Faith and Fate: An Orphan, a Paralyzed Veteran, and the Bowling Tie that Bonded Them

by Gianmarc Manzione 0

Daniel Bolan’s first meeting with quadriplegic veteran Romy Camargo in August 2015, pictured here, inspired Daniel’s “Strikes for Vets” initiative (Gabby Camargo, Lt. Gen. Marty Steele, Daniel and Chris Bolan, l-r, with Romy).
Daniel Bolan’s first meeting with quadriplegic veteran Romy Camargo in August 2015, pictured here, inspired Daniel’s “Strikes for Vets” initiative (Gabby Camargo, Lt. Gen. Marty Steele, Daniel and Chris Bolan, l-r, with Romy).

Chris Bolan had a thought after his wife Becky endured her fourth miscarriage: “We really didn’t think the Lord wanted us to have children.”

Chris, himself adopted, looked far and wide hoping to find that he was mistaken about the Lord’s desires. The Orlando, Fla., resident looked 5,600 miles away from home, to be exact.

“A friend of ours had adopted a child in Romania and said it was a pretty easy situation,” Chris says.

In April of 2000, Chris and Becky looked into it. By that September, they were parents. They named their son Daniel. He was two years old.

“Our goal was to make sure he would have a good life,” Chris says.

Things might have gone otherwise for Daniel. Documentaries such as ABC Australia’s Streetwise Kids in 1996 or director Edet Belzberg’s Academy Award-nominated Children Underground in 2001 captured harrowingly the magnitude of Romania’s homeless children crisis at the time — young children huffing glue to cope with hunger pains and hopelessness, living in train stations or sewers.

Daniel was one of the last children adopted from Romania; the country suspended international adoptions in 2001. Maybe the Lord had a plan, after all.

Eight years later, an Army Special Forces officer named Romulo Camargo — he goes by “Romy” — had his own reasons for questioning the Lord. On September 16, 2008, a bullet pierced the married father’s C-3 vertebra as he reached for a box of grenades amid an ambush in Zabul province, Afghanistan. The bullet instantly paralyzed him from the neck down; a medic performed an emergency tracheotomy on the spot while machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire seethed around them.

Camargo and his 7th Special Forces Group had gone to Zabul province to repair a road so locals “could travel without IEDs [improvised explosive devices],” he told Risen Magazine.

Now, Camargo was in need of repair. He would spend a year-and-a-half in the hospital and undergo a stem-cell transfer procedure to regulate his body temperature.

These two unlikely paths — one a lucky kid in Romania spared a life on the streets by a childless couple thousands of miles away, and the other a Chief Warrant Officer in Afghanistan gunned down while repairing a road — converged in Florida where Daniel’s family lives and where Romy and Gaby, his devoted wife of 11 years, founded the Stay in Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center in Tampa.

Daniel, a lefty two-hander on the lanes who fell in love with bowling when he attended a friend’s birthday party at a bowling center at age 12, first met Romy at Stay in Step on August 5, 2015. The meeting inspired a mission that Daniel, now 19 and attending Marian University, plans to pursue for the rest of his life.

“One thing he said was he would do it again — go to war — and that he is so happy and always up for trying new things,” said Daniel, Florida’s 2016 high school boys’ bowling individual state champion and a 2016 USBC Youth Ambassador of the Year.

Daniel’s Strikes for Vets fundraisers thus far have been held in Tampa, Orlando, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and raised more than $30,000 on behalf of veterans’ organizations such as Fisher House and Vet Rest in addition to Stay in Step. Camargo honored Daniel with the first Stay in Step Volunteer of Excellence award for the teen’s efforts.

“When you get paralyzed, people lose their will to fight,” Camargo told The Washington Post. But “just because you’re paralyzed doesn’t mean you have to stay home and not do anything.”

Camargo lives that ethic every day — with a little help from friends like the son Chris Bolan thought the Lord did not want him to have. The Camargos are no less certain of the Lord’s plans these days. Gaby puts it this way: “I know God is using us to help others that don’t have the same blessing that we have.”

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