Road to independence runs through Amistad Gala

DOWNEY - Once Josefina Guevara graduated from college and got a good job, she thought success in life would be easy. But then tragedy struck. She experienced a complication during pregnancy that resulted in tetraplegia, paralyzing her legs and weakening her arms.Her life was upside down, her confidence replaced by despair. Then she came to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. Within weeks, her life began to change for the better. Instead of frustration, she learned to regain the meaning in her life by crocheting, creating jewelry and singing. She will be one of the stars on Friday, Feb. 25 during the Performing Arts of Rancho show from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center in Downey. "My artworks help me not only to strengthen my hands, but my spirit as well," Josefina says. "I have also found great happiness from singing in the Performing Arts show each year. I have learned to never lose faith in God, because miracles can really happen…just as they have happened to me." Josefina's participation in the Performing Arts of Rancho program is made possible in part by proceeds from the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation's Amistad Gala, which has raised several million dollars to help improve the lives of Rancho patients. The 25th Annual Amistad event will be held Saturday, May 7 at the Westin Long Beach Hotel, with Supervisor Don Knabe and legendary Rancho physician Dr. Jacquelin Perry serving as Honorary Chairs. Event chairs of the silver anniversary gala are Julie Knabe, Beverly Mathis, Connie Martinez and Debbie Tomlinson. "Funds raised at Amistad power many of the miracles that happen at Rancho each and every day," Foundation Board President Gene Klow says. "This year it's especially important to support this event because of the many funding cutbacks to vital programs the hospital must overcome." Proceeds from this year's Rancho gala will also help augment existing funding for crucial patient programs and services, such as the Don Knabe Pediatric Arts Program. One of those whose life has been transformed by this award-winning program is Charlie Uribe, who lost the use of his legs after being shot. He came to Rancho for rehabilitation, spending two months overcoming his physical and emotional challenges. "The Rancho team helped me find the ability within my disabling condition," Charlie says. "When I started in the Pediatric Arts Program, I didn't think I could draw well, but I was surprised with what I could accomplish. Now I have learned both painting and photography, and my work is shown each year in the Art of Rancho show." Charlie has reached his first two goals-to go back to work and school. "Now I want to walk again," he says. "I know it's possible, because at Rancho, I regained my ability to hope and dream." Ruben Rios has also benefited from Amistad funding. In his case, the Art of Rancho program helped him thrive. "When I was 18, I suffered a gunshot wound that left me completely paralyzed from the neck down," Ruben says. "Rancho's therapists introduced me to my first mouth sticks, which allowed me to sketch with ball point pens. One of my therapists liked these drawings so well she displayed them in a showcase at the hospital." Ruben's artworks caught the eye of legendary Rancho artist Robert Thome. "Robert took me under his wing, and explained how others in my condition were excelling as mouthstick artists," Ruben says. "I dedicated myself to being the best artist I could be, and today I am a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists!" Today Ruben is working with Robert and other adult artists to teach Rancho's youth. And so Ruben's life has come full circle, thanks to funding from the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation and his own courage, commitment and talent. "I have gone from having little hope to becoming someone who has helped make a difference in the lives of many others with disabilities," Ruben says. "Words cannot express the enjoyment and feeling of accomplishment in that magical moment when the kids I'm teaching realize that they, too, can achieve their dreams!" For more information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit

********** Published: February 24, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 45