A 14-year-old freshman at Provo High is one of the newest members of the JV cheer team. This would be no extraordinary feat, except that she has Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy.
Colby Anne Christensen was diagnosed with the disease when she was a baby. It affects the right side of her body.
The first four years of Christensen’s life were full of weekly physical therapy sessions, but none seemed to do the trick. Her parents, heard of an intensive physical therapy program in Poland specific to her condition. They decided to enroll her in the program.
Christensen experienced great success while in Poland. Her parents wanted to continue with the therapy but could not afford the trip again. With hard work and various donors, they created the Now I Can Foundation and opened a branch of the Poland intensive physical therapy program in Provo.
One of three similar programs available in the country, Now I Can provides hope for families nurturing children with neurological disabilities that prevent proper gait training and balance. Patients participate in an intensive physical therapy program that includes performing exercises over an extended amount of time — three-week sessions, five days a week for four hours a day.
Most families of the patients have a similar theme of hope because of Now I Can. Haley Miner, a mother of one of the patients, was encouraged by her doctors to provide the best life for her son, Bronson, as possible. But the odds of him learning to talk or walk were very slim.
“Bronson was almost 3 years old and wasn’t able to crawl or walk yet,” Miner said. “We started to feel down about the future of our son when a family friend told us about the Now I Can Foundation. We came in to view the facility, and for the first time I felt hope —I felt that someone cared for my child as much as I tried to.”
After three sessions Bronson is now able to use a walker. At $6,000 a session, Miner considers herself lucky to be the recipient of grants offered by the foundation. Because most insurance providers do not cover intensive physical therapy, sponsorships and fundraising efforts are crucial to the success of families in need.
The Run to Walk 5K is Now I Can’s major fundraiser of the year for the grants awarded to families in need. Through this 5K every participating family can use it as a fundraiser for their own child’s therapy sessions.
Each patient can have friends and family sign up on their team. For every participant that signs up, $5 go toward the child’s therapy fund. This help the families out financially and also acts as an opportunity to provide emotional support to the patients during the 5K or mile race.
Disabled participants use many methods of completing the race — walkers, strollers or wheelchairs. If some of the kids aren’t able to walk very well, many parents allow them to start a few steps back and let them take the last couple of steps to cross the finish line.
“We discovered Now I Can when Landon was about 18 months, and we’ve been coming ever since,” said Justin Bingham, another Now I Can dad. “When we first found out his diagnosis, we were told that he would never walk. And if he would walk, it would be with crutches or eventually a wheelchair. He had a moderate case of cerebral palsy at the time, and since we have been at Now I Can he has been able to walk. Not only walk, but he walked a whole mile today. He can run and walk, and today he has more of a mild case of cerebral palsy.”
This year’s Run to Walk 5K had more than 700 runners and 15 patient teams.
“It’s not your everyday 5K. This is a 5K that celebrates children with different abilities,” Christensen said. “The inspiration that comes when you watch a child in a walker walking across the finish line is incredible. They work extra hard to do the things that sometimes we take for granted. That is why we call it the Run to Walk — we are running to help these kids learn to walk.”