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Kyla, 9

Hanover | Services: Therapy

Advocating for Those Who Can't

"Some disabled children and adults can't speak for themselves so I want to speak for them," said Kyla Roerty of her desire to be an advocate for individuals with cerebral palsy.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 15 months old, 9-year-old Kyla has already begun sharpening her speaking skills. She takes drama classes, is treasurer of her Hanover County elementary school's student council and has served as a spokesperson for Horses in Service, a therapeutic horseback riding program in which she participates. Last summer Kyla and her parents, Gerry and Julee, traveled to Washington, D.C. where Kyla represented Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) as a National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) All-Star during the organization's Family Advocacy Day. Kyla, who said she "was excited to be selected," and her parents talked with legislators about the need to continue funding for pediatric health care programs.

After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy by one of CHoR's developmental pediatricians as an infant, Kyla began physical therapy through Hanover County's Early Intervention Program. She had rhizotomy surgery to reduce the effects of spasticity at a local hospital before her third birthday and began weekly physical therapy at CHoR's Brook Road Campus when she was five.

"It's unbelievable," commented Julee of Kyla's progress. "You can see a world of difference. Mandy [Pillis, Kyla's physical therapist] personalizes therapy to Kyla's interests."

Julee recalled how Kyla, who was a little apprehensive during her first appointment, jumped right in once Mandy "created a runway and turned on Hannah Montana music. Mandy makes therapy about real-life activities."

Kyla has learned how to ride a bike, jump rope, hop on one foot, and play kickball and soccer with Mandy's help. In the summer of 2010, she participated in a youth version of the Ironman Triathlon at a local swim club. She ran a third of a mile, swam two laps and ran another third of a mile, finishing the race with a huge smile.

"I like coming [to CHoR] because it inspires me to achieve goals and get better at things I used to not be able to do," Kyla said.

Following a second surgery in Oct. 2011 to improve her gait, Kyla had to re-learn many of the skills she had previously mastered with Mandy. Despite the long recovery process, she has maintained a positive attitude and her busy schedule, which includes soccer, cheerleading, basketball, baseball, piano and playing with her two Golden Retriever puppies. She's also representing Children's Miracle Network Hospitals as the 2012 Virginia Champion to raise awareness of the importance of children's hospitals nationwide.

"I always say never give up even if you hit a rough patch," said Kyla with a smile.

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