By Curt Yeomans
Caleb Catchings has a simple way of letting a person know he's enjoying something -- he flashes a big smile and laughs.
If Catchings, 6, sees a girl he likes, he says "Hello," then he flashes that smile and lets out a little mischievous laugh.
If he's asked whether he's enjoying a large event, like a parade and carnival thrown in honor of his birthday, he flashes that smile again, lets out a big laugh and claps his hands.
His energy and charisma mask the fact that Caleb Catchings has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, type III, which is a genetic disorder that has left the youth with fragile bones, and some respiratory problems.
Catchings flashed his smile often and did a lot of laughing on Saturday, though, as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Clayton County fire, police, sheriff's, and parks and recreation departments hosted a parade and carnival in his honor at Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro. More than 100 family members, admirers, a clown and a marching band showed up to wish him a "Happy Birthday."
"This has all been overwhelming," said Sharon Catchings, Caleb's mother. "We thought we'd just have a little birthday party for him, but this has been just wonderful. We couldn't ask for anything more for him."
Shavette Neal, vice president of program services and training for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia and Alabama, said the organization set out to give Caleb a birthday party tailored to his desires.
They arranged to have police cars, sheriff's department cars; the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders; a marching band; a horse-riding group, and a clown in the parade. Caleb rode in a convertible provided by
CarMax. At the end of the parade route was a carnival with inflatable slides and moon walks that the Cartersville-based company, Fun Services, provided for free. The World Financial Group provided volunteers to man the game booths.
"He told us he wanted something big for his birthday, so that's what we set out to do," Neal said.
Caleb's parents describe him as someone who knows how to express himself.
His mother said he talks all the time, and loves to dance by shuffling his hips from side to side in his wheelchair whenever he hears music. She also said he loves the color red; anything related to
Elmo from Sesame Street, and he can sing all of the songs from the Mickey Mouse Club.
Caleb, who is a student at Kilpatrick Elementary School, won the school's wheelchair race during last year's field day.
His father, Chris Catchings, said his son's energy is a sign that he was born to be a star. "Personality is not the word for it ... He could be on a stage if he wants to," Chris Catchings said.