As a person with a disability, I have had to overcome many obstacles and challenges over the course of my life. At the age of 6 months, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP), which was due to a lack of oxygen at birth. The Mayo Clinic defines Cerebral Palsy as a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by an insult to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.
CP has made everyday tasks (ADLs) such as, eating, walking, typing, extremely difficult. However, it has also taught me how to persevere while not letting my disability define me. It was ingrained in me through my parents and support system, never to give up on my goals.
Aside from a very encouraging support system, I found strength through my faith in Jesus Christ from a very young age. Being raised in the church, I have always heard about how Jesus loves me and wants what’s best for me. However, I did not start taking my faith seriously until high school, when I started attending youth group and Young Life regularly. I found in Young Life, as well as the church, the support beyond my family and many therapists that encouraged me to live life to the fullest. This provided me a solid group of friends that I have never had before. These friends provided encouragement to step out of my comfort zone and try things, such as being on the track team.
This new confidence I found through my faith, family, and my friends, enabled me to go away to George Fox University (Newberg, OR.), on a scholarship through the Act Six Leadership Initiative (founded by Northwest Leadership Foundation and the Portland Leadership Foundation), and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Ministries. During my time at George Fox, the university ranked no. 134 on Forbes’ “America’s Best Colleges” list and was named the top-ranked Christian college in the northwest. It was through my studies and experiences at George Fox where I developed a heart for the disability community in the Portland metro area and eventually worldwide. I learned that I have a heart for people with disabilities to have the opportunity to live life to the fullest, especially high school kids.
Since graduating from George Fox, I have devoted my time and resources to improving the quality of life of others, particularly those who have been impacted by disability, as-well-as educating about physical and emotional hurdles to young entrepreneurs. I have done this through promoting disability awareness in public schools, mentorship, disabilities advocacy, disabilities ministries and educating the general public through public speaking engagements. Using these experiences as a foundation, I am now bringing my message of Breaking Chains to those seeking success in their personal and professional lives. I look forward to continuing to make an impact city wide, state wide and globally through different endeavors.
Meet Stanley III
Stanley is Blake’s right hand (literally) man! Stanley is a Black Lab and Golden Retriever cross, who joined Blake’s team in August 2016. Trained by Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, CA, Stanley is living his dream of being a service dog! He is happiest when he’s retrieving items or “visiting” with his human companions.
For more information about Canine Companions for Independence, please visit www.cci.org.