Cerebral Palsy Photo Contest Winning pictures

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day 2022

Today, March 25, is the federally recognized Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Day! We are excited to announce the winners for our inaugural CP Awareness Month photo contest. In February, we began accepting submissions in five categories: creativity, diversity, participation & inclusion, perseverance, and physical activity. Each of the following submissions were selected by leading these categories in votes out of 13,383 counted:

A young girl with cerebral palsy smiles while holding the bottom of her dress above an incoming ocean tide.

Creativity Winner: Michelle Toy: Live every day like Mighty Mara!

A young boy with cerebral palsy uses his gait trainer with determination and glee

Diversity winner: Reena De Asis: Determined to thrive as he reaches out to you and lights up the room. The flames on this joyous toddler’s gait trainer are a reminder that he’s a CP warrior on fire!

A proud young woman with CP, seated in a wheelchair and wearing a blue-and-gold graduation cap and gown, receives her diploma.

Participation & Inclusion winner: Jersey Morrison: Jersey’s Graduation in 2021

A man in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy sits between hospital administrators receiving his fundraising check for $10,000.

Perseverance winner: Gary Lynn: “I have not ever let Cerebral Palsy stop me or define who I am!”

A young boy with hemiplegic cerebral palsy jumps for joy as he heads for a puddle of rain water

Physical Activity Winner: Sarah Board: Jumping for joy despite my hemiplegia!

Congratulations to each of these photographers and subjects for their selection and their prize of $100.

In addition to these winners, the staff and volunteers of the CP Research Network voted for best overall photograph in terms of what represented the CP Research Network’s values, the categories and our focus on wellbeing. The winner is:

An adaptive basketball coach in a wheelchair lifts a boy with cerebral palsy overhead in his own chair to dunk a basketball

Best Overall winner: Dawn McKeag: Slam dunk!

Congratulations to Dawn McKeag for the photo of her son Fin and the coaches their local Y for adaptive basketball and the $500 prize!

In addition to this winner, our team wanted to recognize two pictures for honorable mention:

The Shrader triplets, two of whom have cerebral palsy, at graduation

Best photo honorable mention: Carol Shrader: Triplet selfie at Benjamin’s graduation from Belhaven University!

A young man with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair focuses intensely as he aims down his drawn arrow preparing to release it

Honorable Mention: Wesley Magee-Saxton: My 22 year old son, who has CP,  has been perfecting his archery technique with a bow that his dad modified for him. He spent hours practicing and can now almost always hit the target.

Thank you to EVERYONE who participated – submissions, shares and votes. We hope that by sharing pictures and our awareness banners we helped you create awareness for CP and celebrate our vibrant community! Our board will continue to match donations this month 2:1! Wear your green proudly today!

CP Awareness Month Begins

CP Awareness Month Begins!

A young woman with cerebral palsy leans on a tree while hiking.

Come back every day to vote for YOUR favorite pictures.

Join the Cerebral Palsy (CP) Research Network in our activities to celebrate National CP Awareness month. This recognized month is a great opportunity for us to create awareness about living with CP for the general public to help fund research, support disability policies, and to promote inclusion. There is so much you can do to help the community:

  1. In February, we gathered photos for our CP Awareness photo contest. You can vote for the best picture in each of five categories on our website. We will be awarding a total of $1,000 in cash prizes to the winners on national CP Awareness Day – March 25! Go vote for your favorites – and share them on social media to get more votes.
  2. We have CP facts as Facebook banners that you can download and use to spread the word. We will be posting a CP fact every day on our Facebook and Instagram – feel free to share those!
  3. You can buy CP Research Network merchandise at our Bonfire store and wear green through the month! A portion of the proceeds is donated to our work!
  4. You can donate or start a Facebook fundraiser – our board with 2X match the donations you give or raise throughout the month of March!

Please help us in our efforts to spread awareness for cerebral palsy!

Dr. Rimmer, with rimless glasses, in a brown coat, white shirt and red tie with Dr. Peterson in a dark blazer and blue shirt.

