Throughout my life, I have relied on a large network of organizations and individual caregivers to take care of my basic needs. Twenty-one years ago, I was born 11 weeks premature and with Cerebral Palsy. As a result, I have been confined to a wheelchair most of my life. One of the greatest achievements in my life occurred when I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma.
After I graduated, no one was really sure how to transition me. It was hard to find caregivers who would help me. Who was going to feed me, dress me, and get me where I was going? It was unnerving and terribly difficult.
No one in Loudoun should be limited by a physical disability.
But, over time, I gathered a network of caregivers who really care for me.
I started college, but I was called instead to go into community service. So, I left my studies behind and joined a performance-based advocacy group that teaches empathy through a collection of monologues and songs. We demonstrated that people with special needs are beautiful, and we have a tremendous passion for helping others express themselves. By sharing my own story, I can create a more inclusive and caring world.
The cast is a loving and supportive family. So when my cast sister passed away from cancer, it changed my life. I realized just how precious life is. It was a humbling experience to watch a friend who had always been so strong struggle for air. In her honor, I celebrate Caregiver Appreciation Day every year on February 11, her birthday.
Last year, I launched a website to build an awareness of the value of generosity. I want to teach people how they can help those in need. If I share my past—tips about what I needed and how others can help—I can help others like myself.
The question I ask myself every single day is, “What am I feeling is needed most in this world and how can I, as one person, help to End the Need?” I hope you ask yourself the same question.