Monday, December 4, 2017

Spotlight: Queen of Hearts Foundation for Disabled Children

Founded by Michele Knott in 2005, the Queen of Hearts Foundation for Disabled Children serves those with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus by raising money for therapy, treatment, and equipment in an effort to help them live a better life and gain independence. Two days ago, Queen of Hearts (based in Palm Bay) hosted the Freedom Wheels Festival 2017 at the Sarno Plaza in Melbourne. There were food trucks, vendors, a silent auction, and live entertainment from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. The proceeds are going to the purchase of handicap accessible vans for families of wheelchair users. Country Bingo, Bicsi Cares, and the Florida Bankers Association are sponsors of Queen of Hearts. For more information, go to

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Monday, November 27, 2017

A Review of "Wonder"

If you're wondering whether or not you should see the movie Wonder, the answer is yes! Set in Manhattan, New York, Wonder is about a boy named August "Auggie" Pullman, who has mandibulofacial dysostosis, also known as Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS). Occurring in approximately one in 50,000 people, TCS is a genetic disorder in which the ears, eyes, cheekbones, and chin are deformed. Children with severe cases of TCS have breathing problems, difficulty seeing, a cleft palate, and/or hearing loss, but they are of normal intelligence. They can manage symptoms with reconstructive surgery, speech therapy, and hearing aids and other assistive devices. Life expectancy for those with TCS is normal in general. For more information about TCS, go to

Based on R.J. Palacio's 2012 novel of the same name, Wonder (starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay as Auggie) takes us through Auggie's first year of physically going to school; he had been home-schooled prior to the fifth grade due to recovering from 27 surgeries. At first, Auggie has trouble fitting in, but he eventually makes friends and does well with his studies. By the end of the school year, he feels accepted by his classmates. Wonder is a wonderful family movie that reminds us to overcome our challenges and to be kind to everyone.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Our Pride Academy

One of the four contestants on last Tuesday's episode of the Food Network's cooking competition Chopped competed for Our Pride Academy (OPA) in Miami as his charity of choice. OPA, a non-profit organization, is a school for children aged three to adult with developmental disabilities. According to the school's Web site, OPA's goal is "to teach essential academic and daily living skills that will empower students to live independent and fulfilling lives." The teachers achieve this goal by using proven research-based techniques. OPA accepts donations, and the proceeds from the All Fore the Kids Second Annual Golf Tournament in Doral near Miami on Saturday, December 2, will go to OPA. For more information about the school, go to

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Spotlight: Jeremy Haynes

At the end of last week, we observed Veterans Day in the United States. On October 30, Army Maj. Jeremy Haynes was the guest speaker at a National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) event sponsored by the Multicultural Committee at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland. He became paralyzed from the waist down after being shot four times while serving as an assistant to Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, who died in the attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 5, 2014. (Maj. Gen. Greene is the highest ranking American officer to die in combat in the Global War on Terrorism.) Beating the odds, Maj. Haynes was able to stand again three months later and now can walk a few steps with a cane, thanks to medical professionals at WRNMMC to which he was transferred after initial treatment at a medical center in Germany. Regarding NDEAM, he told his audience that people with disabilities want an opportunity to show their capabilities. For more details on this story, go to

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Girl with Special Needs Released from Custody

Rosa Maria Hernandez, a ten-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and the mental capacity of a five-year-old, was released from a children's home last Friday. On October 24, an ambulance was taking Hernandez (accompanied by an adult cousin who is a US citizen) to the hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, when it was stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint. Originally from Mexico, Hernandez arrived in the United States when she was three months old, so she is technically an undocumented immigrant. Hernandez and her cousin were escorted to the hospital where she had emergency gallbladder surgery before she was discharged into US Customs and Border Protection custody. Although she has reunited with her mother, it's possible Hernandez will be deported. This case is something to be considered in immigration debates. For more details on this story, go to

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Cerebral palsy awareness ribbon

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hydrocephalus Association Walk

Derived from two Greek words that together mean "water head," hydrocephalus is the rapid collection of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. This makes a person's head larger than normal. The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is implanting a shunt, a tube that transfers some CSF from the brain to another part of the body. I was born with hydrocephalus, but fortunately, it corrected itself quickly, so I didn't need a shunt. Last Saturday, the 2017 Orlando Walk to End Hydrocephalus took place at Dr. P. Phillips Community Park. The Walk raised over $19,000, which will go toward research, education, advocacy, and community support networks. For more information about hydrocephalus and its Association, go to

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Spotlight: Brett Leake

Brett Leake is a "sit-down" stand-up comic with muscular dystrophy. He uses humor as a way to deal with problems. The first comedian with a physical disability to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Leake has also appeared on Entertainment Tonight and the American Comedy Awards. He is a National Humor Treasure Award winner along with comedians such as Gilda Radner, Bob Newhart, and Leno. He participated in the Brevard Achievement Center's inaugural E2A (Employ, Empower, Achieve) Community Awards at the Hilton Rialto last Wednesday. To learn more about Leake, go to

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Brett Leake (right)