Webinar on Wellness for Adults with CP

A white placed holder with 'wellness' written across it for the Webinar on Wellness for Adults with CP. The Cerebral Palsy Research Network will offer an informational webinar on wellness for adults with CP on February 23 at 5 pm ET. Earlier in February, we announced that we had partnered with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) to offer a free eight-week virtual course on mindfulness, exercise and nutrition (MENTOR) for people with CP and other disabilities. The webinar will feature NCHPAD Director James Rimmer, PhD and University of Michigan CP researcher Mark Peterson, PhD, discussing the benefits of exercise, mindfulness and nutrition. Several past participants from our pilot of MENTOR in April 2021 will join the webinar to answer questions as well.

“We are excited to share the details of our MENTOR program with members of the CP community,” said Dr. Rimmer. “Past participants recruited by the CP Research Network have helped us shape our wellness program for the CP community.”

Community members interested in learning more about MENTOR can register for the webinar on the MyCP Webinar Series page. If you are interested and cannot attend, you can register to receive an email notification when the webinar is completed and the recording is posted. Please join us.

If you already know about MENTOR and want to sign up, join MyCP or visit your profile and select “sign up for MENTOR”. You will receive an email with an invitation to the program.

A woman in a chair lifting weights, a girl swimming in a triathalon, a college graduate seeking work and triples in a swing.

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Photo Contest

Young man with cerebral palsy sits in his red walker, while facing the ocean on the sandy beach.In advance of Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, which runs each year throughout the month of March, the Cerebral Palsy Research Network has launched a photo contest to highlight the lives and experiences of community members living with CP. The contest invites members of the community to submit up to five photos photos that depict their day-to-day life, adventures, challenges, joys, and journey. The CP Research Network has opened its gallery of submissions and will award $1,000 in cash prizes to five winners on March 25, 2022 – the day officially designated as National CP Awareness Day in the United States.

“We find that the CP community is underrepresented in so many forms of media today,” said Paul Gross, President and CEO of the CP Research Network. “As an example, stock photography agencies have very limited authentic photographs of the lived experience for people with CP.” The CP Awareness Photo Contest seeks to develop a rich set of authentic photos of people with CP that can be used in the CP Research Network’s growing cerebral palsy awareness campaigns for March and beyond!

The CP Awareness Photo Contest is opens today on CPRN.ORG. Contestants must be members of MyCP and may participate as an advocate, clinician, researcher or community member Prizes will be awarded as follows:

Category Prize
Creativity $100
Diversity $100
Participation and inclusion $100
Perseverance $100
Physical activity $100
Best Overall $500

Winners will be chosen via a combination of votes and final selection by the CP Research Network. Contestants must sign a photo release as part of the entry process. Photos will be displayed on CPRN.ORG and CP Research Network social media channels. Detailed rules for entries can be found on the photo contest rules page. Dig through your archives or snap a new picture and submit it soon!

A headshot of Lily Collison with short, dark hair, the cover of Pure Grit and blond haired Kara Buckley

Pure Grit: An interview with the authors

Ila Eckhoff with tight curly brown hair smiles broadly with dark glasses and a light blue fleece over her v-neck shirt.

Ila Eckhoff, is a managing director at Blackrock Associates and is featured in Pure Grit.

The Cerebral Palsy Research Network will kick off its 2022 MyCP webinar series with an interview of the authors of Pure Grit, a book full of stories about remarkable people with physical disabilities doing extraordinary things.  The webinar is free and open to the public next Tuesday, January 11 at 8 pm ET. Ila Eckhoff, an accomplished financial services sector leader and one of the featured people in the book, will also join the conversation with authors Lily Collison and Kara Buckley.

The interview will include how the authors sought to develop the book, chose their subjects, and what they hoped the book would achieve. The one hour webinar will include 40 minutes of interview followed by open Q&A with the attendees.

Please join us for the interview.  If you are not already registered for the MyCP Webinar Series, you can sign up here.  A free Zoom account is required to sign into the webinar.  We look forward to seeing you there.  If you cannot make it, the interview will be recorded and posted on our YouTube channel within 24 hours.

Happy New Year 2022 from the CP Research Network with a black background and fireworks in the corners

Happy New Year from the CP Research Network

At the Cerebral Palsy Research Network, we have a lot to be thankful for.  You, our great extended cerebral palsy (CP) community, helped us achieve our fundraising goal of $10,000 this past month for our MyCP webinar series in 2022.  With our board of directors’ matching, we raised more than $30,000 for our network! We are excited to bring our MyCP webinar series back in full swing next week beginning with a live interview of the authors of Pure Grit (details to come out tomorrow).  Thank you to all who contributed and helped to spread the word!

