“I love you so much Kerry, how did I get so lucky to have a cousin like you?” The day my cousin Laura said this to me I was reaffirmed at how much this statement is true, yet in regards to her. Laura is beautiful, carefree, excited, and has a disability. In 1968 a healthy baby girl was born to my Great Aunt Gen and Uncle Larry. Two years later, Laura got very sick and the doctors who treated her made a grave mistake. The doctors told my aunt and uncle that their once healthy and capable little girl would be unable to walk or talk for the rest of her life. In her heart my aunt did not believe this and through much time and difficulty, Laura was able to walk, talk, and do much more. Laura is a miracle and if not for her I would not be the person I am today.
Growing up, always knowing Laura and now being even closer to her, has taught me love and appreciation of all people. Learning that no one should be judged, I have opened myself up to people that I might not normally have if not for my extraordinary cousin. Laura has a presence about her that is absolutely contagious. I recently decided that if someone like Laura can be so honest and happy, then I should be able to do the same. My aunt and uncle often say how much they admire me for spending time with Laura and treating her as an equal, but for me this is the time I love and cherish the most.
Starting ninth grade at an all girls Catholic high school, I knew that I wanted to be involved in meaningful service. After talking to the dedicated service director at school along with Laura and my family, I decided I would work with PCR (Potomac Community Resources) where Laura is a member. PCR is a private nonprofit organization that is dedicated in working with families and members, who are mentally and physically disabled teens and adults. The first PCR function I participated in is the annual Halloween party my freshman year. Much to my satisfaction Laura would be attending as well. Laura was the light of the party, which came as no surprise. Following her lead, I left any reservations I had at the door and allowed myself to fully interact with the members and I ended up having a terrific time dancing and playing games. Having such a positive experience led me to continue to volunteer with PCR. Sophomore year I transferred and had to adjust to another all girls high school. PCR is not affiliated with my current school but in my junior year I found out that PCR hours are accepted at my current high school and even if they weren’t, I decided that I would still volunteer. PCR offers a variety of classes and programs from which members and their families can select to be a part of. This past year I volunteered with the Tricia Respite Program, which caters to moderately and severely handicapped adults. Getting to know the members by their name and their needs has enabled me to really reach out and work with them. Seeing them finish an art project, complete and obstacle course, or interact well with others brings me joy knowing that I helped them achieve their goal.
Service has played a large role in my high school career. With Laura as my motivator and inspiration, I have been able to redirect my thoughts and actions towards others and their needs. I have learned that disability is really a defining word; the adults that I work with are able to do so much all with a little help from a willing volunteer. I love being this willing volunteer; knowing that I have helped people is greater than any material thing in the world. Since working with the members at PCR has brought me such joy, I know that I want to continue working with people with disabilities all throughout my life.
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