January Spotlight – Meet Michelle!

Michelle is one of the hardest working young ladies you will ever meet. Her kindness, intelligence, and love for what she does at UCP-OC shines through her. Her story is a particularly interesting one as Michelle started as a volunteer, then became an intern, is currently a therapy aide, and through her work with UCP-OC, she is now ready to head off to graduate school to earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. That’s right, Michelle will one day be a physical therapist herself one day.

Even with her busy schedule, Michelle took the time to chat with us. Keep reading for some awesome insights into life at UCP-OC!

1) How did you find/start with UCP-OC?

I knew I wanted to go into the healthcare field and help people in some way. A friend suggested that I come with her to shadow at UCP-OC for a day and see the type of work being done I had never experienced the field of therapy before so it was a first for me. On the day I came to the therapy center, I was so amazed by everything I was seeing. It was really inspiring to see the therapists at work and to see how they worked with the kids. I was specifically drawn to physical therapy which led me to come back to UCP-OC during my second year of undergrad to volunteer. I went on to complete my internship here and was fortunate enough that they asked me to come on as a therapy aide.

2) What is your favorite memory at UCP-OC?

My favorite memory happened last month with one of the kiddos I get to work with. A few months ago, he received a new walker and had been practicing using it at home and at the therapy center. It was the day that he started moving the walker on his own rather than someone having to push it forward for him. He was taking steps in it. It was amazing to see such progress. It was also fun to see how so many people were there to support Jacoby. Therapists came over to see him as well the scheduling team and administration. Everyone cheered him on and clapped for him. As said by Moira, being able to witness that was an amazing gift.

3) How has UCP-OC impacted your life?

UCP-OC is the reason that I chose the field that I am going into. Before UCP-OC, I had no idea what I wanted to do. It has been such an amazing opportunity to work with UCP-OC over these past couple of years. It is a very unique experience because I have been able spend enough time here to see significant growth and development of the therapy center/organization overall as well as the incredible progress of the kids I get to work with. The center is like home to me as it has been where I myself have gone through significant life stages. UCP-OC has been there from the beginning. It was my first encounter with therapy and the first center that I volunteered in. It is where I have had the opportunity take the role of a volunteer, intern, and therapy aide. I have been here throughout my graduate school application process, and I am grateful to still be here now as I hear back from schools and prepare to go off to grad school. It means a lot to me to be able to share that with the therapists in the office, my fellow aides, and the volunteers.

4) What have you learned during your time at UCP-OC?

Most of what I have learned has come from the therapists themselves. The therapists at UCP-OC are absolutely amazing. It is obvious that they love what they do. I see them have so much fun and enthusiasm that it inspires me. I personally want to go into the field of pediatrics. UCP-OC was the place that sparked that desire and continuously reaffirms it. You learn patience, communication skills, and create relationships with the children and their families because therapy isn’t just about the exercises themselves. It is about how you interact with the kids and finding what is the best way to help them while catering to their individual needs.

5) Is there any part of your time at UCP-OC that makes you particularly proud?

I don’t think I can pinpoint it to any one time. It is more of a general feeling. When you are working with a child and they finally reach the goal you were working towards, the feeling is undescribable. You just feel like you want to cheer for them. You feel so proud of how far they’ve come and how much more the future has in store for them. It’s that feeling that makes me want to go into the field. The desire to positively impact another’s life and see them improve and succeed.

6) What is next for you?

I will be graduating from Chapman University in May with a degree in Kinesiology and minors in psychology and dance. After that, I plan to attend a Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the fall. I still haven’t decided where as I am still hearing back from schools. But until then, I will continue to work at UCP-OC!

7) What advice would you have to give new or potential volunteers/interns/aides?

Make the most out of your time at UCP-OC and be open to new experiences. Working with kids can be unpredictable but that is one of the things I love about my job. There are no days that have been the same. Be willing to be silly sometimes, to be excited to pop bubbles or to throw a ball. You have no idea how meaningful and impactful that can be for a child. If this is the field you have chosen, have fun with it. Yes, interning means getting those observation hours in for grad school but remember to enjoy the process along the way. It helps you to remember why you want to be in this field and who you are doing it for.

8) Anything else you would like to share:

Just a huge thank you to UCP and all the opportunities, love, and support they have given me 🙂

Congratulations, Michelle and we cannot wait to see what your next adventure will be.

Interested in volunteering? Click here for more opportunities!



UCP-OC Names Ramin Baschshi, M.D. as New CEO

Ramin Baschshi Headshot (4)On behalf of UCP of Orange County’s Board of Directors, I am delighted to announce that we have appointed Dr. Ramin Baschshi, M.D. as our new President and Chief Executive Officer effective January 2, 2018.

