Child of the Month….and Volunteer of the Month

November 2013: Andrew & Natalie Cernius

With Thanksgiving coming up, we have much to be thankful for this month of November. We would like to kick off our month of thankfulness by featuring Andrew Cernius as our Child of the Month and Natalie Cernius as our first Volunteer of the Month!

We could not be more excited to feature these two wonderful people and the immense impact they have made at UCP-OC and alongside UCP-OC.

Andrew is 19 years-old and is the third child in the Cernius family. IMG_20131017_194249Andrew has autism and comes to UCP-OC for recreational classes. “He participates in Drawing and Painting and absolutely loves it and the new teacher is fantastic!”says his mother Poita. Recently he has gotten a job at Creative Solutions for Hope in their mailroom, which both he and his parents are very proud of. He loves bringing home his paycheck!

Andrew is also the founding member (and inspiration) for the Friday Night Club, something we have all grown to love at UCP-OC!  As the third child, Andrew became very close to his older siblings, and as they left for college his younger sister Natalie saw that Andrew was left without his friends. With this as her driving force, Natalie set out to create a time for teens with special needs like her brother to socialize with their peers, make friends and just have fun.

This November 21st Natalie will be honored by the National Philanthropy Day Board who is awarding her with the Outstanding Youth Award for the creation of the Friday Night Club and other philanthropic work throughout the community. More rewarding to Natalie and her family is what happened this past weekend. The Friday Night Club started 2 years ago, and this past Friday’s Halloween party attracted over 200 teens with special needs and typical teens that volunteer at the event.

Thank you Natalie for your idea to start this, and thank you Andrew for being her inspiration. With this idea UCP-OC been able to create a program for teens that is changing lives.

Drawing and Painting Class
Thursdays, 6:30pm
To sign up for Drawing and Painting Class please contact Cindy Escobar at  


To find out more about the Friday Night Club and hear a teen’s story stay tuned for December’s Child of the Month with video!

Natalie and Andrew 


Life’s a Journey with CP and Me

Hi Everyone at UCP-OC!katyfd-225x300
Katy here—I just returned from UCP-OC’s bike camp at Soka University in Aliso Viejo (where I am going into my 3rd year for my BA!) For those of you who are unfamiliar with the week-long camp, it is put on by iCanShine, a national organization that provides quality learning opportunities in recreational activities for individuals with disabilities who are determined to learn how to ride a bicycle. The camp is run by UCP-OC and Down Syndrome Association of Orange County and both organizations are very grateful for the support of the Pujols Family Foundation who sponsored the camp.
With the help of some amazing volunteers, the kids spend five days on adaptive bikes in the hope that they will be able to ride a two-wheel bike without any assistance! Having gone on the final day of camp, it was so awesome for me to witness these kids getting out there on two-wheeled bikes for one final ride with confidence with smiles on their faces! I was very proud of these kids with knowing how hard it is to put in the physical effort it takes to succeed like they have.

This experience—although I was not there to witness their entire progress—made me reflect upon my own past when I learned how to ride a bicycle. Having CP, it may seem unlikely that bike riding is actually my favorite form of exercise, but it is true! I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was nearly nine years old (four years later than my twin sis) but I never would have thought that it would become such a fun part of my active lifestyle! The day I learned how to ride a bike is a day I will never forget; my parents woke me up that morning and told me this was the day I was going to ride a two-wheel bicycle. Before then, I just had training wheels and started to feel like I was never going to be rid of them, how embarrasing! My whole family and I took a trip to the boardwalk in Huntington Beach, my hometown, and my dad placed my bike on the side nearest to the sand. He told me to get on my bike, and that he would help me start, but by the end of the day he made me promise that I was going to ride without any help! Looking back, my whole family seemed pretty fearless about my CP—and I think that was a great thing for me at the time! It forced me to continually challenge myself, because everyone around me was always doing the things I wanted to do, but just took longer to learn and adapt to because of my CP. After several scary spills and nose dives into the sand, I became more and more frustrated with my lack of balance, but it motivated me to keep going and I eventually grew more comfortable with the fluidity of my legs and found my rhythm! I was exhausted and probably a little shaken up from the day, but as you may know already, CP comes with its fair shares of scraped knees and hands just from everyday life! Now, biking is the best thing for me; it’s low impact and great cardio! The only adaption I make is adding a foot strap on the left pedal, so my foot won’t slide off in the front. I’ve been riding my beach cruiser around ever since that day and I find it so freeing because I can go much faster than if I was running, and no one would ever know I have a physical disability when I am on a bike!
Looking back, learning how to ride a bike was just the next obstacle that I was determined to overcome at the time and I know myself well enough to admit that I am the type of person to never back down from a challenge, no matter how difficult my CP makes it for me!
That is probably the type of attitude that I’ve carried with me over the years and got me through my years of AYSO soccer, over Yosemite Falls, and into my active lifestyle where I am today. I have had to slow down quite a bit because my CP does make running and rigorous activity difficult; so I just continually adapt myself to what my body can manage on a daily basis! It has taught me to value my body, and has improved my capacity to understand my limitations. I know now that however frustrating they may be—we all have our own limitations whether we set them for ourselves or not. Some people I’ve encountered over the years call me courageous or inspirational, but I prefer to think of myself as a resilient human being… we all have our own struggles to endure—we just have to learn how to better deal with them when we can’t always overcome them, and that’s what my CP has taught me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My Child Without Limits: June Newsletter