2021 in Review

Last year was transformative in numerous ways for the CP Research Network.  We kicked off the year with the announcement of our merger with CP NOW. The combination of their educational and wellness programming with our efforts led to significant accomplishments including:

 

Our Research and Quality Improvement initiatives made significant progress in both seeking to answer key research questions about CP and improving the treatment of people with CP now.  A few highlights include:

What’s new for 2022?

We have a lot of projects that will culminate in 2022! These include multiple publications of our work in leading journals, partnerships to sustain and grow our wellbeing offerings, continued progress on our research and quality initiatives, and the return of our MyCP webinar series to name a few.

There are lots of ways to stay engaged with us.

Please consider one of these:

All the best to you and the entire CP community for 2022!

 

 

 

 

Cerebral Palsy Fitness program gets sponsorship from Neurocrine Biosciences

Neurocrine Biosciences Sponsors Cerebral Palsy Fitness

Neurocrine Biosciences logo

Neurocrine Biosciences is the exclusive sponsor of our MyCP Fitness program with Staying Driven.

The Cerebral Palsy Research Network announced that Neurocrine Biosciences, a pharmaceutical manufacturer based in Southern California, will be sponsoring the network’s MyCP Fitness Program hosted by Staying Driven. The CP Research Network launched its MyCP Fitness program in June 2021 to enable members of the MyCP community to have access to quality adaptive fitness from the safety and comfort of their own home. The network chose adaptive fitness coach Steph “the Hammer” Roach and her crew of adaptive fitness trainers to provide these free services to our community. The Neurocrine sponsorship enables us to continue the program through 2022.

While physical activity is important for everyone’s health, it has been shown to be even more important for people with disabilities like CP who are at greater risk for cardiometabolic disease.[ref] The challenge is that most gyms or virtual fitness programs don’t have appropriate accommodations or adaptations for people with CP. Staying Driven, founded by Steph Roach, a former CrossFit trainer who has CP, focuses on fitness for people with disabilities. Our program was an attractive fit for Neurocrine which has a philosophy is to holistically support and be good partners to the patient community they hope to serve.

The Neurocrine Biosciences sponsorship not only extends the length of the program, but enables the CP Research Network to reach more community members. Teens and adults with CP who are interested in participating in the MyCP Fitness program can sign up for free on our Cerebral Palsy Fitness page.
Marquis Lane, a smiling young man seated on a walker, wearing a Georgia sweatshirt with four friends behind him at a stadium.

CP Stories: Marquise Lane

Marquise Lane, with a beaming smile and glasses sits listening to music in his college dorm with a navy football sweatshirt

Marquise is always smiling ear to ear — here while listening to music in his dorm room.

It’s a daily decision to keep fighting and believing in yourself.
Marquise Lane
Client Success Specialist

For Marquise Lane, succeeding at college wasn’t just a matter of working hard and pushing himself academically. Conquering his CP mobility hurdles and achieving independence were also vital.

When Marquise Lane graduated from UGA in 2016 with a BA in Management Information Systems (MIS) the moment was extra special to him.

As a young person with cerebral palsy, Marquise hadn’t just put in the hours of study needed to gain his degree, he’d also worked tirelessly to overcome the physical hurdles holding him back from his college dreams.

In high school, Marquise got up very early to make sure he dressed himself – here in khakis and a grey argyle sweater.

Marquise was determined to be independent from an early age so he made sure he got up early to have time to dress himself.

“I always wanted to go to college,” says Marquise, 27, who lives in Valdosta, GA. “But it wasn’t the mental things like the schoolwork that were in the way, it was more of the physical things like dressing and putting shoes on.”

Armed with a positive mental attitude, Marquise took on the challenge with gusto. Throughout his 12th grade, he got up extra early in order to practice mastering the independent skills he needed to succeed.

“I had to leave the house at 7 am so I’d get up at 5.30 am to give myself that extra time to dress and put my shoes on by myself – just to practice,” he recalls. “For a while I needed help but I got to the point where I was independent enough. Eventually, my mom agreed I was ready to go to college.”

Marquise was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegia cerebral palsy at the age of three and says he grew up fully understanding what having CP meant.

