Our grandson Gabe was just five years old when two life-altering events suddenly crashed his kindergartner world. First was the diagnosis no family can ever be prepared for when we were told Gabe had acute lymphocytic leukemia (A.L.L.) Then, shortly after starting treatment, complications led to another unimaginable outcome- he became paralyzed.
From the minute a child is born, that child’s parents develop dreams for their child. While rocking them to sleep at night, and looking into that perfect little face, a parent dreams of who that child will become, and what he or she might accomplish. An author, a photographer, a doctor.
I’m sure my parents dreamed of these same things, even after I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Since then, I’ve come a long way. I’ve accomplished so many amazing things, despite my disability. I’ve overcome numerous hurdles, and faced countless challenges. And through it all, I’ve learned some things during this journey.
- It’s OK to ask questions. It happens more often than you’d think. I’m in a public place, a restaurant or store. A child is with his or her parent, and the inevitable question is asked. “Why is that lady in a wheelchair?” And, more often than not, the parent steers the child away from me, quietly whispering that asking that question isn’t polite, and didn’t I teach you better than that? Personally, I’d rather that child have asked me. How else do we learn? How else do we push past our own assumptions and choose to grow? We seek knowledge. So, ask the question. Learn.
Fourteen-year-old Hunter Gandee is headed to the Michigan Youth Wrestling Association State Championships on Friday, but that’s not the most remarkable thing this driven eighth grader has done this week. Hunter spearheaded an effort with his Bedford Junior High School Student Council to raise money and awareness for cerebral palsy.
Hunter’s 7-year-old brother, Braden, is his inspiration. “Braden has cerebral palsy. He’s just a wonderful kid,” says Hunter. “He’s always energetic and positive. He’s a great person to be around. He puts everyone around him in a better mood. He loves to wrestle, play outside, hang out with his friends and play video games.”
Hunter and his fellow Student Council members sold green wristbands that said “CP Awareness” on them. Together, they raised nearly $200 and more importantly, they raised awareness about CP. The money will be donated to the University of Michigan Cerebral Palsy Research Program.