The winter months leading to Spring Break can often be the bleakest of the school year. In the Okanagan Valley we often deal with an inversion that seems to last all winter, so unless we get into the mountains we can go for a long time without any sun. It can be a depressing time indeed.
Luckily for me, I have daily inspiration and a daily dose of sunshine in my classroom. Her name is Heather McDonald.
Heather was born 6 1/2 weeks premature. At two she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. She has low muscle tone in her lower extremities and decreased trunk control. She has impaired balance, co-ordination skills. Her fine motor skills were also affected together with her inability to walk without support of a walker or adult helper. She uses her walker, manual chair and power chair for mobility. In spite of this Heather is the happiest kid in our school and an inspiration to all around her. She is contributes so much to our class and our school.
Her smile and attitude are infectious.
When I went to take a picture of her for this post she was with our buddy class laying down on a mat and reading with her classmates and her little buddies – so cute. When it comes to group activities she is always one of the first people picked. She contributes in so many ways. During cross-country running season, she gets in her walker and runs laps around the school – as many as she can get in. I wish all the kids ran with her moxie. She just seems to bring out the joy in every circumstance.
She has the best sense of humour.
She is always racing me down the hall in her chair and telling me I can’t keep up. When I walk down the hallway she, tries to scare me and is continually teasing me about my silly jokes. You can’t help but smile and feel good when you are with her.
Heather is motivated.
In the fall our class would often head out to our playground for DPA. Heather would always get involved in the games with the kids, or challenge me to a chicken fight*, but one day she had a different idea. She wanted to get to the top of the structure.
Off she went.
She got out of her walker and pulled herself to the rope ladder. She struggled to pull herself up and sometimes needed help getting her feet into the ladder so she could use them as a counterbalance for her continuous pulling. As she got nearer to the top a bunch of kids from class came over and helped and encouraged her to get to the top. When she got up she was so happy. She yelled, “Mr. Mullin, you should see the view from up here. You can see everything!” For the next few days, she would work and work her way up there. During DPA, recess, lunch – you name it.
This May is the 25th anniversary of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour and it is coming through Summerland and our school is one of the stops. Heather has been chosen to be the medal bearer and represent our school. Her biggest hope (and mine too) is that Rick will be able to be here for our leg and she can wheel with him for even a short time.
It would be a great gift to a girl that gives everyone around her so much.
*chicken fights are games of balance that the kids at our school play. Heather lays across the balance beam and tries to (usually successfully) to shake me off.