Child of the Month: December 2013

December 2013: Brooke

Brooke ended her first evening at the Friday Night Club telling us she met a friend; something we had never heard her say before.

Brooke & Natalie
Brooke with Friday Night Club Founder Natalie Cernius

At 15 months of age, we learned our daughter Brooke would have challenges ahead of her. Now 16 and with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, social interactions with peers are often difficult and distressing for her, many times leading to seclusion. As she entered her teen years, Brooke saw her sister socialize with friends and wanted to participate in “teenage” activities, but it was difficult to find a place where she would fit in. We knew there were many teens for Brooke to meet, there was just nowhere for this to take place. As parents, this affected us deeply. Then two years ago, through United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County (UCP-OC), we heard about the Friday Night Club.

Friday Night Club opened Brooke’s world. This bi-weekly event is a place where teens with disabilities feel welcomed and accepted. It gives teens with or without disabilities the opportunity to play games, watch movies, sing karaoke and simply spend time with one another in an inclusive and fun environment. Friday Night Club gives teens with special needs something to look forward to.

Every person deserves a place to belong and friends to share in their journey, and Brooke now has that. This club brought out positive emotions in Brooke we had never seen, and more than anything we see self-confidence. In addition to Friday Night Club, Brooke looks forward to UCP-OC’s therapeutic fitness and music classes, as well as respite with a trained UCP-OC employee, which also gives us a much needed break. UCP-OC has given our daughter a home.

Kershberg family
Kershberg Family

With your help, Brooke can continue to look forward to Friday Night Club and the other UCP-OC services she and nearly 4,000 Orange County children and families utilize throughout the year. The Friday Night Club is just one of the many programs UCP-OC offers to end the isolation that so many children and teens with special needs feel. Programs at UCP-OC serve the critical developmental, social, and emotional needs of children and teens with disabilities and provide much-needed support to parents and caregivers, including education and skilled childcare.

We invite you to join us in giving back to UCP-OC this season in gratitude for all UCP-OC has done for our daughter and her new friends. We are grateful for a place where teens can feel accepted for who they are. 

UCP-OC relies on your generosity to fill these critical gaps in services. Children, teenagers and young adults with special needs are a growing demographic in Orange County, and are often isolated and overlooked. Together we can foster friendship and acceptance for all children with disabilities in Orange County. Please help children and teens live a Life Without Limits by sending in your gift or going online to www.ucp-oc.org/give today.

Thank you for making a difference in the life of Brooke and her friends at UCP-OC.

Hilary & Mark Kershberg

P.S. Visit www.ucp-oc.org/give to make a gift today and watch Brooke’s video of her journey to friendship.
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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 cescobar@ucp-oc.org  

 

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.

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A Year in Review

An Update from Our CEO

Cathy with firefighters CEO Cathleen Collins shares in this upcoming Summer Newsletter a review of this past year and celebrates the mark of UCP-OC’s 60 years of serving Orange County

2013 marks a special year as we celebrate our 60th Anniversary in Orange County, and the different core programs, people and events that have played a vital role in our organization. We are excited to reflect on the past 60 years and those who have made a difference this year to empower families and help children challenged with special needs to live a “Life Without Limits”.

Thank you to all of our donors who contributed to our Golf Tournament, Life Without Limits Gala and our Annual Fund Campaign. With your support we were able to raise more than $1.398 million this year!

October launched our fundraising season with our Annual “Autumn Golf Classic” and Brianna Cup Golf Tournament, chaired by Scott Pievac CEO of SPC Retail Display Group with lead sponsor Dana Dowers and DLD Insurance. Please Save the Date for this year’s tournament on Monday, October 21, 2013.

In March our support guilds ushered in spring with two spectacular events, the first a festive Fashion Show hosted by Psi Delta and the second a glamorous Casino Royale, hosted by the Sea & Sky Guild and chaired by Guild Founder and President, Linda Beresford.

On Friday May 10, 2013 we held our most successful Life Without Limits Gala to date. Honoring our 60th Anniversary and the philanthropic leadership of Michael K. Hayde. His example of community support and personal philosophy on giving back made him the perfect recipient of our UCP-OC Impact Award. We are very grateful for Mr. Hayde’s support of our organization and the children and families we serve. We are especially grateful for our many event sponsors including lead Life Without Limits Sponsor, The Argyros Family Foundation. For a complete list of event sponsors please see our upcoming newsletter.

UCP-OC is fortunate to have a team of skilled and professional therapists, administrative staff and program specialists who work tirelessly throughout our community. Our collaborative and coordinated children’s services strive to meet the comprehensive needs of families to ensure the support they need throughout a child’s life. This year many of our therapists and staff have spent countless hours outside of UCP-OC earning new certifications and accreditations to further serve the children that come to UCP-OC.

You can remain updated on the happenings at UCP-OC by following us on our Facebook, blog and even Twitter page!

Thank you for supporting our mission to serve the Orange County community and acknowledging the importance of the programs and services our organization provides. Please consider a gift to UCP-OC to support our Annual Fund this year. Annual gifts to UCP-OC help to ensure that every child in need of services receives help and supports critical infrastructure needed to provide excellent care and service. Most importantly, your support helps to ensure a Life Without Limits for every child with disabilities!

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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 www.ocmarathon.com (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 ewylie@ucp-oc.org

 

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 Friday Night Club for Teens with Special Needs

Looking for an avenue to get your teen involved?

I am thrilled to introduce you all to a new club that has joined forces with UCP-OC; a club that has formed for the sole purpose of creating a place and time for teens with special needs to come together and just hang out! For typical teens this is not a concept that is new to them, but there aren’t many places or avenues for teens with special needs to spend time together.

The Friday Night Club was started by a high school student named Natalie. As the other children in the family left for college, her brother was left without his playmates. Natalie saw a need for her brother to have a time to meet other teens with special needs and get to know them by hanging out. Not only is it a special time for these teens, but typical teens volunteer at the event and really create a connection with these teens. The club meets twice a month, one time at their home and the other time is at UCP-OC from 7-10pm for teens ages 13-18.

I had the privilege of going to one of the Friday Night clubs in their home, and it was astounding to see. To begin with there are so many activities for these teens to do; there is ping pong, Uno, Jenga, basketball, pool, video games and food restriction-friendly snacks are brought by families and are provided. Many of the teens just sit and hang out in groups to talk and get to know each other. The generosity of this family is astounding to say the least. Where I would go to retreat from the world after a long week of work, they open up their doors and hearts to these teens. They simply want to create a safe environment for teens to get together for games, movies, conversation and friendship just like typical teens, and get so much joy with the sound of laughter and life these teens create!

This Friday, August 19th, from 7-10pm the teens will be meeting at the UCP-OC facility to watch a movie on the projector and play bingo! 980 Roosevelt, Irvine 92620; Suite 100

Adult supervision is always present, but if your teen needs special care please stay and join your teen in the activities. Currently they are choosing between three movies: 1) Paul Blart, Mall Cop 2) Like Mike 3) Karate Kid.

So as they say, bring a pillow, bean bag, or favorite stuffed animal, and join the fun!

We look forward to seeing you there!

For more information or questions please contact:

• Natalie: opusnumber4@gmail.com 

Or

• Elizabeth: ewylie@ucp-oc.org