VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — An 8-year-old Valaite girl turned her cerebral palsy diagnosis into a message of hope for the community with the help of her family business.
Riley Thomas-Clark is a third grader at Ichabod Crane Primary School. After class, Riley does it all—everything from golf and cheerleading to gymnastics. Currently, she’s learning to do a cartwheel off the balance beam, but moves like that weren’t always a possibility for Riley.
At 18 months old, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, also known as CP. According to the CDC, Cerebral Palsy is a group of brain disorders caused by brain damage or abnormal brain development that can affect movement, muscle tone, or posture. The severity and symptoms vary.
“We did not know anything about it. When my husband and I were told she might have CP, we were in shock,” Sarah Thomas-Clark, Riley’s Mom, said.
An MRI confirmed Riley had a form of CP called “spastic hemiplegia” which affects the muscles and reflexes on one side of the body. For six years, Riley used an AFO (ankle-foot orthoses), a type of leg brace to help her move.
“It’s definitely been a journey,” Sarah said. “Back in 2014, social media wasn’t what it is today. You couldn’t go on Instagram and search hashtag CP and find a feed of information. So, we didn’t have those resources and there’s nothing local.”
Riley’s parents—Bill and Sarah—decided to create a local platform for CP awareness through their small business Thomas Pest Services. On Fridays during the month of March, employees wear green and takes a selfies with the hashtag #TPGoesGreenforCP.
“I love when our employees are wearing their shirts and random people wil come up and be like, ‘thank you’,” Sarah said. “And when I hear those stories it just warms my heart. I truly know we are making a difference.”
Sarah said the campaign goes beyond Riley’s story. A few employees have family members with CP, and they want people to know the diagnosis is more prevalent than many might think.
According to the CDC, cerebral palsy is the most common motor disabilty in American children. The center’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network estimated one in every 345 children has been identified with CP.
Although there is no cure for CP, treatments, therapies and medications can improve symptoms.
Riley has been able to enhance her motor skills through countless hours of physical therapy and her commitment to gymnastics. This March marks almost one year for Riley without a leg brace.
When News10’s Stephanie Rivas asked what her message is for other kids with CP, RIley had to consider the question for a moment but then she answered.
“Never give up.”