We are fortunate to have someone of Dr. Baschshi’s background and experience join UCP-OC. She has served as Chief Operating Officer of Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles since June 2010. During her tenure, she transformed the wish granting process, financials, operational management and board development during the Chapter’s rebirth. Her medical training connects to the lives and needs of our families and their children, her strategic leadership experience at Memorial Care provides great insight into program development to serve families, and her fundraising experience at Make-A-Wish allows her to bring strong philanthropic management experience to our organization. We could not be more pleased!

Dr. Baschshi shared, “I am humbled and honored to be representing an organization that ensures children’s true potential, while strengthening the family unit. UCP-OC delivers comprehensive care and resources beyond the clinical environment to empower children and families’ success. My commitment is to enhance and create opportunities for UCP-OC to become a premier charity of choice in our community, while increasing referrals and support services. I look forward to new beginnings as I embark on this incredible journey with the team and the Board of Directors.”

We are excited to kick off 2018 with Ramin’s leadership and look forward to a year of growth and impact. Please watch for additional updates and opportunities to meet Ramin. Happy holidays!


James Corbett
Chairman, Board of Directors

Read Full Press Release Here

Child of the Month – Meet Gavin

With Orange County Bike Camp just around the corner, we wanted to shine our spotlight on Gavin who attended camp last year.
Gavin was diagnosed with autism at three years old and was told at age five that he would most likely never read or write. His parents, Lisa and Rob, encouraged Gavin to reach for those milestones with endless amounts love and support. Today, Gavin is 11 years old is reading and writing on his own. But that was not the only milestone that Gavin was determined to reach. Gavin’s father, Rob is an avid bicyclist and Gavin wished he would be able to ride a bike independently and alongside his father one day.
At five, Gavin successfully learned how to ride a tricycle and eventually was able to ride a bike with training wheels as well. But for Gavin, the ultimate goal was to ride a two-wheeled bike on his own, without training wheels.
Lisa and Rob heard about Orange County Bike Camp through a friend of the family and decided to look into the opportunity for Gavin. By the end of camp he was riding his very own two wheeled bike independently, with no training wheels. Lisa explains, “That special Wednesday at camp when my husband and I looked up and saw Gavin riding a bike on his own was in the top 5 best moments of my life! To see the beaming smile on his face and the pride that he had, while knowing how hard he had worked to achieve this goal was unreal.”
The family now enjoys daily bike rides and Gavin even gets to ride his bike to school. It is an honor to collaborate with the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County (DSAOC) and to be a part of the Orange County Bike Camp. Congratulations, Gavin and we cannot wait to see what goal you accomplish next!

UCP-OC Life Without Limits Gala

United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County (UCP-OC) raised an estimated $450K at their annual Life Without Limits fundraising gala on April 22 at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach. Over 310 attendees helped to honor Dr. Jennifer Simpson and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian while raising funds for 5,639 local children and families affected by cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and developmental delays. Event co-chairs were Jim Corbett, philanthropist, Kim Letch, Ernst & Young, LLP and Laura Meier, Meier Law Firm.

Guests were greeted by UCP-OC’s child ambassadors and families as they arrived at the black-tie event with a circus theme. An elegant silent auction and cocktail party was followed by dinner, live auction and awards program. UCP-OC’s CEO Deborah Levy and emcee/auctioneer Jim Nye welcomed guests into the main ballroom where the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ theme continued in the main ballroom with a dramatic silk aerialist performance. Several luxury live auction packages were auctioned and the fund-a-need raised an additional $73,900.

Dr. Jennifer Simpson received the Individual Impact Award to a standing ovation. As Professor of Ophthalmology at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, University of California, Irvine and a practicing pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Simpson has served as a member of UCP-OC’s Pediatric Medical Advisory Board since 2010 and has a longstanding collaborative relationship with the organization.

Marcy Brown, Vice President, Hoag Hospital Irvine and Ambulatory Services accepted the Community Impact Award on behalf of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. Hoag has long supported UCP-OC as they serve families of infants who require highly specialized care through their level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Hoag’s relationship with UCP-OC ensures that NICU discharged infants and their families have access to necessary follow-up care from infancy through young adulthood.

The event concluded with dancing to the live music of The California Band and major event sponsors included David E.I. Pyott Foundation, Argyros Family Foundation, Horowitz Group and loanDepot.

For more information about the gala or UCP-OC, call 949.333.6401 or visit http://www.ucp-oc.org/gala. Click the links below to watch our honoree videos!

Individual Impact Honoree – Dr. Jennifer Simpson

Community Impact Honoree – Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian

Life Without Limits Gala Album

Volunteer Spotlight – Meet Helen!

We are lucky to have some of the most amazing volunteers here at UCP-OC. Meet Helen!

How did you find/start with UCP-OC?

