Born at 29 weeks gestation, weighing 2 lbs. 13 oz., I was on a ventilator for 24 hours and in the neonatal intensive care unit for five weeks. Doctors told my parents I might have disabilities. My parents didn't know what to expect. At four months of age, my mother noticed I was not rolling over or sitting up. At 11 months old, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Doctors said I would have trouble walking and doing many physical tasks. Boy, were they wrong. I have since gone ice-skating, skiing, and been a participant on a birthright trip to Israel.
From the time I was six years old I have been determined to create an organization for kids with physical differences. In the summer of 2010, I began transforming my dream into reality. Six girls with cerebral palsy met weekly, took part in art and cooking projects, and, ultimately, created lasting friendships. The participants decided to name the group "Girls Club.' Girls Club was the launch pad to my life's work. The participants wanted to keep Girls Club going all year around. It was then I realized that the idea of girls club could reach more than six girls; so I set out to create a larger organization.
I began expanding my organization in December 2013. I changed the name of the organization from Girls Club to "Just Give Me A Chance." It now incorporates boys and girls with a variety of movement differences. The mission of the organization is to create an environment where children with physical disabilities share a comfortable space and can just be a kid.
Growing up I developed strong friendships with people who did not have physical disabilities. I was thrilled to be seen as just another kid. However, I wished there was an organization for kids with physical differences to have fun and compare stories. I made a promise to myself that I would create an organization where children with physical disabilities could simply have fun and enjoy each other's company.
Just Give Me A Chance provides a space filled with arts and crafts, cooking, games, laughter, singing and more. The organization creates a community where children feel comfortable sharing what it is like to have a movement difference.
As a little girl who participates in the group said, "My favorite part about the group is that I get to play with people just like me."
Just Give Me A Chance started its fourth round of classes in March. Classes are held at the Bernard Wenger Jewish Community Center in Northbrook. For more information, visit www.jgmc.org, email aimee@JGMC.org, or call (847) 751-0073.
Aimee Halstuk is the program director of "Just Give Me A Chance."