My Child Without Limits_June Newsletter

Helpful Tips for Raising Healthy Families

With the rising increase in obesity in the United States, it is no wonder mothers are becoming more concerned about raising healthy children. Today’s economy tends to overindulge in fast food restaurants, participating in unhealthy eating habits, and lacking the motivation to stay physically active through daily exercise which eventually leads to future generations of kids who follow in the steps of these harmful lifestyles.

Luckily, there are helpful tips your children and family can benefit from in order to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Establishing healthy eating habits at home can be a major contribution in your child’s life by assisting them to prefer healthier options outside of the home as well. Another tip is to make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast every morning and maintains a consistent sleeping schedule. Breakfast in the morning is essential, a child’s brain processes in particular, because it boosts school performance by increasing attentiveness in the classroom. Similarly, getting enough sleep is vital for your child to excel in their academics and to work at their peak performance throughout classes or exams.
When it comes to staying physically active parents should be the number one role model for their children. This tip is valuable because your children will learn the importance of participating in exercise and sports if they watch their parents enjoying it and making it a part of their lifestyle. It is important to try and teach all these useful habits to your children at an early age so they can incorporate them into their daily routines.

To learn more tips about maintain healthy lifestyles for you family check out the full article 10 Tips for Raising Healthy Families

Pediatrics Report Encourages More Motor Skills Screening

According to an American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report Pediatricians should screen children for delays in motor development at 9, 18, 30 and 48 months. The report outlined motor development skills that children should have at each specified age. Diagnosing and treating those problems early on may ultimately improve kids’ outlook and help families gain additional support. To read the entire article click here.

Paving the Way to Kindergarten for Young Children with Disabilities

Entering kindergarten can be a joyful but also an anxious time, particularly for parents of children with disabilities. While some common concerns are shared with all parents, parents of children with disabilities may have unique concerns or questions about what their child’s kindergarten experience will be like and how services are delivered.

Amanda Fenlon, EdD, an assistant professor of special education in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at State University of New York, Oswego, has written an article for Reading Rockets to address approaches to this time in you and your child’s life. She suggests using demonstrated best practices for transitioning children with disabilities to elementary school including using a collaborative team approach to involve families, setting transition goals and focusing on the needs and strengths of individual children. Utilizing these will hopefully help make a smoother transition.  
Click here to read the full article.

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.

My Child Without Limits December Newsletter

The holidays are upon us! Here are some good tips for the holidays and we found the piece about preemies very interesting.

Preemies are Still Facing Severe Disabilities
Despite healthcare and medical advances between 1995 and 2006, virtually the same percentage of babies born premature in those years developed some type of severe disability. The good news is that the survival rate between these years has increased by 11%. While it does seem like we are moving in the right direction, what else can the healthcare industry do to improve the lives of extremely premature babies? To find out more information on this subject click here.

