If you Google cerebral palsy, you’ll find there’s no shortage of news about individuals with CP doing amazing things. Take 18 year old Xu Yongchen for example. Yongchen is a student from China with cerebral palsy who just scored in the upper third of the country’s college entrance exam. Or England’s Derek Russell, a three year old boy with CP who could barely walk a year ago. He’s now taking kickboxing lessons after a life-changing surgery.
The cerebral palsy community is filled with people who are defying stereotypes and beating the odds. Here are three recent stories that caught our eye and truly inspired us.
Hunter and Braden Gandee
Earlier this month, fifteen year old Hunter Gandee carried his little brother Braden across southern Michigan on a 57-mile trek. Braden is eight years old and has cerebral palsy.
Dubbed the Cerebral Palsy Swagger, the 3-day journey began on June 5 at Braden’s school in Lambertville. It ended at the University of Michigan Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Ann Arbor on June 7.
Hunter told CNN that he created the Cerebral Palsy Swagger to raise awareness and gain recognition for those with CP.
I've seen what my brother has to do and struggle with in everyday life...walking is his biggest struggle, and we wanted to show people that.
The brothers were joined by the entire student body of Douglas Road Elementary at the start of the walk and had lots of other company along the way.
Last year, Hunter and Braden made a similar trek across the state from Hunter’s Junior High School wrestling room to the Bahna Wrestling Center 40 miles away.
Kentucky native Marlana VanHoose blew everyone away with her rendition of the National Anthem at Game 6 of the NBA Finals last Tuesday, June 16. The Cleveland Cavaliers were hoping for a win against the Golden State Warriors, so they invited Marlana to sing and motivate their performance.
The nineteen year old was born with Cytomegalovirus, a common virus that usually doesn’t show symptoms, but can be threatening to those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Within a few weeks of her birth, it was discovered that Marlana’s optic nerve never formed and that she was blind. She was diagnosed with a mild form of CP when she was two.
Marlana’s musical talent was apparent since she was two years old when she began humming and playing the piano. As a lover of sports, she gained national attention for her beautiful singing at University of Kentucky women’s basketball games. Since then, she’s performed all over the US and, as a member of the Artist Music Guild, she received the 2012 New Artist of the Year and Young Artist of the Year awards. She continues to maintain a busy schedule performing at various events.
On June 13, Sari Lipp participated in a Spartan Race with more 3,500 other people in Boise, Idaho. Sari has cerebral palsy, diabetes and a paralyzed stomach.
Spartan Race is not for the feign of heart. These races range from 3 miles to marathon distance and are filled with grueling obstacles, like mud pits, barbed wire crawls, fire jumps, rope climbs and more. Even for those in peak physical condition, these races are difficult!
The 26 year old trained with local crossfit coach Becky Chambers for months leading up to the event. Becky and a team of other crossfit coaches ran the race with Sari, helping her with obstacles along the way. They were by Sari’s side as she crossed the finish line all on her own.
Sari plans to participate in more races and hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams. As for Sari’s dream, she hopes to become an adaptive Crossfit coach and help those with disabilities.
These three stories serve as proof that people with cerebral palsy are capable of doing anything they set their minds to. We hope they inspire others as much as they’ve inspired us.