I Felt Excluded!

December 12, 2017

Lisa Cooley, 49 years old

At the age of 2 years, Lisa was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when her parents noticed she was not as flexible as other children.

Lisa did not realize she had cerebral palsy until later.  “I was 10 or 11 years old and I was left out of the school’s square dancing event. I did not understand why I was being excluded. Up to that point I was just me who needed to use a walker.  Even today, as an adult I still ask myself why am I being left out and excluded,” wondered Lisa.

As a child, Lisa used a walker to get around, but needed to use a wheelchair as a teen. Her teenage years were the most difficult because she couldn’t attend events. Lisa felt left out because venues weren’t wheelchair accessible. She wanted to attend a concert at the Memorial Auditorium, but it wasn’t wheelchair accessible at the time. Lisa didn’t feel that this was fair or right.   Read more


A New World for MacKenzie

November 28, 2017

Al, Arthur, Nancy & MacKenzie with cutout of Alex.

When the phone rings late at night, how often does it bring good news? Al and Nancy’s late night call delivered a chilling message: the amniocentesis showed that their third child would be born with Down syndrome!

Al and Nancy’s initial reactions were vastly divergent. Nancy, who grew up in a town with a traditional State Hospital, envisioned her child being institutionalized. Conversely, Al received the news as if he heard the baby would be left-handed: it was simply one of her various characteristics.

Nervous to take on the world, Al and Nancy resolved to raise their child to live a life without limits. This meant not shielding their child from reality, but encouraging her to participate in life as much as possible. Read more


Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Value of Respite

August 8, 2017

 “After my mother died and becoming the primary caregiver of my three children because my husband works very long hours I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel for my family.”

It hasn’t always been easy for the Cattarusa family, a family of five.  In fact, at times is seemed as though there was no light as the end of the tunnel for Jessica, a stay-at-home mother to three small children. 

Life took an unexpected turn seven years ago, when her eldest son, Saul (affectionately called Francisco, named after Jessica’s mother, Francis) was diagnosed with developmental and intellectual delay.  She first noticed something was different when she watched him interact with his pre-school classmate and saw how he used his hands to indicate what he wanted instead of words.  Following Francisco’s diagnosis, she was told he would require special education classes including speech therapy and sign language to help him communicate. Read more


“I refuse to allow my disability to dictate the way I live my life.”

July 27, 2017

“I refuse to allow my disability to dictate the way I live my life.” –Brian Hillebert, age 47

In October of 1977, Brian Hillebert was diagnosed as a child with cerebral palsy. While riding his bike one morning, Brian was hit by a car and launched 90 feet into a ditch. Brian’s awakening from an almost two month coma was considered a miracle; however, the accident left young Brian with a traumatic brain injury resulting in cerebral palsy.

At the age of 7 years old, the doctors did not ever expect Brian to walk again.

Brian not only learned how to walk after this life-crippling injury, but graduated high school, went to college, started doing stand-up comedy and has furthered starred in major play productions in Sacramento. “I got started in stand-up comedy, but I got tired of the rotten tomatoes, so I started acting” says the dedicated actor. Read more


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