10 Year Old with Cerebral Palsy Wins Grand Champion at Pig Show

Keifer Gunn, a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, recently took home the Grand Champion in his breed at the Nueces County Junior Livestock show in South Texas.

“I just think I’m kind of lucky that I have a pig, because some kids can’t even do it,” he said. “Kids in a wheelchair can’t do it, probably.”

Keifer was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was two years old, and his parents were told that he would probably never be able to walk. Now, Keifer walks with a cane and raises and shows pigs all on his own, exceeding the expectations of his doctors.

“I need help getting over fences,” Keifer explained. “Sometimes I need help if a pig comes after me. A guy has to block. It’s kind of difficult, but since they are out there trying to take care of us, it’s pretty easy.”

Keifer’s father Brian said: “He inspires me to be a better parent. To be a better man.”

Keifer says he plans to continue to show pigs like his father and brother as he gets older, but he has other aspirations as well.

“A goal that I’m really focused on, not with the Livestock Show- I just really want to start walking without my cane, which I’m starting to. But I would like to do it completely.”

Bringing Humor to His Cerebral Palsy

25-year old Mike Berkson was born with cerebral palsy. At the time, doctors thought he would never talk. But they were wrong. Mike recently shared his story at the Glendale Community College in Glendale, California. He spoke about the many obstacles he has overcome, despite not having much control of his arms and legs. Interestingly Mike was born with an identical twin who is completely able-bodied.

When he was 12-years old, Tim Wambach started working as Mike’s personal aid. But he went a lot further than being an aide. They became good friends and started a traveling performance called “Handicap This!” Mike is able to talk to an audience about how none of his muscles work how they should, from his electric wheelchair. “In other words, I’m… ,” he said, finishing the sentence by dropping an F bomb and igniting laughter from the audience. This is just one of his many humorous stories.

Mike also discusses his physical limitations and how dependent he is on others and how he deals with the frustration of that, with his crowd. He explains, “There are times I can’t imagine spending another minute in this chair. I’m trapped. I’m a prisoner. I look for a way out. The only way I can get out would be taking my own life.” But that he feels is something he can’t do as he believes he has “more reasons to survive than I do to surrender.”

It was thanks to Jerry O’Brien, a student at the Glendale Community College, that the show came to the school. He explained, “It’s not just heard by the disabled student that already knows a lot about this stuff. If it was just for the students with disabilities, we’d be preaching to the choir. It’s opening people’s eyes. It’s about letting them know we’re all the same. We just have different obstacles that we need to overcome.”

Raising Funds for Life-Changing Surgery

Kerry McLoughlin is the 29-year-old mother and full-time caregiver of Charlie Barkby, a toddler who was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy 22 months ago.

Kerry is about to begin to raise the money Charlie will need to go to the United States and have the special surgery that will help him improve mobility and his quality of life.

The operation, called a selective dorsal rhizotomy, is not covered by England’s NHS, and will cost the family approximately £50,000. Kerry explained the situation:

“They cut the funding on the NHS so we’ve got to go over to America. It makes me a little sad the NHS isn’t funding this anymore, especially when you see women having these free boob jobs. Surely, that money could be spent on changing a little boy’s life? It doesn’t make sense.”

Charlie will need to be examined and assessed by specialists before he can be eligible for the surgery.

“He’s got to wait until he’s five,” said Kerry. “Then we’ll know whether he can have the operation. But that gives us time to try to raise the money.”

Kerry added that, “The muscles in his arms and legs are very tight. The operation will help him move more freely. He sees other kids playing and wants to join in but he physically can’t. It would make such a difference and let him do so much more.”

Toddle In Nursery Raises Money for Baby with Cerebral Palsy

A young mother was recently overwhelmed by the support she received from a Colne nursery. Toddle In Nursery staff and pupils raised fifty pounds over the holiday period for Natasha Whiteley’s son Oscar, a now 6-month-old born with cerebral palsy. Though his condition causes epilepsy and eating difficulties and restricts his motility, Oscar has expressed a love for bright colors and other visual stimulants.

The nursery’s donation will be used on sensory equipment to enhance Oscar’s development and enjoyment.

“It is amazing that they have done this- I couldn’t believe it. You don’t realize until something happens to you just how much people are behind you. The bubble lamp we are getting him is soothing for him as well as stimulating.”

Older Brother Raises Money for Cerebral Palsy Research

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As a wrestler, 8th-grader Hunter Gandee understands hard work. But, according to him, his little brother has to work much harder. 7-year-old Braden has cerebral palsy, and physical activities such as walking are an enormous challenge.

“He can’t do everything I can do, so I have to do it for him,” Hunter explains. In an effort to provide Braden with some long-term help, Hunter came up with a new idea.

