Rancho foundation appeals for funds

DOWNEY - The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation has launched its 2012 Holiday Appeal, which supports many of the miracles that happen at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center each and every day. The Foundation provides support to more than 40 Rancho programs, from the Art of Rancho to Zumba, that help Rancho's patients build bridges to more independent lives. Along the way, there are miracles at Rancho each and every day. Jamielyn Munoz, Rita Assoian and Katy Sullivan are three of those miracle Rancho patients.

Jamielyn was unable to move or speak when she came to Rancho in 2010 with a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor and just four weeks to live. But she didn't die. Inspired by an amazing princess birthday party on her fifth birthday Dec. 31, 2010, this wonderful girl fought back. She used the iPad the Foundation gave her to learn English.

Against all odds, she returned to Rancho this spring and learned to walk again! Now she is back in school and looking forward to her third Christmas since she first came to Rancho.

Rita came to Rancho in a deep coma after she had been hit by a car traveling at more than 90 miles per hour. Her body was devastated with a broken neck, a major brain injury and broken ribs that punctured her lungs. Her liver was also punctured and she had more than 15 other broken bones.

Although she wasn't expected to ever regain consciousness, she awoke 22 days later. She had to relearn everything. Before her accident, Rita had been a member of the Glendale Community College track team. Her physical fitness served her well in her rehab. After a few weeks, she said her first words...."Hi Mommy!" when her Mom walked into her hospital room.

Then the real miracles began. She began to walk, then went on several outings while a halo device protected her broken neck. A few months later, Rita amazed her classmates when she went back to college. And in 2011, she amazed even herself when she returned to the track team and ran the 100, 200, and 400 meters, the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays and competed in the long jump. Today she is pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor.

This year, Katy Sullivan ended a seven-year quest that fulfilled her lifelong dream to run. She came to Rancho in 2005 after badly injuring her back while trying to run with her prosthetic legs. Rancho therapist Julie Kasayama helped Katy achieve her dream by volunteering to walk her around the Rancho campus and then teaching her to jog safely at a nearby park. Six weeks later, Katy could run!

Two years later she became the first double above-the-knee amputee to compete in an international track meet. She not only won, she set a world record in the 200 meters! This year, Katy's goal was to make the U.S. Paralympic Track Team in the 100 meters.

In her Paralympic trials race in Indianapolis, Katy trailed by 10 meters a third of the way through the race, but fought back with every stride and won the race as well as the opportunity to represent America at the Paralympic Games in London. She achieved her dream and set a new American record in the 100 meters in her category while racing before 80,000 people in London's Olympic Stadium!

"A gift to the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation keeps giving throughout the year to Rancho patients like Jamielyn, Rita and Katy," said Rancho Los Amigos Foundation President Consuelo Martinez. "The Downey Patriot has published many stories of how Rancho patients overcame their disabling illnesses and injuries to return to meaningful lives in the community. Donations by Rancho supporters make possible many of the programs that help fuel these achievements," she said.

For example, in October the Foundation co-sponsored the Rancho Women's Health Conference and helped fund the Spinal Injury Games and the Rancho Haunted House. In November, it was the Art of Rancho Exhibition and the Arts and Crafts Show. This month, the Foundation brought artists from the LA Opera to sing holiday carols for Rancho patients and staff, a program made possible by funding from Supervisor Don Knabe. Working with its partners in the community, the Foundation is also helping provide holiday turkeys and hams for patient families in need this holiday season.

Earlier this year, the Foundation provided Rancho with two ReWalk Exoskeleton robots (the first for any hospital in the Western U.S.) that are helping paralyzed Rancho patients walk again. It also works with Supervisor Knabe and Rancho clinicians on the Don Knabe Pediatric Arts Program, Performing Arts of Rancho, Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program and many more programs and services that help patients restore their self-esteem and learn to set and achieve personal goals.

"Making a gift to the Foundation is so easy, and it will make such a difference in helping our patients realize the power of their dreams," Connie said. "Please think about the impact the Foundation has on the lives of patients like me, because without their support, I would not have been able to represent our country in the Paralympic Games in London this summer," Katy said.

"Without the assistance of the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, many of the special programs that got me back into college and back onto the track would not have existed," Rita said. "Today I am pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor, but that dream wouldn't have been a possibility if I hadn't had help along the way from the programs funded by the Foundation. I hope you will consider supporting the Foundation this holiday season, because every gift you give will help make a Rancho miracle for patients like me."

To support the Foundation's efforts, please send a check to Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at P.O. Box 2370, Downey, CA 90242. For further information, please call the Foundation office at (562) 401-7053.

********** Published: December 20, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 36