I live in Irvine and noticed the “Life Without Limits” building while giving my younger brother rides. The compelling name caused me to google it when I got home and discovered it was a therapy center. I had been looking to volunteer with children and learn more about different types of services and found this would be a great place.

What is your favorite memory at UCP-OC? 

Probably every time I see the little participants of Talk, Play, Learn Group having a blast.

What have you learned from volunteering at UCP-OC? 

I have gained insight into the interdisciplinary approaches to treatment, observed how learning is facilitated through functional play, and discovered a variety of equipment and stimuli that work to target different sensory and motor skills.

What advice would you have to give to new volunteers, or folks who are interested in volunteering with UCP-OC?

It may be overwhelming at first but don’t be afraid to ask questions– the therapists are kind and willing to help. Be open to immerse yourself in more than one type of therapy because it’s cool to see how they all work in different ways to build upon a child’s progress.  I highly recommend volunteering with UCP-OC!

National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

At 6 months old, Justin and his parents received some difficult news. It was then that Justin was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP), and doctors believed he would have to rely on a brace to walk.

As Justin’s parents heard this news, they felt confused and scared. But Lily, Justin’s mom, explains that Justin has a way of proving people wrong. Not for the sake of proving them wrong, but because he enjoys facing a challenge and overcoming it. In fact, by age two, Justin learned to walk by himself.

His perseverance and positive attitude have attributed to many accomplishments. Most recently, Justin learned how to ride a bicycle. It was challenging, but he did not give up, and because of this Justin can read, ice skate, and now ride a bike! He is becoming more independent with each new accomplishment and we cannot wait to see what he masters next.

For those of you who may not know much about cerebral palsy, it is an incurable disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture. The signs and symptoms vary greatly but it most typically affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills.

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common congenital disorders and there are three types of CP; spastic cerebral palsy, causes stiffness and movement difficulties, athetoid cerebral palsy, leads to involuntary and uncontrolled movements, and ataxic cerebral palsy, causes a problem with balance and depth perception.

Although there is no cure for CP, treatment, therapy, and special equipment can help to provide a higher quality of life. We here at UCP-OC have made it our mission to help provide a Life Without Limits for any and every child we can!

To help make a difference in Justin’s life, or the other kiddos we serve at UCP-OC, click here!


World Rare Disease Day – Meet Jimena

In honor of World Rare Disease Day, we wanted to shine the spotlight on a little girl named Jimena and share a little about what this day means to not only those who are affected by a rare disease, but also their families, therapists, doctors, and all of us at UCP-OC as well.

World Rare Disease Day is meant to raise awareness and impact change. Though the campaign mainly targets the general public, it also seeks to raise awareness amongst policy makers, public authorities, industry representatives, and anyone interested in rare diseases. This is a day we particularly enjoy recognizing as it is important to note that 50% of rare diseases affect children.

You may have seen Jimena in our 2016 Report to the Community. Jimena is one of the children we so proudly serve and she is affected by the rare diseases, Pulmonary Artesia and CHARGE Syndrome.

Jimena’s parents, Nereyda and Jesus, were filled with excitement when they learned they were pregnant with their first child, a daughter. Five months into their pregnancy, they received crushing news. Their little girl was showing abnormalities in her heart.

“At that time, our dreams about our little girl’s future changed in an instant.”

Nereyda and Jesus anxiously anticipated the birth of their baby girl, who was born at 40 weeks ready to take on the world.

Jimena was diagnosed with Pulomanary Artesia, Congenital Heart Disease, and CHARGE Syndrome, which is a complex genetic syndrome that creates swallowing and breathing problems. Pulmonary Artesia is an extremely rare birth defect of the pulmonary valve, where the valve that lets blood out of the heart to go to the lungs does not form correctly. With the combined challenges of her multiple rare diagnoses, Jimena has quite a fight in front of her.

Nereyda and Jesus found UCP-OC when Jimena was one year old. She has now been receiving In-Home Early Intervention for over eight months. Ana, her UCP-OC Child Development Specialist, has seen Jimena develop and grow at an amazing rate. Nereyda says of Ana, “Despite all of Jimena’s medical equipment, Ana’s dedication, patience, love and encouragement during their sessions is such a learning experience for us as parents and is so exciting to watch.” Jimena’s parents are thrilled to see the progress that she is making, and now that Jimena is crawling everywhere, we here at UCP-OC also cannot wait to see what she accomplishes next!

“I’m grateful that UCP-OC exists to help kids like Jimena reach their developmental goals and live a Life Without Limits, as well as providing parent support and education.” – Nereyda, Jimena’s Mom


Meet Damaris!



Damaris, a dynamic four year old, was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. From the second she was born, her family knew that her presence would change their lives for the better.

