Bella Kait Rutko, Zachary and pa

Bella Kai Rutko is shown with her brother Zachary and her parents Jeff and Holly Rutko. (Laura Calverley / For The Sun Chronicle)

The recent front-page story on 5-year-old Bella Kai Rutko of Rehoboth is the kind of uplifting tale that, in an age of dysfunctional governments, self-absorbed celebrities and people more concerned with others than themselves, will make you feel a little better about the human condition.

The story shows how positive-thinking people with a can-do attitude can help ease the pain of a difficult situation. It also shows what can happen when many people act in concert.

Bella, the daughter of Jeff and Holly Rutko of Rehoboth, has Rett syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder afflicting one in 10,000 females worldwide. As a result, she's unable to talk, uses a wheelchair, has difficulty walking, breathing, swallowing and using her hands. Her cardiac function has also been adversely affected.

The family, and Bella's quality of life, would be improved by the purchase of a handicapped-accessible van, but the price tag is daunting for a family of four (Bella has a brother named Zachary). So Wheels for Bella, a drive to raise the money, was launched six months ago, and has already raised $36,000.

The town, and especially Rehoboth Congregational Church which the Rutkos attend, have embraced Bella with extraordinary results.

"When you see her, you don't see a special needs child, you see her as this special spirit," said the Rev. Sarah Weaver, the church's pastor. "People are so touched by her and they want to help support her and her family. We want to help her get around and make her life easier," she told correspondent Laura Calverley.

The church last month held one of the most successful fundraisers to date for Bella, a sold-out ham-and-bean supper where people filled the hearts of Bella and her family, who came away humbled by the experience.

"One man walked up to my husband and handed him two $100 bills," Holly said. "We've received so many blessings there. It's a community that's all about helping. They are generous, generous people."

Weaver and her flock should be especially commended for following their core beliefs to help their fellow humans, which they have done by organizing a number of fundraisers, including entering a team, "Trotting for Bella," in last fall's Turkey Trot in Pawtucket and then organizing the supper.

But the real heartwarming part of the story is that the whole community has joined the effort. The children of the Rehoboth Head Start, which is located in the church, held a ball-a-thon and raised $500 for Wheels for Bella. The fire department, where Jeff Rutko is a 16-year lieutenant at Station 3, has been very supportive, even to the point of adding Bella's Bakery to its steak suppers, with proceeds going to Bella. "People would take a cookie and put $20 in the plate," Holly said.

One of the biggest fundraisers was a Jail 'n' Bail event in February put together by a woman, Amanda Marshall, who works with Bella's grandmother, Roberta Rutko, and the more than 100 people who attended raised $15,000.

The fundraisers will continue Saturday with A Benefit for Bella, starting at 11 a.m. at the Seekonk Rod & Gun Club on Reed Street in Rehoboth. The day-long family event will go on rain or shine.

The swift coalescing of the community behind Bella is the stuff that made-for-TV movies are made of, but Bella's story surpasses any TV script because this girl is real, and she and her family have been blessed by a community that truly gets what's important in life.