Stay Safe this Holiday Season
Are you feeling overwhelmed this holiday season? From getting the house ready for the holidays to buying gifts for friends and relatives, it is very easy to forget about important safety concerns. Fires cause extensive damage around the world during the holiday season because people forget to keep safety in mind. Here are a couple steps you can take to make sure you have a fun, safe holiday season:
•Water your tree- A dry tree can be a fire hazard, especially with hot Christmas lights wrapped around it.
•Check your lights- double check the sockets and light bulbs for damages and wear as they pose a fire threat as well.
To see more holiday safety tips check out the full list here.

Finding the Perfect Gift
When the holidays arrive, all children anxiously await opening the perfect gift. But finding that gift for a child with disabilities can be intimidating. By taking a minute to consider the child’s abilities and developmental age, you can make an informed choice and provide the child(ren) in your life with pure delight as they open that special toy!

Fortunately, resources are available to help you find that gift. Check out the websites below for tips on what to consider when making that selection:

2012 Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids
Choosing Gifts for a Child with Special Needs
Infinitec Adaptive Toys Guide

Child of the Month: October

October 2012: Celine

Celine is a very happy and sociable 11 year-old, but over the years Celine has overcome many challenges.  When she was only 4 months old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor on her right brain.  A surgery was performed to remove the tumor, and another surgery to place a shunt in her brain.  As a result of the tumor and surgeries, Celine is left with mild cerebral palsy.  Today Celine loves to sing, dance and is very observant of others needs and wants to assist in any way she is able. 

After finding out about United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County by way of a flyer, her mother brought Celine to UCP-OC to try out one of our dance recreation classes. Two and a half years later Celine has added gymnastics and Fit Kids to her class schedule. “Gymnastics and the other recreation classes have helped her with her gross motor skills and improved with her coordination, it’s a form of therapy that is disguised to her. She is having fun while socializing and creating relationships with her peers,” states her mother.

This August, Celine participated in our 5th Annual Bike Camp in partnership with Down Syndrome Association of OC. For one week Celine and 40 other children were taught how to ride a bike independently. Campers learned gradually how to ride by using specially adapted bikes that teach the children balance. On the last day the children were given the opportunity to go outside and practice their newfound skill. Through the experience not only did Celine learn how to ride a bike, but it encouraged her older brother to learn as well!

World CP Challenge


We would like to invite you to participate in the World CP Challenge – an event centered around physical fitness, encouraging personal well-being and teamwork, while supporting the local community.

In teams of four, participants track their daily step count by wearing a pedometer, and record their results on the interactive Challenge website. The aim for each team is to reach the summit by the end of the four weeks. There are three different levels to choose from, depending on the fitness level of the team (and how ambitious they are).

The World CP Challenge is not just about walking your way to better health – participants can run, cycle, swim or even play lawn bowls to reach their daily step target. There are more than 40 activities you can convert to steps including activities suitable for people with a disability.

Play this short video below for more details on the campaign.



Registrations are open so please visit to sign up or simply respond to this email.

The World CP Challenge runs from 4 September to 2 October 2012. Registrations close 17 August 2012.

The cost is $25 per adult or $10 per child. Each participant will receive 2 pedometers, a fundraising booklet and gain access to the interactive website once registered. 

Please pass on this information to anyone you think may be interested including friends in large and small organizations, schools and community groups.



    Improve your health and wellbeing

    Increase motivation

►    Be more productive

    Encourage teamwork

    Support the local community

You will be making a huge difference to the lives of children at United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County!

If you are interested or have questions please contact: Elizabeth Wylie, 949.333.6412


Get the running shoes on!

The OC Marathon is coming soon!!
When: Sunday, May 6, 2012
What: OC Marathon; 5K, full, or half marathon
Where: Newport Beach, Fashion Island

Hi Families,

If you haven’t heard yet UCP-OC will be participating in the OC Marathon yet again! This year Team UCP-OC Families will be running/walking alongside Team Jake’s 300+ runners.

At UCP-OC we know that every family has a story to tell, and we want to give each family the opportunity to tell it. By signing up for Team UCP-OC Families you can do this, spread the word about UCP-OC and help fundraise to support the many ways we serve the community of Orange County. Please sign up and join the many families walking in the 5K in celebration of the children in their lives that have benefitted from UCP-OC.