When Liz and Geovanny first found out they were pregnant with their little girl, they could not wait to meet her. Twelve hours after delivery, the doctor came in with a diagnosis of Down syndrome along with a possible heart murmur and eye issues. Liz, a medical assistant, had recognized the facial features and was not shocked by the diagnosis. Geovanny was in denial at first, but ultimately came to terms with the diagnosis, noting that “Damaris is perfect in every way. She makes our family complete.”

Thankfully, Damaris’s heart murmur closed on its own and she did not need to undergo surgery. Each year, Damaris progresses more and more.

“I think to myself, ‘Where would we be without UCP-OC,'” Damaris’s mother, Liz, shared. Now, having been with UCP-OC for almost 3 years, Damaris has reached milestones and accomplished many goals.

Participating in physical, occupational, and speech therapy has helped Damaris to flourish into a tenacious little girl with a sparkling personality. Today, Damaris can walk and her speech is becoming more clear every day. And as for tomorrow, we cannot wait to see what more she accomplishes.

We are so thankful to be able to provide services and programs to Damaris and her family. To help support Damaris and other UCP-OC kiddos, click here!


Jacoby’s Story

Our lives changed in an instant… We were scared for our son.

One in six children has a developmental disability or delay – children like our son, Jacoby, who has cerebral palsy related to his traumatic brain injury at birth.  We were motivated to do everything we could to give him the best life possible. Once we found UCP-OC, we knew the future was bright for our beautiful boy because of the array of comprehensive services made available to us.

For children with developmental disabilities, the first years of life are crucial to helping them reach their full potential. Your gift to UCP-OC will provide important direct services to children like Jacoby.

Supporters like you have helped our family in so many ways. Over the past four years we have been with UCP-OC, Jacoby has benefited from many services. In-home early intervention helped Jacoby gain receptive language skills and strength. Feeding therapy has allowed him to enjoy mealtime and have his G-tube removed. Through physical therapy, he is working on taking his first steps. We believe UCP-OC is the place our son will learn to walk.

Your generosity also gives us, as parents, access to the help, knowledge, and support we need to care for our son. The amazing therapists and caregivers at UCP-OC are a valued partner to every parent of a child with special needs.

Services for children with disabilities are expensive, but critical to each child’s future and ability to be an active member of our community. But they are not possible without support from donors like you. Your gift truly changes the lives of children in our community who have disabilities like cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and other developmental challenges.

Your gift will give children like Jacoby the chance to learn to walk, communicate, and gain independence, and parents like us much-needed support and guidance. We are one of more than 4,300 children and families  receiving critical, life-changing care from   UCP-OC. Your contribution will help provide more than 100,000 hours of direct service in 2017 to families like ours. But we need your help before December 31 to meet the growing need for UCP-OC’s services in the coming year.

A Life Without Limits to our family means Jacoby can reach his full potential, despite having a disability.  We are grateful for donations that provide the resources to help our son gain the skills he needs to do this. Use your envelope and give today!


Lisa and Nick Gonchar, Jacoby’s Parents

P.S. Please give your most generous contribution of $25, $100, $250 or more today to help kids like Jacoby live a Life Without Limits!

Click here to donate today!


Child of the Month – Meet Lukas!

There’s no better way to introduce you to Lukas than with the words of his mother. Read below to hear about Lukas’s extraordinary life and his fierce bravery.
“Lukas was diagnosed with a stroke in the right side of his brain at 5 months of age, but the stroke most likely happened when he was much younger. His stroke has resulted in left-sided weakness and motor deficits. For example, the right side of his brain controls the left side of his body, and has ultimately resulted in him having a diagnosis of left-sided hemiplegic cerebral palsy. To add to his challenges, his optic nerve in his left eye did not develop and he is completely blind in that eye; this is an obstacle that most kids with his form of hemiplegia don’t have to face. In essence, he is living with very limited awareness of the left side of his body,” explains his mom, Chelsea.
For those of us at UCP-OC that have had the pleasure of meeting Lukas and his family, we cannot begin to explain the amount of joy that Lukas brings when he enters a room. Lukas has faced many challenges but with every challenge he meets he brings along his undying courage and determination.
As Chelsea continues, “Kids with hemiplegia, like so many kids with other disabilities, often struggle with the things we take for granted every day like walking, tying shoes, talking, reading, balance and he is effected by seizures. We are working hard to change this for him. The brain has an amazing capacity to change its wiring and with targeted therapies we hope that we will be able to help him not only to recognize, but to utilize his left half of his body more efficiently in the future. UCP-OC has played a critical role in helping us achieve his goals and work toward new ones.”
We have no doubt that Lukas will continue to achieve his goals! Thank you to all our UCP-OC supporters for giving us the opportunity to work with Lukas and help him to reach milestones.
If you are interested in ways to get involved with UCP-OC, click here.
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