A young Marquise, in a white t-shirt, demonstrates his domestic skills by ironing a pair of his dark slacks

A young Marquise Lane takes up ironing his own slacks to help out around the house.

As a young boy, Marquise wanted to do the same activities as other kids his age but also knew his circumstances were different

At seven years old, Marquise wanted to do all the activities his peers did including baseball!

“My mom’s always been big on talking to me like an adult so from three I knew what I had,” he says. “I don’t really like the word “different” because I do feel like I’m a normal person, I just have a different set of circumstances I have to deal with. As a younger kid I looked at other kids and saw them do things like swing on the monkey bars and then play football and sport. I wanted to do that too, but it was hard because I couldn’t. You have to fight that feeling of “I’m not good enough” or “I’m weird.” Every day you have to wake up and focus on the small victories and the positive things you’ve done. That provides momentum to keep going forward.”

At UGA, Marquise lived alone on campus in an accessible room and says he is grateful for the friends he made who would always lend a helping hand with things like Walmart and barbershop runs. His challenges on campus ranged from navigating the hills in Athens, GA, to working out how to get from A to B. From the start, the college paired him with a disability coordinator tasked with ensuring all his classes were accessible and that he had all the help and resources he needed.

“UGA went out of its way to make sure I could get to where I needed to be,” he says. “I had all the tools I needed to succeed academically and UGA provided a van service that took me from class to class and just about anywhere else on campus I needed to go.

Marquise Lane sits down on his aluminum walker smiling with a wrought iron arch and a building with white pillars behind him

Marquise Lane sits on his walker smiling while on his college campus

“There were several occasions where an entire 300-person class was moved because the original building wasn’t accessible for me and I had letters to share with professors so they were aware of any special assistance I needed.”

Regardless, it took stamina and endurance for Marquise to keep pushing toward his academic goals.

“It was tough at times,” he says. “When you look around you see that most people don’t have to work as hard as you do to accomplish basic tasks. They don’t have to worry about accessibility and how far away things are. I learned to focus on myself and limit comparisons.”

Marquise Lane, in a red sweatshirt at a job fair, sits holding a large white sign with the words “Hire Me” in red

Marquise was not shy in pursuing work out of college.

He cites graduating from college as the culmination of belief in himself and hard work. “It showed me and my family that I could do anything I put my mind to,” he says.

Since graduating in May 2016, Marquise has worked as a client success specialist for ProcessPlan. His goal now is to continue living independently and advance his career.

“There isn’t some magical point where you have things figured out and that’s it,” he says. “Having a vision for the things you want to accomplish in life helps. Once you have a vision, you can break that down into actionable steps and go forward. It’s a daily decision to keep fighting and believing in yourself.”

“Traveling With a Wheelchair” on a bright green page banner with a photo of a wheelchair beside the ramp to enter the aircraft.

Traveling With a Wheelchair

A damning report has revealed how the country’s leading airlines have lost or damaged at least 15,425 wheelchairs or scooters since the end of 2018. As we travel from A to B, what steps can we take to safeguard the precious cargo our community relies on?

Traveling by air can be stressful for anyone but handing over a wheelchair to busy airline staff and hoping to find it unscathed and fully-functioning at your destination can feel like a lottery. Sadly, for many traveling with disabilities, vacations and other trips too often go hand-in-hand with the frustrating fallout of damaged equipment.

“As a family with a wheelchair user it is a continual frustration that airlines often take such little care,” says CPRN’s Michele Shusterman. “It seems like airlines would rather pay thousands of dollars to repair or replace broken equipment instead of figuring out a process for not destroying them. Some of the experiences our community members go through are awful.”

As we await much needed change and a commitment to better care from airlines, there are some preemptive measures we can take to lower the risks of equipment being damaged in transit. Here’s our guide to traveling with a wheelchair:

Before you go, carry out maintenance.

Making sure your equipment is in the best shape possible before leaving will help it to be more durable and robust on your travels.

MANUAL WHEELCHAIRS: The newer designs of manual wheelchairs have solid inner tubes to combat against flats. Before you leave, check the tires for any inflation issues, cuts, or wear on the tread (Miller, 2017). Be sure to check the wheel locks, ensuring that they engage and disengage easily without getting caught. Go through and tighten bolts and nuts on any moving parts. This is to avoid any parts being lost during transit.