“I wanted to raise money, but that wasn’t the biggest goal. The biggest goal was to get the word out and inform people,” he said.

And so, Hunter and his fellow student council members at Bedfor Junior High School in Michigan launched a cerebral palsy awareness bracelet campaign, selling each one for $1 and donating the proceeds to the University of Michigan’s cerebral palsy research program.

“There are kids who are struggling with cerebral palsy working their hardest every day,” Hunter said. “If we all help a little bit, there’s a lot of help we can give.”

Looking Up With Upsee

Debby Elnatan, the mother of a child with cerebral palsy, wanted to help her wheelchair-bound son walk. And walk he has. Her invention, called the “Upsee” is transforming the lives of disabled children everywhere since it was launched into the worldwide market. A music therapist, Elnatan made the product to help her son, Rotem. The harness allows a parent to harness a child to her legs and then take steps together.

Elnatan chose a Northern Ireland-based manufacturer Leckey, to make the device as a result of their long track record in making equipment for special needs kids. As Elnatan said,

“It is wonderful to see this product available to families across the world. When my son was two years old, I was told by medical professionals that ‘he didn’t know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them.’

“That was an incredibly difficult thing for a mother to hear. I started to walk him day after day, which was a very strenuous task for both of us. Out of my pain and desperation came the idea for the Upsee and I’m delighted to see it come to fruition.”

Since 2012, designers, engineers, textile experts and therapists have been working on the product from Leckey’s Firefly team. The device includes both a harness for the child and sandals that allow the parent and child to step simultaneously and leave their hands free for play and other tasks.

One of the first UK parents to use the product, Maura McCrystal, said, “Last Sunday was a significant one for us as a family as it was the first time our son Jack was able to play football in the back garden with his dad, his brothers and our little dog Milly.”

“To see Jack playing like any other five-year-old boy made me very emotional. Jack and his brothers so enjoyed it.”

An Interview with RJ Mitte

Recently, RJ Mitte gave a lecture entitled “Overcoming Adversity: Turning a Disadvantage into an Advantage,” as part of the Illini Union Board’s monthly lecture series. If the name RJ Mitte doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps Walt “Flynn” Jr. will. This was the character that Mitte played on AMC’s Emmy-winning “Breaking Bad.” With a mild condition of cerebral palsy and a fantastic Hollywood career behind and in front of him, Mitte is worth hearing.

Before his lecture, The Daily Illini interviewed Mitte. When asked about the message that he wanted to convey to the audience, Mitte said,  “Having a disability gives you knowledge. Having a disability gives you something that most people never understand unless they live it. Disabilities try to trap you in your own body, prevent you from doing what you want. And the thing about it is, this is your body, and this is your life. You need to take it for yourself. You need to overcome these challenges because they are put in front of you for a reason, and, if you can persevere, you can do extraordinary things. People forget that.

When asked if he feels limited by his cerebral palsy in Hollywood, Mitte replied,

“I don’t feel limited to anything. I take what I can get, as any working actors should. I want to continue to work and move forward. Walt Jr. was the one CP role that I had. But now I’m working on a show called “Switched at Birth” on ABC Family, and I play a character named Campbell, and he happens to suffer from a spinal cord injury from a snowboarding accident. It’s nice to have these characters that are unique in their own way, and that each has their own defining moments. I don’t let people define me by a disability.”

The Daily Illini asked Mitte what he would want others to know about cerebral palsy and the biggest misconception he thinks people have. He replied, “A lot of people think it’s genetic. The biggest misconception about not just CP, but about all disabilities is that people think having a disability makes you disabled, that having a disability defines your life forever. And that’s not true. “

Kentucky Wrestler with Cerebral Palsy Sets the Example

Kentucky high school wrester Willie Burton could be an inspiration to us all. He ended his four year wrestling career recently with his first win. The Fairdale High School senior wasn’t just happy that he had finally won. Rather, he won against all odds since he has cerebral palsy and cannot walk.

His 6-4 victory did not go unnoticed by his teammates, who mobbed him on the map after he crawled out of the circle. As the Fairdale coach, Chris Boyd, explained, “They were tied 4-4 with like 10 seconds left in the match. Willie had a cradle locked in and he was pulling back on the cradle and finally pulled it back enough and got two points right before the buzzer. It was awesome.”

Boyd told the Courier-Journal, “When he won, I don’t think it had even sunk in yet. But it was amazing. The gym was electric.”

Willie has quite a story to tell, and it’s one that has often been quite painful. A lot of people told him along the way that he couldn’t wrestle. As he said, “…there was no way I could wrestle because I can’t even walk, and that made me want to do it even more. I’m not going to let a wheelchair or a disability hold me back.”

