Hello other parents out there,

My name is Elaine, and I live in Chagrin Falls, Ohio (east of Cleveland). My daughter Laura participated in DO-IT in the summer of '97. She then attended the second, shorter program the following summer. The next summer (1999, following her HS graduation) she returned as an intern. Laura is now a sophomore at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. I think it's safe to say she is the only graduate of Solon High School ever to go to Arkansas for college, but she wanted to avoid the ice and snow and cold that are a feature of life here in the north.

Laura's disability is paraplegia/paraparesis. She has incomplete spinal nerve damage from about T-4/5 on down. This was an ischemic injury caused during heart surgery, when circulation to her spinal column was not maintained. Her congenital heart defect has been repaired, and other than regular (lifelong) visits to the cardiologist, she does not have problems. However, she does have some other minor birth defects and chronic illness issues (several autoimmune disorders and immune system problems). Chronic fatigue is part of the picture, and she continues to work with her doctors to manage this.

Laura can walk but uses a wheelchair part of the time. While at DO-IT she teamed up with another participant who pushed her chair-her friend, Keaton, who is blind. This sounds like bad planning, but she insists that they had fewer wrecks than any other pair. I have never met Keaton, but he is obviously a good sport.

I would have to say that DO-IT was very helpful in terms of building Laura's confidence about attending college. She is a very strong student, but managing the day-to-day stuff can be daunting. The major advantage DO-IT gave her was being around other teens with disabilities. The open talk and support were wonderful for her. She has no peers in our community who face the same challenges. The other student in her school who was disabled also had lots of learning problems; while they were acquaintances, they were not able to relate on a lot of levels.

Laura is about to have her 20th birthday. What a thrill this is! Only other parents who have traveled this path will understand my feelings. I think it's more than just pride and joy, it's triumph.