February Brave Kids Newsletter

Monthly UCP-OC receives the UCP Brave Kids Newsletter and we then pass it along to our families, friends and professionals throughout the community. Brave Kids, a program of the United Cerebral Palsy National Office, provides a support community and resources for children and youth, ages 6 – 17,  with disabilities and chronic/life-threatening illnesses and their families and caregivers.

Twin Sisters Who are Hearing Impaired Connect with Super Bowl-winning Player

Twin sisters Erin and Riley Kovalcik, who are partially deaf due to a genetic condition, received a great surprise earlier this month when they met Seattle Seahawks player Derrick Coleman. Coleman caught the attention of millions of people, including the nine-year-old twin sisters from New Jersey, when a Duracell commercial featured his journey of becoming the first legally deaf player in the National Football League (NFL). After one of the sisters wrote an encouraging letter to the star player, their father posted a picture of it on Twitter and sent it to Coleman. “Really was great hearing from a friend who I have so much in common with,” replied Coleman. “Even though we wear hearing aids, we can still accomplish our goals and dreams!” Despite his hectic schedule in preparing for the Seahawks appearance in the Super Bowl, Coleman went the extra mile to connect with Erin and Riley– surprising them in-person and inviting the girls and their family to attend the big game. Click here to see the full story!

If you would like more information about hearing loss, visit United Cerebral Palsy’s My Child Without Limits  website.

Firefighter Teaches Safety for Children with Autism

Massachusetts Firefighter Lance Mason is working hard to educate people on fire safety for children with autism. Mason began his program nearly a decade ago, after his now 12-year-old son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. His program raises awareness about how a person with autism may not react to emergency situations the same way as someone without autism would, and how to help them safely. It includes addressing the role of a caregiver in preparing a loved one with autism, home fire safety and more. Click here to read more.

More information related to fire safety and people with disabilities can be found on the UCP National website. Click here to check it all out.

Student with Cerebral Palsy Receives One-handed Flute

Twelve-year-old Melissa Henricks, who has cerebral palsy and difficulty using her left hand, always dreamed of playing the flute, which is typically a two-handed instrument. Kevin Smith, band director at Selvidge Middle School in Ballwin, Missouri, where Henricks attends, helped to make that dream a reality. Together with his wife and school district, Smith was able to create a custom-made, one-handed flute for Melissa. “It’s amazing how wonderful he could be to make this for me,” said Henricks. But Smith did not stop there– he then constructed a new fingering chart for Henricks to learn her new instrument during their winter break! Click here to read more!

Past article you might have missed…Artist Gives New Look to Disney Princesses
disney28n-14-webItalian artist and fashion critic Alexsandro Palombo gives Disney princesses a new look in his latest piece. The characters are portrayed as women with disabilities in various ways, ranging from Princess Jasmine shown as a double amputee to Cinderella fitting her glass slipper on a prosthetic. Click  here to read more!


Better Speech and Hearing Month!

Better Hearing and Speech month is here!

For those of you that did not know, May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! UCP-OC will be celebrating by highlighting our special needs programs that tailor to kids with speech-language disabilities.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has been celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month every May since 1927; and thanks to their continued effort, most people with speech and language problems can be helped by working together with a Speech-Language Pathologist, or SLP. At UCP-OC we have very gifted Speech-Language Pathologists and Speech-Language Pathologist Assistants. Our SLPs and SLPAs work with children to achieve better speech and hearing in a number of ways through improving oral motor strength and coordination to improve speech, working on breathing techniques to provide respiratory support for speech and building vocabulary for communication success

UCP-OC is dedicated to enabling children to Live a Life Without Limits. Celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month is just one of the many ways we like to help.     

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.

Child of the Month: September


School is started this week, and Kaitlyn can’t wait to start her year off as a sophomore in high school, she loves being around her peers. Kaitlyn was born 2 months premature and spent her first 5 weeks in the hospital. In 1997 she was diagnosed with CP, and that’s where the family’s relationship with UCP-OC started. Kaitlyn received occupational therapy as well as physical therapy with UCP-OC, and currently she has a one-on-one inclusion facilitator, named Eliza Lopez, that meets her at the Boys and Girls Club in Garden Grove. The inclusion specialist allows Kaitlyn to interact with the other children at the facility, so others can move past the fact that she is in a wheelchair and see what a special girl she is.

She enjoys playing solitaire on the computer, bowling and playing hangman with her good friend Marina. At her latest birthday party she went bowling, and even had a few strikes!  She truly is a very special girl that has pushed past her physical boundaries making her a great representation of the organization’s mission of Life Without Limits.

We all know that life with a special needs child can be challenging, especially without a resource to give you guidance and support throughout the process. Kaitlyn and her family found a resource in UCP-OC and wanted to find a way to give back. Recently the family was approached by a friend who started a non-profit called Sports for a Cause and that’s where the journey began.

The team envisioned a basketball tournament in honor of Kaitlyn to benefit UCP-OC and its programs that have assisted the family throughout the years. The event took place Sunday, August 21st at the Garden Grove Sports Complex, and attracted around 200-220 participants and spectators. Garden Grove Hospital was a great support at the event, and its staff came out in droves! They made up five teams and had numerous fans at the game. Team UCP-OC consisted of Kaitlyn’s extended family, and was the only team with females! Go team UCP-OC! There were eight teams that played four 23 minute games.

UCP-OC is very grateful for the family’s support as well as Garden Grove Hospital and Sports for the Cause during this difficult time as we transition to a philanthropic non-profit, raising 50% of our own support.

Certain Proof: A Question of Worth

A revolutionary documentary has entered the world through the hard work of director Ray Ellis. This highly regarded film master has addressed a topic that is common in our daily lives: how can children and teens with cerebral palsy thrive in public schools? The documentary follows the lives of three children with cerebral palsy and documents their everyday routine struggles that come along with attending public school. Throughout the film, the children try to prove their worth and ability to be taught just as any other child can. The three individuals face countless barriers to a successful education, and with the help of their zealous mothers, they join with many others to fight for a voice in education. This film is the perfect starting point to fight for your child’s voice too. To view a trailer of the film, click on the link below. We encourage you to take a few minutes and watch it. It will without a doubt leave you wanting to see more!

In this photo (from left to right): Kevin and Nicole Elder, director and producer Ray Ellis, Cathleen Collins, and Pam Patterson.

You can view the trailer for this movie at the below link:

For more information about the movie and the director, visit the site below:





Written by: Ellie