A STORY OF EMPOWERMENT
Our community is getting familiar witha voice on the telephone who methodically checks in with our Ambassador families and to get updates on how their Convaid – and soon R82 – equipment is working for them. She eagerly listens to the adventures, challenges, triumphs and future plans of families living with cerebral palsy, mitochondrial disease, spinal muscular atrophy, autism and countless other conditions. Then, she shares these stories on our blog, Facebook pages and on Twitter.
It is not unusual for Sarah to start Tweeting away as soon as she gets up. Then, she’s constantly on the move, curating informative news posts from across Social Media sources, researching topics of interest, conducting telephone interviews, writing blog posts, and traveling to events such as Abilities Expo, up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
Grueling schedule, right? We’ve all been there. We graduate from college, get our first job, want to make a great first impression as we make our way in the world, so we go the extra mile. Welcome to Sarah’s world.
Sarah Best is the Convaid and R82 Community and Social Media Coordinator, tasked with staying at the heart of our community, then sharing the stories she finds. But Sarah doesn’t just listen, she actively participates in the lives of our Convaid and R82 families. She meets up with them at any Abilities Expo happening on the East Coast and hangs out in their home turf.
Recently, she took a trip to Elizabeth, New Jersey, to meet up with the Pacheco Family. She spent a few hours playing with her new best little guy friend, Convaid Ambassador Andrew. She wanted to meet him in person to hear the story of how his braces and Convaid Cruiser wheelchair were stolen and to show that she personally cared about their ordeal.
Then, with pictures and story in hand, she got on a train and headed back to her home in upstate New York although recently, she transferred her base of operations to Florida, where she stayed with her grandma, Lois, until her passing this month.
What our Convaid and R82 community doesn’t know is that Sarah lives with cerebral palsy. She grew up in a Convaid wheelchair until she grew into a self-propelling wheelchair. She doesn’t let challenges with mobility stop her from living a full, purposeful, active life. She’s bonded with the community over a common topic, Invisible Disabilities. Where customer Sara lives with mitochondrial disease that sometimes zaps her of her energy, Sarah Best lives with anxiety alongside more visible symptoms resulting from cerebral palsy.
When offered time off to grieve, Sarah said, “No, Grandma Lois is gone. Her name is Lois Lesser and she is anything but that. She is more, let’s say most. Her last name doesn’t do her justice. Her name should have been Lois Most.
Since I was born, she’s been my biggest fan. She knows I’m doing what I love to do and she would want me to carry on. I have no intention of letting her down.”
It was a red letter day for Convaid & R82’s Sarah Best on her first full day with Edison, her service dog. To share this life event, Convaid Ambassadors Sara and Alexis are going to visit Sarah at the New England Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), a non-profit organization that provides trained assistance dogs to those who need them. Then next month, Sarah Best will catch up with the mother daughter team again at Abilities Expo Boston, to be held September 16-18, 2016 at the Boston Convention and Civic Center.
“I get things done because I have learned that nothing in life comes easy. Everything requires work. Sometimes the work is very, very hard, like physical therapy. It is difficult for me to walk because of my CP, but, I try. I work on my muscles and coordination. When people see me walking, they think – and sometimes ask – why don’t you just walk instead of using a wheelchair?” Sarah shared.
Sarah’s answer is simple. Her wheelchair is more efficient. She is used to it. She can maneuver it like Danica Patrick takes curves in her NASCAR race car. It is not about not walking, Sarah says, it is about efficiency of movement.
Sarah doesn’t race cars, but she does rock climb with adaptive equipment and will be participating with Convaid and R82 STEPtember activities, in support of the cerebral palsy community.
“Take Convaid Ambassador Emmy, for instance,” Sarah said. “She loves her Convaid Cruiser. It is pink, her favorite color, her parents take her around in it all of the time. But, there comes a time when those of us who can self-propel take that first right of passage into taking our own mobility into our hands, as our legs can’t do it.”
This month, Ambassador Emmy went school shopping for new clothes, a backpack, supplies and other back-to-school needs. One new thing was added this year – in addition to her bright pink Convaid Cruiser – Emmy got her first self-propelling wheelchair and took her first baby rolls towards independent mobility. Still, most of her adventures happen in her Convaid.
SARAH & EDISON START A NEW LIFE CHAPTER TOGETHER
Sarah completed her first application for a service dog at age seven, with the help of her parents. She then put this dream on hold until her last year of college. She was going through a rough patch, feeling isolated and alone. This time she was determined. She was an adult. She was in control of her destiny and committed to redouble her efforts to procure a service dog. In Sarah’s mind, it was the best solution to her challenges with anxiety.
“It’s like that Chinese finger trap. The harder you try to pull away from feelings of anxiety, the more stuck your fingers become. The feelings can be unrelenting. Often, I have felt that there is no way out. I have done everything from dialectical behavior training and other therapies, but Edison is the real, real-life solution,” Sarah said.
The report from service dog training camp from Sarah is that their first encounter was as amazing as she imagined it. As she has envisioned for these many years, she actually did wrap her arms around his neck and just bonded with him in love and silence.
Later, she was able to introduce Edison to her parents who had driven Sarah to the NEADS training camp in Boston. As they left, Sarah whispered to Edison that her parents have five acres of land for him to run around on.
“He’s mine. He’s finally, really mine,” Sarah said, fighting back a wave of emotion that was evident in her voice.
“It reminds me of how I hooked up with Convaid. I called and called to volunteer. After a handful of telephone conversations, was accepted! While at my first Expo with Charles Larose, sales manager with Convaid and R82, I knew that I had something special to offer the children that we work with – me. I am one of them. I live with a disability and thrive not in spite of it, but because of it. I have learned stamina, perseverance, the necessity to dream big and fight for my dreams. Here I am. I am barely out of college. I am working my dream job. I have a companion, a friend who gave me hope long before I met him,” Sarah said.
Sarah and Edison are training together for the next two weeks. Life event notwithstanding, Sarah is staying present with the Convaid and R82 community even during her time at NEADS.
“The ability to be of service to the communities we serve makes me complete,” Sarah says.
As she embarks on this new phase of her life with Edison, dreaming about a life with him in their own apartment in New York, Sarah shares a bit of inspiration:
“If you have a dream, dream it in full color. Then, take the steps to achieve it. The human will is something that moves mountains and unlocks something within you that somehow magically guides you to the steps you need to take to get what you want. If I hadn’t called Convaid to volunteer, I would not be sharing my life with this amazing community. If I didn’t go through the anxiety and other life challenges, I would not have had the courage to follow through on one of my life’s biggest dreams, sharing it with a dog of my own. But I did. He’s here. Thank you all for your support. Isn’t that right, Edison?” Sarah concluded.
Please show your support for Sarah and Edison! •
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