Willie was given up for adoption by his 17 year old mother, and Larry and Brenda Burton agreed to adopt him. Born two months premature, Willie also had hemorrhaging in his brain, and Willie was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

He went through years of surgeries to repair his spinal cord, to help straighten his hips and more. He learned to crawl at 5, and walked with a walker and his parents’ help for the first time at 7.

Finally, when Willie started high school, he got the idea to try out for wresting. Passing his physical exam, Willie’s Fairdale wrestling coach at the time, Toeupu Liu, kept a spot for him.

As Willie recounted, “I wouldn’t win, and I’d say, ‘OK, I’ll get the next one. And then I wouldn’t win again and again. But then I remembered that’s not why I was doing this. I wanted other handicapped kids to know their wheelchairs didn’t always matter.”

The current Fairdale head coach, Chris Boyd, said that other coaches have asked how their wrestlers should interact with Willie. As Boyd explained, “And I just say, ‘Uh, wrestle him. He’s not going to take it easy on your kid, so your kid shouldn’t take it easy on him.’ ”

After each loss over the four years, he looked in the stands and gave his father a thumb’s up.

Willie will next be heading to the University of Louisville and he hopes, someday, to become a personal trainer for children with disabilities.

Cerebral Palsy Twins Propel Mom Towards London Marathon

Emma Elbourne and her husband Philip are raising twins with cerebral palsy. Arriving nine weeks early in August 2012, the girls spent a good deal of time in intensive care and in the high dependency unit.

Both of the twins were found to have cysts on their brains which could eventually cause cerebral palsy. And both, today, at 18 months, have cerebral palsy. They receive regular physiotherapy for their cp. As their mom said, “They are the happiest little children who just melt your heart. They are both so determined too – they’re so lovely. We don’t know what the future holds but they are giving us the answers now. In the beginning, we were told about the worst case scenario but they make it so much better because we have them and they brighten our day, every day.”

Inspired by the strength and determination that her twins show, Emma has signed up for the London Marathon. She will be running and raising money for the charity Scope. As she said, “I love running anyway, it’s almost my therapy. I really wanted to do something for myself that would be a big achievement and if I can raise money for a charity close to my heart, that’s even better. I’ve been training when I can but Ava and Louie still don’t sleep through the night and I have work 20 hours a week, so it’s hard. A lot of the time is either spent at hospital, or looking after them, so there isn’t much time.”

While Emma’s original target was £1,800, she has already achieved that amount and has raised £1,820. As she said, “Scope and our fantastic family and friends have made Philip and I not dread the future, nor the words cerebral palsy. I’m nervous, but excited as well.”

RJ Mitte ‘Love to the Rescue Ambassador’ for Shriner’s Hospitals

When actor RJ Mitte was only three years old he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which affects the ability to move normally. Due to poor muscle tone and coordination Mitte had been walking on his toes. He was brought to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Shreveport, where doctors recommended a non-invasive strategy to help improve his movement, muscle tone and coordination. Doctors elsewhere had recommended surgery, but the orthopedic experts at Shriners decided that a casting procedure could prove helpful.

During a large part of Mitte’s childhood he was treated at Shriners, where he also received intensive physical therapy. As a result of the efforts of the medical staff and his own dogged determination, Mitte was able to overcome much of his physical and verbal disabilities caused by cerebral palsy.

“I can’t thank Shriners Hospitals for Children enough for what they did to help me overcome the effects of cerebral palsy. Had it not been for my doctors and therapists, I would not be walking and talking as well as I am today,” said RJ Mitte. “I know first-hand that Shriners Hospitals for Children is a special place where kids are given a life of possibilities because they send Love to the rescue every day.”

As a result of this success story and the special relationship Mitte has with Shriners Hospitals, the hospital has announced that RJ Mitte will be one of this year’s national ‘Love to the Rescue Ambassadors.’® He will get his message across about the treatment he received for CP and encouragement that he need not accept any limitations on his dreams. He will discuss the dedicated people he worked with at Shriners Hospitals for Children through a series of Public Service Announcements which will be aired all year long.

“We are honored to help RJ share his story so others living with disabilities see that there really are endless possibilities to what they can achieve,” said John Cinotto, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Shriners Hospitals for Children. “Every day Shriners Hospitals for Children sends Love to the rescue by encouraging patients to accept no limits throughout their treatment process. Working with RJ will help us highlight the innovative pediatric care available at Shriners Hospitals for Children.”

RJ Mitte is a well-known actor known for his role as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the AMC TV series “Breaking Bad.” Since moving to Hollywood in 2006 Mitte appeared as an extra on the Hannah Montana Show, 7th Heaven and Weeds. Today Mitte performs in “Switched at Birth,” a TV series from ABC Family TV.