Erica Hammel and her son, 5-year-old Wyatt Rewoldt, sit in Wyatt’s bedroom.

Erica Hammel and her son, 5-year-old Wyatt Rewoldt, sit in Wyatt’s bedroom.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Group looking for donors to help build home for St. Clair Shores mom

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 19, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Her first nightmare started four years ago when her baby was nearly shaken to death by a convicted child abuser.

Now, as the mother of a child with physical and neurological impairments left by that day’s abuse, Erica Hammel has also been working for years to get the state to create a child abuse registry so that other children can be protected. 

But she has spent those years living in a house that isn’t fully heated, has electrical problems and holes in the ceilings, and walls where her ex-husband began renovations and never finished.

Hammel, of St. Clair Shores, has been working with the state Legislature to get a package of bills termed “Wyatt’s Law” passed to create a child abuse offender registry, require those convicted of first- through third-degree child abuse to register for 10 years and fourth-degree child abusers to register for five years, and create penalties for those who don’t register or update their information.

Hammel’s son, Wyatt, was abused by his father’s girlfriend, a convicted child abuser, when he was 1 year old, leaving lasting brain injuries. 

Before that, however, Hammel and her ex-husband had purchased a home in St. Clair Shores that they were intending to renovate. 

“It was 2011; it was the bottom of the market,” Hammel said. “It was a fixer-upper. When Wyatt was a few months old, (her ex-husband) wanted to start renovating. 

“Not even two weeks later, he walked out on Wyatt and I. I filed for divorce, and then Wyatt was shaken almost to death. I couldn’t go back to work full time.”

Hammel said there is no ceiling in her dining room, and much of her kitchen is strewn with extension cords because only half of the room has power. The house needs a lot of new electrical wiring and doesn’t have heat throughout the entire structure. Wyatt’s bedroom is on the first floor, where there is heat and air conditioning; Hammel said she sleeps on the couch because her second-floor bedroom does not have heat or air conditioning and she needs to be close to Wyatt. 

“I’m, thankfully, able to live in this house between what I make and child support. I just have never been able to get this house in the shape that it is,” she said. “People are telling me that it’s not fine. The parts where Wyatt roams around is definitely nice and safe, but the rest of the house is just in horrible shape.”

Wyatt is now 5 years old and attends the Early Childhood Special Education Preschool Program in Lakeview Public Schools. Hammel said his life has gotten more difficult as he has gotten older.

“He’s so sensitive to sound, it’s hard to take him out in public,” she said. “He has some words, but he has a hard time communicating. He started having seizures again a year ago.

“It’s been a journey. He was progressing so well. You don’t realize the damage. You see it as he gets older and what he’s not able to do compared to a normal 5-year-old.”

Hammel said it was very difficult for her, because she is a private person, but she began opening up about the condition of her home late last fall. St. Clair Shores Optimist Club members Jim and Maureen Wark went to visit the home to see what sort of electrical work had to be done to make the kitchen usable for Hammel.

“I felt terrible for her, for both of them,” said Maureen Wark. “I’m a mom, I’m a wife, and to think that her ex-husband started tearing the house apart and left it that way. The two of them have to live like that every single day. 

“I was heartbroken when I was there. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I said, ‘She just needs a new house.’”

Now the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores is working to raise money to build Hammel and her son a new house on the same piece of property. The Warks have had a new open-floor-plan ranch home designed that will allow Hammel to always be able to watch Wyatt and for him to better navigate the house. 

A fundraising page has been set up at, or donors can make a tax-deductible donation by sending or bringing a check payable to Optimist International, c/o Kathy Raynar, South Lake Schools Administration Building, 23101 Stadium Blvd., St. Clair Shores, MI 48080. 

Maureen Wark said that they chose because the site only charges the processing fee for a credit card payment.

“She could be your sister or she could be my daughter,” she said of Hammel. “It’s just horrible. I couldn’t stop thinking about it; I still can’t.”

She said they’d like to start demolition and construction on the house in March. The group is looking to raise $100,000 for the house. 

“I know we’re going to do it,” Maureen Wark said. 

Hammel said that she was taken aback when the Warks proposed the idea. 

“To be honest, you don’t believe it right away,” she said. “It won’t sink in till they knock my house down. 

“It’s so nice to walk through my house and know that I’m not going to have to deal with these issues anymore. Every time I use the microwave, I have to unplug an extension cord.”

She said that having a safe home will allow her to focus more on child abuse advocacy and the care of Wyatt.

“I’ll never take this gift for granted. This is going to make things so much easier and less worrisome, so I can focus on that,” she said.