Joey Funderburk’s Christmas wish list is pretty basic: He just wants two new legs to stand on.
Problem is, he can’t afford the $120,000 it costs to buy the prosthetic limbs, and his insurance, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, won’t pay for it.
So Funderburk, 20, with an assist from his mom, Chrystal, decided to take matters into his own hands, literally, and began selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts to try and raise enough money.
“We’re charging $7 dollars for a box of 12 glazed doughnuts, the most popular kind,” Funderburk said. “And they’re good for you.”
The sweet idea came from his mom, who was racking her brain trying to figure out how to help her son, whom she adopted at age 6 from a Romanian orphanage. Funderburk was born with a birth defect that left him with only about a foot of leg. Until he was 18, Shriners Hospitals for Children, in Greenville, S.C., sponsored his prosthetic limbs, which typically last anywhere from three to five years. But after age 18, he was no longer eligible for Shriners, and was in desperate need of a new pair of legs.
“There’s a big difference between what a little boy can walk on and what a man can walk on,” his mother said, adding that her son falls almost daily. “He just wants legs that won’t throw him down on his head all the time.”
A representative for Shriners Hospital was not available for comment.
Funderburk’s insurance company denied him. “They said they won’t cover it because there hasn’t been a change in my medical condition, I’ve just gained weight,” Funderburk said. “My doctor said, ‘I don’t know how they’re getting away with this.’”
The Funderburk’s have appealed the claims twice and been denied both times. They are awaiting a third decision. But even if his claims were accepted, his policy only covers $50,000, ”Not even enough for one leg,” his mom said.
Only 46 percent of private insurance plans cover artificial limbs, according to the Department of Labor.
Patti Embry-Tautenhan, a spokeswoman for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, said the company has “policies and guidelines in place that meet accepted standards of medical care.”
She added that its medical experts were talking with Funderburk’s doctor and “gathering additional clinical information in order to make a final decision.”
In the meantime, Chrystal Funderburk desperately wanted her son to get new limbs. She recalled selling doughnuts to raise money for her church youth group when she was in high school, and she thought her son should give it a shot. About two months ago, she ordered a hundred dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme and asked local businesses if they would let her son set up a stand in front of them.
The Starbucks in Charlotte, N.C., about an hour from the Funderburk’s home in Hickory Grove, S.C., agreed. Funderburk stands out front and sells his treats three days a week from subsequent orders.
“They were so nice to me,” he said. “Starbucks has been a huge trouper. No other place would let me set up.”
Funderburk is wearing loaned prosthetics from a local company. “They’re an adult set,” he said. “I can run in them, do things. They even said I might be able to ride a bike, which I’ve never been able to do.”
So far, Funderburk has raised about $7,500. He also has a website, JoeysLegs.org, which accepts online donations. Joey’s mom says she is in the process of registering a formal charity to help her son – and other kids and adults – get prosthetics, medical care and also adopt.
“We want to give back in the same way we’ve been given to,” she said. “There are a lot more people out there like us.”
She said she is touched the outpouring of support for her son. “It really started out with me and Joey sitting behind a table and selling doughnuts,” she said. “We’re trying to catch up on what’s happening.”
As for Funderburk, he is hopeful he’ll achieve his goal. “I’ve got to sell thousands of doughnuts,” he acknowledged. “But sitting on the couch is not going to help me.”
ADDENDUM: Since our article ran, the Funderburk’s have received an additional $6,700 in donations, they told ABC News. In addition, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina approved 80 percent coverage for new legs, up to $50,000.
“Based on recently received additional clinical information, we were able to approve replacement prosthetics,” Embry-Tautenhan told ABC News.
While the Funderburk’s are profoundly grateful, they do wish the insurance company would approve a more advanced model. “We just want the technology that’s common for people in Joey’s condition,” his mother told ABC News. “We’ve had a couple of people online say ‘This kid wants a Cadillac.’ That’s not true. If there was a heart medication that had a 100 percent cure rate and it was a more expensive technology, or one that only had a 25 percent cure rate, should it be a luxury to want the one that’s more effective?”
Meanwhile, Joey Funderburk is continuing to sell doughnuts.