Abby Wells was born with Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia Type 1B, a spinal motor neuron degeneration so rare that only 82 people in the world are diagnosed with it, but that’s not what defines her. For the past seven years, she has poured her heart in the percussion section of the Castle Band Program.
Penny Kaluza sparked the idea when the children’s minister at Newburgh, Indiana’s First Christian Church encouraged Abby to join band. Abby chose percussion and eventually the front ensemble of the Castle Marching Knights. She plays cymbals and a drum, instruments that are better suited to her limited mobility. The Castle High School junior has continued to thrive under the tutelage of Nikki Miller, her percussion director since Castle South Middle School.
“Mrs. Kaluza made sure Abby was able to participate to the best of her ability,” says Abby’s mother, Amy. “Mrs. Miller has done a great job. She sets an example for other kids.”
Now that Abby, 18, primarily uses a wheelchair, one of her biggest challenges is getting out to the field during competitions in the Indiana State School Music Association and Bands of America circuits. Abby also can have seizures triggered by heat or light flashes, meaning it takes her more time and effort to prepare for each competition.
The Castle Marching Knights’ appearance at the 2024 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, will be no different. Amy and Mark Wells, Abby’s father, will assist her before and at the parade, which includes marching five and a half miles. The invitation’s significance is not lost on Abby, and she is excited to go.
“Band brings out a lot in Abby,” Amy says.
Fall in Formation
To help Abby get to the 2024 Tournament of Roses Parade, click here.
To help Castle Bands get to the 2024 Tournament of Roses parade, click here.