Jessica K. is a special education teacher in West Chester School District and studying toward her MBA to find ways to improve the education system for kids with challenges. She’s legit and you are helping make a difference in her life – and making it possible to show her students what people with challenges can do if they put their mind to it.
“I’ve been disabled all my life, and it hasn’t been an easy ride (ha, no pun intended). Here’s a little background story to help paint the picture:
“Around the time I was 18 months old, my parents realized something wasn’t quite right; my cute little baby shoes weren’t easy to get on my feet. After talking with a pediatrician, it was recommended that my parents take me to a specialized children’s hospital. My parents took me to a bunch of different doctors up and down the east coast, had genetic testing done, muscle biopsies, and a bunch of other stuff, but there were no answers.
“At the age of three, my face changed almost overnight as I lost muscle strength on the right side of my face. It was thought that I had a stroke, but doctors quickly confirmed that wasn’t the case. Shortly after, my parents noticed my hands were contracting. We still went to doctors and there still weren’t any answers.
“Growing up disabled came with a variety of emotions. I remember in fourth grade being so confused about why I was made this way, literally thinking I was an alien (spoiler alert- I have since confirmed I’m an actual unicorn). My parents always knew what to say to make me feel better, but I couldn’t help but wonder why.
“After going to so many different, well known specialists, at 17, I decided I was done with doctors, and basically dropped out of care. I just wanted to keep living my life, and not hear how interesting or unique I was. It got exhausting hearing that appointment after appointment.
“Into adulthood- Around age 23, I realized, but didn’t fully admit that my abilities were changing. I couldn’t do the things I used to like walking, dancing, and even moving without a great deal of effort.
“Fast forward to age 27 when I had the opportunity (and was willing to get into all this again) to do some genetic testing through The Speak Foundation. When the results came back, they were basically inconclusive (some unknown female variant of Duchenne muscular dystrophy). Even a few months later, I had a whole genome sequence done; they tested 22,000 genomes. I figured with about only 25,000 genomes in the human body, they’ll have to find something!
“When I got the results back, they didn’t find anything. I was beyond upset as I was really hoping to get an answer. I cried, I was mad, and wished I could run.
“Thankfully one day when the snow was quickly coming down, I was talking with one of my beautiful friends who reminded me that God has this (my disability) under control. He made me, just like He made each of the snowflakes falling from the sky. Support from amazing friends like this helps me through life and for that I am grateful. However, there are times I wish I could just run, do something on my own to feel better.
“As I continue sharing my life story with you, I want to preface my story by truly acknowledging and understanding that we all experience stress and I’m no different in that aspect. The difference is that I am often unable to release my stress and emotions through vigorous physical activity when many times I wish I could just go for a run.
“When I cycle I feel free. I feel like I’m running. I feel strong and my stress begins to feel manageable. For a moment I almost don’t feel disabled as I ride the bike through the beautiful nature trails.
“The cycle in this picture is one that I loaned and was only able to use when the adaptive cycling program is running (Sundays in May through October).
“With your support, I was able to purchase one of my own that I can use at any time. I want to be the best version of me so I can continue showing up for my students and disability community. I know how I’ve felt, gosh I can’t even put it into words, when I’ve gone for a 15.8 (yes, I’m counting the 1/8th of the mile because darn, I worked hard for it!), and I hope to feel that great more often!”
To all of the donors to the IM ABLE Foundation:
My heart is overflowing with joy and it’s because of you. Because of your kindness and generosity, I was able to get my custom adaptive bike so much sooner than I expected.
To provide a little bit of context: I discovered IM ABLE back in October 2021 when the opportunity to go adapted mountain bike riding was shared with me. I immediately said yes because I had come to love riding an adaptive bike with the PA center for adaptive sports on Sundays. Plus, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to start practicing my goal of self-care. That day, October 22nd, I rode Beth’s bike 3 miles on the mountain, and I fell IN LOVE! Free and completely able!
I don’t believe there are enough thank yous in the world to say how grateful I am. Thank you to each and every person who donated and shared my fundraiser. I couldn’t have done it without you. Another thank you to each person who showed up on Friday, 3/25/22, to celebrate such an exciting moment for me. It truly was a special day that I’ll never forget!
I’m so excited to be exercising and taking care of myself so I can continue to advocate and create change for my community. I already have three races that I’m signed up for, including IM ABLE’s Got the Nerve? Triathlon!
It was truly extra special to have the privilege to meet Beth, the woman who so kindly let me borrow her bike back in October. I didn’t know then what an impact Beth would have on me, but wow, I know now!
With love and gratitude,
Our generous donors and volunteers made this possible and we can’t thank them enough.