Lauren Walier pushed through the challenges of cerebral palsy to learn to walk, ballroom dance and start her own nonprofit.
She isn’t about to let a recent health setback keep her from the fifth annual Walk/Run/Roll in Lauren’s Shoes on the Buffalo Outer Harbor this weekend.
“Hopefully, it will bring some positive energy and good vibes,” the 20-year-old Walier said during a recent phone interview from her home in suburban Atlanta.
Walier – whose parents, Sherry and Peter, were raised in Hamburg – has used an intensive form of physical therapy to go from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane, and, during the last two years, the international ballroom dance circuit.
She and her family often visit Western New York, and her Make Lemon Aide Foundation for CP plays a key role in the region. It raises awareness about cerebral palsy and raises money to train physical therapists in the Symptom Recovery Model of physical therapy that has helped her. The foundation also helps cover the cost of treatment borne by families touched by CP.
CP makes it harder for Walier to speak. She sometimes needs to take a deep breath during sentences. That challenge became more pronounced this spring during the end of freshman year at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.
Last month, specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital slightly enlarged the start of her airway, taking great care during the procedure to protect her vocal cords. Those doctors this summer will look to take part of her rib cage in a more complex eight-hour surgery to further widen the airway.
The Walier family covers the out-of-pocket costs associated with Lauren’s care. Her foundation looks to help others – and the Walk/Run/Roll arguably has become the most accessible event of its kind in the native region of her parents. A growing number of participants include families pushing strollers, as well as those not only with CP, but other conditions, using walkers, wheelchairs and other means to move along the waterfront course.
“It’s so awesome,” said Walier’s mother, Sherry. “It’s a day not just to lift CP but to lift everybody.”
It also builds upon an important lesson that Walier learned during her freshman year at Rollins College, where she became part of the school’s Inclusion Panel.
Her involvement came after a professor told her there was a big difference between “acceptance” and “inclusion.” It reminded her of her high school days, when fellow students would smile and say hello to her, but were far less likely to ask her to join them for lunch or a movie.
“Inclusion is important,” Walier said. “I think it’s a keystone to happiness and love. You want to be included in everyday activities and in your everyday environment. I really harnessed into that, and hope we can bring it into the race this year more than ever.”
Fifth Annual Walk/Run/Roll in Lauren’s Shoes
What: 5K and 1-mile walk for people of all abilities, including those with wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers, to benefit the Make Lemon Aide Foundation for CP. For a unique twist, you can choose to wear ankle weights to simulate what it may be like for someone living with cerebral palsy.
When: Walk starts at 10 a.m., 5K at 11 a.m. Sunday. Race-day registration and packet pickup starts at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Wilkeson Pointe, 225 Fuhrmann Blvd.; there will be plenty of free parking.
Cost: $30 for adults, $15 for those under 18 through Wednesday; cost climbs $5 after that. Event-day registration available.
For more: Donate, register for the race or learn more about the foundation at makelemonaide.org.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon