Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 22, 2013

Boy wraps presents to overcome illness

TRAVERSE CITY — Wrapping Christmas presents isn't a chore this year for Christina and Julius Probert.

It's a labor of love for mother and son.

Every morning, Christina and Julius, 10, join family friend Tammy Paull-Mackenzie for a ritual of wrapping presents in a storefront in the nearly half-vacant Traverse City Outlets mall off U.S. 31 in Garfield Township.

They fold wrapping paper, tie ribbons with care, then place bows so they look just right.

"I like wrapping," Julius said.

The trio doesn't wrap for fun. It's business dictated by heartache and a desire to overcome one child's devastating illness.

Christina Probert and her husband, Justin, started the Christmas present wrapping business, Misc. Presents, a few weeks ago to help their son Julius cope with treatment-resistant epilepsy, an ailment that's possibly combined with degenerative neurologic disorder called toxic encephalopathy.

Julius is believed to be just one of four children in the nation with both conditions.

The maladies mean Julius can't be physically active without risking seizures, brain-swelling or worse. His condition forced him from school at Interlochen Community School, and prompted the Proberts to form the present-wrapping business to keep Julius active without risking his health.

"I got a lot of questions from people asking me, 'Is this going to be his life?'" Christina said. "Will he have to sit still (forever?) ... then I just decided, 'No, we are going to do more.' I heard on ... about how organizations are having a hard time finding places to do gift wrapping and it was an 'ah-ha' moment."

Julius' medical condition emerged about 15 months ago when his mother noticed some strange behavior. In one instance he could not find his locker at school, no matter how hard he tried.

"He started eating the wrapper of an M&M package," Christina recalled. "It was definitely not normal."

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