Variety of Illinois Helps Children with Disabilities Live Active, Independent Lives; “Battle Buddies” Group Founded by Senator Kirk Provides Support for Those Living with Disabilities
CHICAGO –(ENEWSPF)–July 2, 2015. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Bill Brodsky, Chairman of Navy Pier, Inc. today joined Variety of Illinois children and their families, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and members of Senator Kirk’s “Battle Buddies” group for a stair climb in front of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Senator Kirk and his “Battle Buddies” participated in the stair climb to motivate and inspire individuals living with disabilities. Kirk’s “Battle Buddies” is a statewide support group Senator Kirk created to use physical challenges like climbing stairs to help people who are recovering from health setbacks or are disabled set goals in their recovery.
“I want my fellow Battle Buddies to know that they can do anything they put their mind to,” Senator Kirk said. “After my stroke I set goals of climbing stairs in my rehab because I wanted to climb the steps of the Capitol and get back to representing the people of Illinois in the Senate. Everyone has their own steps to climb, and motivating my Battle Buddies to work hard on their recovery and rehabilitation has become my primary goal. When you’re doing your life’s work, it gives you the energy to keep going.”
Senator Kirk was joined at the event by three battle buddies, Jackson Cunningham, Sarah Chung and Linda Mastandrea. Jackson is a 12-year-old stroke survivor from Champaign who inspired Senator Kirk in his recovery after he suffered a stroke in 2012. Jackson wrote him a letter telling him to “never give up” and that “all the hard work is worth it.” They became pen pals while the Senator was recovering and have become each other’s “battle buddy” on their roads to recovery. Sarah is visually impaired and is currently training to participate on USA’s Paralympic Judo team at the Paralympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Linda, a Paralympic gold and silver medalist in track and field, is Variety’s Chairman of the Board. Linda has cerebral palsy.
Variety of Illinois works to improve quality of life for children living with disabilities or other challenges through programs like “Kids on the Go!”, a National Mobility Program that provides equipment not covered by insurance to children with mobility limitations. The “Variety at Play” program offers activities that are accessible and inclusive for children with disabilities, and “Live to Achieve” encourages participation in adaptive sports. By providing specialized equipment such as walkers and bikes and opportunities for activities with peers, these programs help children with disabilities live more active and independent lives.
During the event Senator Kirk also met with Kelly Heneghan, a Board Member of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and co-f0under of NextSteps, a rehab facility that focuses on paralysis and spinal cord injury patients. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation champions quality of life, rehabilitation and research efforts focused on improving the lives of all those impacted by paralysis. Through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center, the Foundation reaches millions of individuals and provides resources, tools and supports to enable independent living.