BATTERY-POWERED WHEELCHAIRS: Run through the same checks for the tires prior to your trip and consider book a service for your equipment. Battery-powered wheelchairs routinely need to be checked by an authorized dealer once or twice a year (Miller, 2017). An expert can check your battery voltage and flag up if it needs to be replaced soon.

Get familiar with the airline codes.

Airlines have a series of codes for people traveling with equipment or disability. These codes are called Special Service Request Codes, or SSR, and are given to you when you get your ticket (wheelchairtravel, 2020). They are used to keep track of special assistance requests and to assign appropriate staff to the person in need.

A few of these codes include:

CODE DESCRIPTION
WCHR Wheelchair assistance required
WCOB On-board wheelchair requested
WCMP Traveling with manual wheelchair
WCBD Traveling with dry cell battery-powered wheelchair. (WCBW for wet cell battery)

You’ll find a more comprehensive list here. Ensure that your flight ticket is marked with the correct one.

Attach instructions to your equipment.
Traveling with a wheelchair tips: A spare manual wheelchair is pictured on the tarmac with a bright pink instructional signTraveling with a wheelchair tips: A wheelchair should include handling instructions and fight details attached to the chair
It seems like a no-brainer that wheelchairs and other expensive and precious equipment should be handled with the utmost care but that can be far from the reality. Sadly, your equipment will likely encounter people who are unfamiliar with how it works and don’t have the time or inclination to find out how to operate it correctly. Attaching laminated instructions and bright reminder signs to your equipment can help to prevent rough mishandling.

Consider taking a spare if you have one.

Sometimes it is better to plan for the worst outcome so that mobility isn’t impaired during the trip. Take a spare wheelchair, often a manual one, if you can do so. This will ensure an easy back up if the airline does damage the wheelchair before you get to your destination. Having a spare wheelchair can also help when accessing certain areas where a power wheelchair may have some difficulties. If you do not have a spare, be mindful of the resources available to you in the area you are traveling. See if renting a wheelchair is an option.

Preparation for flight at the airport
Traveling with a wheelchair tips: A manual chair is bound with cellophane and loose items removed in prep for travel.
If you are using a manual collapsible wheelchair, ask if the aircraft has a closet large enough to accommodate it. This ensures you can take your equipment all the way to the gate. If your equipment is being stored in the cargo hold with baggage, carefully remove anything that you think may come lose during handling. Ask for reassurance that it will be handled with care.

Ask for assistance if you need it – it’s your right.

Airlines must provide assistance and offer preboarding to passengers with disabilities who make their needs known prior to travel or at the gate. Get familiar with the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), a law that guarantees people with disabilities the right to receive fair and nondiscriminatory treatment when traveling on flights operated by airlines in the U.S (wheelchairtravel, 2020).

If an airline damages your equipment, it may be covered.
Plane travel with a wheelchair is challenging: a wheelchair, collapsed on its side, rides up a luggage ramp into an airplane
Airlines are mainly responsible for damaging equipment during their flights. This can be up to the entire cost of the original listing price of the wheelchair. For this process to happen properly, report damages IMMEDIATELY after your flight. This further ensures that it is documented and brought to the right people, a step in the direction of making the airline 100% responsible for damages!

Sources:

Flying With A Wheelchair: Guide To Air Travel For People With Disabilities. Wheelchair Travel. (2020, January 30).

Miller, F., & Bachrach, S. J. (2017). Cerebral palsy: a complete guide for caregiving (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Four smiling women stand outdoors on a sunny day behind the UP Academy sign with their arms folded and resting on top.

CP Stories: Tanya Sheckley and UP Academy

Meet the CP mom who overcame her grief to build an incredible inclusive school in her daughter’s memory

Everyone needs a place to belong. Inclusivity is life.
Tanya Sheckley
Mom, Inclusive School Creator

Tanya Sheckley’s vision of creating an inclusive school empowering ALL children was almost shattered with the untimely death of her beloved daughter Eliza. Yet, the resilient mother channeled her grief into creating a school to embody everything Eliza taught her about ableism, education, and empathy.

Like many CP parents, Tanya Sheckley worked hard to research education options for her daughter Eliza, who was born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy.

As her daughter’s kindergarten years approached, Tanya, who lives in Mountain View, California, was dismayed to learn that many schools provided the bare minimum when it came to educating children with disabilities.

