I am dedicating this post to my mother and father, because you are the best (obviously) and I love you both so much! Thank you for supporting me in all that I do in life, I don’t know where I would be without your patience, your inspiration, and encouragement over the years.
I hope all is well on this lovely Friday afternoon! It is a beautiful 85 degrees out today, can you say summertime? Ahh, the sun is my love. Soooo…. I finally have a chance to sit down and write to you all, about last weekend down in San Diego. Where to begin? Well for those of you who don’t know already, I was awarded the United Cerebral Palsy National “Outstanding Youth of the Year” award for 2013!! I was very excited to be nominated by the UCP center here in Orange County, and I found out I would be receiving the award a few weeks ago. Still hasn’t hit me yet!
I think this is one of the moments that I’ll never forget–it was very surreal for me to be recognized on the national level for all my efforts over the years! I felt so special, and so honored to be attending with such inspiring CP peers and volunteers. I was amazed at how all of these people come together to work toward bettering the CP community for all of us. To be quite honest, I felt fairly unprepared for this event! It was a “bigger deal” than I imagined, and once I arrived I started to realize what kind of night I was in for! Everyone I met somehow knew my name, and knew I was being honored with this title. I was so flattered, but at the same time, it made me feel so proud of myself! I have enjoyed so much, getting to connect with all of my TeenCP friends that I hardly find this something to be awarded for, at times. But this night really put it all into perspective. I was greeted by several important people from the UCP National office from Washington D.C. and then met with actor (Breaking Bad) R.J. Mitte and co-host TV actress Cheryl Hines. What a cool experience! My parents and I were seated along with our friends from the UCP-OC center. For any of the other awardees reading this right now, congratulations to you all, and thank you for your dedication to improving the lives of others with and without CP! I was so moved and inspired by your words of encouragement as you shared your personal stories. What a great night we all had.
As for myself, I hadn’t prepared much of a “speech” in comparison to the other awardees, but I think I managed to send out my thank you’s and blessings before I got off the podium. Part of me wishes I had said more and told more of “my story” behind TeenCP and my efforts, but just hearing the audience’s loud and supportive applause left me warmhearted and a little bit speechless! Of course, my legs started to shake immediately…nerves and CP aren’t the best combo, as I’m sure many of you know! So I just want to extend my thanks to everyone who attended this conference, who took time out of their busy schedule to fly in and discuss important issues related to CP and disabilities. I didn’t have a center like UCP when I was younger, and seeing all of these people there for “my” cause made me feel so incredibly happy. To know that there are resources out there for families and young children with disabilities gives me great comfort. Again, thank you everyone at the UCP National Conference for your dedication, and also for believing in what I do. I think it is so important to raise awareness about all the young adults with CP that are coming into our world. We all can make a difference if we just belief in our potential, right? Sharing the positive and negative aspects of CP is also so important, I feel because it shows others that they are not alone in their struggles, and that there is always something about life to look forward to. We are all here to learn, to love, and to grow–and I’m just here to share that with everyone! I wouldn’t be here writing to you all today if it wasn’t for all the support and positive feedback I have received over the years. My TeenCP friends have guided me just as much as I attempt to guide others! It gives me great pleasure, writing, speaking, and sharing about my experiences because I know that maybe I making someone smile, or feel more at ease in that moment. Thank you, everyone for allowing me to do so.
As I am entering my 20’s, I feel more and more comfortable with my body and who I am becoming–but I always know I have a long way to go each and every day–and knowing that I have my online community to share that experience with makes me breathe easier at the end of the day. People often ask how I feel about being this “figure” for young teens and young adults, and I am never quite sure how to respond to that question. It is a blessing to be considered a role model, and I think that last weekend at the UCP dinner was a confirmation of that discovery; a real turning point for me is to realize that the voice that I have as a young woman with Cerebral Palsy is one that people listen to and respond to. I become emotional as I write this now, and I think it is because it is all so happily overwhelming for me, to feel like a leader. It brings me joy, pride, and confidence; confidence that I did not have 4 years ago, when I began blogging as a teen with CP!
In conclusion, I am also happy to announce that in the next few weeks I will have an article featured in four local Orange County Magazines that discuss my contribution to the CP community and what it is like to have CP as a college student! I hope to see an online version that I will be able to share with you all. Check back in, in the next few weeks and “like” the TeenCP Facebook Page!
Thanks for reading, have a beautiful weekend, my beautiful people!
RJ Mitte, Me (Katy Fetters), and Cheryl Hines!