of course we're worried about what we're going to do, but we keep it low key, so we don't stress out the kids," Chavell said.
She said she's willing to work, but if she makes too much, Tiny could lose disability income and insurance, as could some of the kids. "It puts us in such a catch-22. It makes it kind of hard."
Tiny said the mortgage company has worked with his family, and he appreciates that, but they are six months behind in payments. He's hopeful the payments can be reduced to around $1,100 per month and the interest rate lowered.
"I don't know what else to do," he said. "With the bailout, us as consumers aren't seeing the help."
Litton Loan Servicing could not be reached for comment.
The Parkers say they are relying on their strong religious faith. They admit it's tough to ask for help. "It's easier to go out and help others," Tiny said. "If the community wants to start a fund to save our house, that would be very humbling. I'm not so full of pride that I'm not going to accept help. ... I know if you show kindness to others, kindness will be shown to you."
Hernandez said it's Tiny's turn to receive a helping hand. "He's always giving to someone and always willing to help anyone out," she said. "He's the one I know that if I needed something, he would be there for me."
Hernandez established an account for the benefit of Dan and Chavell Parker at Wells Fargo Bank, downtown Montrose branch, on Friday. The account number is 5968398916.