And, if running or walking isn’t for you, you can help our teams reach their fundraising goal by donating to our website or just volunteer to help pass out water and cheer on marathon runners!  

It is going to be a blast, and we can’t wait to see everyone there! 

  • If you would like to join us, please register for the OC Marathon at (try to sign up for the 5k, that’s where most of us will be) and don’t forget to show support for UCP-OC by choosing us under “Charity Program”.
  • If volunteering is more your style, please visit our website where you can sign up to volunteer or make a donation to one of our teams!


If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Wylie at


Have you heard of the Friday Night Club?

Teenagers are a growing demographic of special needs individuals in Orange County. This past summer, a mother daughter volunteer team, led by Natalie Cernius, formed a club and met a need that is often overlooked.

The Friday Night Club was created for the sole purpose of creating a safe place for upwards of 60 special needs teens and young adults to come, make friends, watch movies and spend time together. Natalie saw that her 17 year-old brother Andrew, who has autism, has few places or avenues in which to meet other teens like him. As her older siblings left for college, Andrew was left without his playmates, and his only friends. Poita and her daughter saw the need for a place for Andrew to “hang out” with friends just like typical teens do. This club that Natalie created gives special needs teens a place to thrive and become their own person in a safe environment.

Parents can see their children connect with peers right before their eyes, a dream many of them didn’t think would come true. They are grateful that their children have a place to go and belong. Their sons and daughters have gained independence and made leaps into their futures, because of the work Natalie and her mother have done.

Each time this club meets, a life is impacted. Natalie is making a difference in the lives of teens with special needs and helping them live a Life Without Limits.

The Angry Bees: A League for Special Children

The Angry Bees

Briana is what our Childcare Coordinator, Yvette, calls a tough little cookie. She has gotten through many difficult circumstances in her young life. For example, when she was younger she needed a trachea and g-tube for feeding and to recieve nutrition.  Today she gained a new found independence, and has gotten to the point where she no longer requires these tools.

Briana is a childcare and respite child who has been with UCP-OC since 2009. She is on the verge of no longer recieveing support due to a lower level of need and increased independence at the Boys and Girls Club. This is what we work towards with each child! Her aide, Christy, first suggested she play soccer in the Boys and Girls Club after school league last year. This has translated to her joining the AYSO league, and is on the Angry Bees team for children with special needs. This league gives children the chance to be active, competitive and learn team work as they work together to come home with a trophy!

The AYSO league had a V.I.P. event last weekend, in which we set up a booth with a raffle. More than 250 players, families and supporters came out for the event on Saturday, November 19th. Even better than having our booth, the event enabled us to see Briana play her sport and win a trophy! She really has come a long way, and we are so honored to support children like her.

For more information on the day you can read the article in the OC Register:

Policemen, Firemen, Sirens OH MY!

I remember being a child and watching in wonder as the fire trucks drove by, sirens blaring as they rushed to put out a fire. Being a girl I didn’t dream of being a Firefighter, but I did relish the idea of a trip to the fire station to learn about how they put out fires!

 Once a quarter our therapists take our children out into the community to introduce them to new environments. This past Wednesday we took a group from Let’s Talk, Talk Play Learn, and Let’s Eat to Station 6 to learn about fire safety, the difference between a fire truck and fire engine, what being a Firefighter means and the different equipment they use. When going through the equipment, an axe and was pulled out and one child exclaimed, “I have one of those!”

The children had so much fun trying on the hats and sitting in the truck. They also learned what to do if there was a fire. Get low and crawl out. Captain Steve, Firefighters: Mike Salazar, Paul Montes, Jeff Wackerman and George Hapsec did a tremendous job with our families and we can’t wait to have another group go October 13th


Yesterday, the Irvine Police stopped by so the children could sit in the car and hear the siren go off! The smiles from the children were priceless and the most important thing is they learned that Policemen are our friends and we don’t need to be afraid of them. Shiree Lind and Nikki Lovenduski read the children a story before they went back to serving the city of Irvine.









Make sure not to miss our next outing! We will be going to the pumpkin patch so the children can feel the different textures, smells and pick out their own pumpkin!


Questions please contact Pati Skinner at



Elizabeth Wylie