Tanya Sheckley in a red blouse smiles at her daughter Eliza who is wearing a magenta taffeta party dress with red flowers in the neckline.

Tanya Sheckley with her daughter Eliza.

Eventually, Tanya found a parent participation school that was great for Eliza, who was unable to walk or talk due to her cerebral palsy. Her daughter’s new kindergarten teacher had experience in special education and Tanya was happy to see Eliza thrive.

“She learned to read, do math, and was curious about science,” recalls Tanya. “Kids didn’t see her as ‘different.’ She fit in, she was happy and became one of the most popular kids at school. She did well academically with accommodation for the way she learned. We had gotten lucky.”

By first grade, things were changing. Despite Eliza’s stellar kindergarten record, Tanya and her husband Chris were frustrated by the recommendation to put their bright and inquisitive daughter into a modified curriculum for children with different abilities. The one-size-fits-all model meant the work would be made easier, and Eliza would not be expected to learn the same material as her able-bodied classmates.

Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), public schools are required to provide access to education. Unfortunately, in a system built to educate the masses, children who are “different” often aren’t encouraged to excel in the same way as their peers.

“It felt like a barrier to providing real opportunity,” says Tanya. “Just because a student doesn’t have an effective and consistent method of expressing knowledge doesn’t mean the student doesn’t possess the knowledge. All students should be challenged in areas of strengths and supported in areas of weakness so they leave school with the knowledge and skills to be successful and independent in the world.”

Tanya, who had previously worked in business and taught as a yoga and ski instructor, became frustrated that no one school could support Eliza and her younger siblings Breda and Keller in their individual strengths. Why couldn’t there be an inclusive elementary school set up for all children to thrive?

In 2015, she decided to create an inclusive school for kids with disabilities and their able-bodied siblings.

Kids work on painting and decorating a wall at the new UP Academy.

Students decorate the wall at UP Academy.

The determined mother sought funding, secured a lease, raised awareness, and reached out to her community to recruit and admit kids who would benefit from everything the school would have to offer. The new school, UP Academy, gained 501c3 status in December 2015.

Then the unthinkable happened. Eliza passed away in her sleep in March of 2016.

“It was completely unexpected,” says Tanya. “Eliza was fine and was having fun but one Friday she came home from school early because she was tired and not feeling well. I laid her down for a nap and told her I loved her. Our nanny was there to care for all three of our children so I went to the grocery store.

“When I checked on Eliza later she wasn’t breathing and her lips were blue. We did CPR until help arrived and Eliza was transported to the hospital where they did all they could. But there was nothing more the doctors could do. Walking out and leaving her behind was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.”

Despite her grief, Tanya could not give up on the school.

“I needed to find a way for the grief to serve me,” she says. “My family needed me to still be a mother and wife, and Eliza had taught me about ableism, education, and empathy. I had learned too much to walk away. I could lay in bed all day or use what I have learned to help others. There were still many families of children with disabilities who couldn’t find a fit for their children in the education system. To honor Eliza and to help them, I needed to work to create change.”

For the next two years, Tanya continued to build the school and welcomed her first group of students in 2018. There were plenty of challenges. The school’s first building lease fell through but Tanya persuaded a local church to let her use their rooms for a time. Eventually another location was found and the school has had a permanent home in San Mateo for the past three years.

With 20 students enrolled in UP Academy, Tanya is considering opening another location next year in the San Francisco Bay area. It is her vision to encourage other parents and educators to launch their own schools with a course she created, the Rebel Educator Accelerator.

“When we all work together, we can be more creative and achieve more,” she says. “Our vision for UP Academy is to build a method of education that can be shared and replicated. By teaching, training and sharing our curriculum with other schools we can serve more students in new and innovative ways.”

There is not a day that passes without Tanya thinking about her daughter who continues to inspire her.

“Eliza was sweet and kind,” she says. “She loved people and spending time with her friends. She was stubborn and wanted things to be done her way. She made decisions quickly and stood by them. We still have a dish we call Eliza Guacamole, which is smashed avocado and banana.

“It’s important to remember that despite any disability, all kids want to play, learn and make friends. Everyone needs a place to belong. Inclusivity is life, it is love, it is understanding and empathy, it is the thing that allows us to learn and work and play together.”

[ends]