Well known City of Leduc resident Greg Willson (on right) joins Mayor Greg Krischke in Proclaiming October 2, 2013 as World Cerebral Palsy Day in Leduc.
Wednesday October 2nd might have passed by for many without much notice but for over 9,000 people in Alberta, and their families and friends, it was an important day of hope. Proclaimed in Leduc as World Cerebral Palsy Day, no one was happier to see that Proclamation signed than Greg Willson.
As a lifelong sufferer of Cerebral Palsy, Greg has not let this disorder define him. Greg is a well known face around Leduc as he is very active, always attending events throughout the City, working at his job in the Executive Royal Inn which he has held for many years, and volunteering with various organizations and even winning Leduc's Volunteer of The Year Award several years back. So when he had the opportunity to be present with Mayor Krischke as the Proclamation was signed he jumped at the chance and was front and center with his winning smile firmly in place.
The Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta (CPAA) is working hard at educating people about this disability but unless you have had to become educated because CP has touched you or your family personally there are still many misconceptions about the disorder. Cerebral Palsy is not a disease. Technically, CP is described on the CPAA website as "…a term used to describe a group of conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination." Medical dictionaries define CP as a "bilateral, symmetrical, non-progressive paralysis resulting from developmental defects in the brain or from trauma at birth". Once acquired Cerebral Palsy does not progress but it is not curable, so rather than "treatment" the CPAA prefers the term "management" to best describe how people deal with CP.
CP is caused by damage to the developing brain either by genetic or developmental disorders, injury or disease. Most cases of CP are called Congenital Cerebral Palsy because they begin during pregnancy, labour, or shortly after birth. However, CP is not an inherited condition and cannot be passed along genetically.
Acquired Cerebral Palsy is less common and is generally caused by a head injury or brain infection in a child under two years of age. Except in its mildest forms CP can be seen in the first 12 to 18 months when children fail to reach movement milestones.
There are three main types of CP which are Spastic, Athetoid, and Ataxic. These categories refer to the lack of muscular control people with CP live with, including stiffness or tightness in the muscles, uncontrolled movements that occur, most noticeably when a person starts to make a movement, shaky, unsteady movements that can affect balance, or quite often, a mix of many of these symptoms. These muscle issues can affect the arm and leg on just one side of the body, both arms and legs with the legs significantly more affected than the arms, or the entire body including muscles in the mouth and face. It can be a devastating disability with 1 in 4 children with CP unable to talk, 1 in 3 cannot walk, 1 in 2 have an intellectual disability, and 1 in 4 have epilepsy.
In spite of these challenges one of the most important points the CPAA wants to get across to everyone is that "People with Cerebral Palsy can go to school, have jobs, get married, raise families and live in their own homes. Most of all, people with cerebral palsy need the opportunity for independence and full inclusion in our society." Hence the organization's Vision Statement of "A life without limits for people with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities."
Education is just one of the reasons why World Cerebral Palsy Day is so important. The theme for 2013 is "Change My World In One Minute". The goal for this campaign is to increase global awareness of Cerebral Palsy as well as engage the 17 million individuals worldwide who live with CP.
A website has been set up at www.worldcpday.org that has a ton of information for anyone living with CP as well as the general public. This is the second year that a contest is being run in conjunction with World CP Day during the month of October that ties in brilliantly with the theme for this year. They are asking anyone and everyone to create a written or video message that takes one minute to read or watch, with their idea on how to improve the life of a person living with CP. Inventors are also invited to submit their designs or working prototype of an invention that would benefit someone with CP. Up to three winners will split a prize pool of $50,000.00 for the best ideas/inventions in three different categories and the winners will be announced on Monday, July 21, 2014.
Last year over 470 ideas were submitted for World CP Day and the winner of the "Inventions" category was a team of people from the University of Virginia who developed a solar powered wheel chair with retractible panels.
With all these exciting ideas and innovations coming forward and people becoming more knowledgable about all the things that people living this disorder are capable of, it is no wonder Greg's brilliant smile continues to shine brighter every day.