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Meet our Clients



Sales of Courage Kenny Cards support the services of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, a nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center that helps children and adults with disabilities reach for their full potential in every aspect of life. Read the stories below to meet some of the clients whose lives have been impacted by Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.


Jonathan Anderson
Jonathan Anderson: Smiling and moving forward
"Jonathan is an awesome kid who just makes everybody smile. He loves everybody," say his parents, Dave and Jane Anderson. When he was just two months old, Jonathan went into cardiac arrest at home due to swallowing and breathing issues. After his mother, Jane, performed CPR, and after being without a pulse for literally over 40 minutes, Jonathan was rushed to the hospital where he was ventilated for 17 days. "It was hard. We had just adopted Jonathan from Colorado, and now we didn't know what was in store for his future and that of our family," reflects Dave.

Jonathan was delayed in meeting his developmental milestones. "When he was only a few months old, the neurologist told us that Jonathan might never walk or talk." Jonathan immediately began receiving physical and speech therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, adding occupational therapy soon afterwards. It was challenging because Jonathan couldn't communicate. "We could not understand Jonathan very well except through sign language until he was about five years old," explains Dave. Dave credits Vicki, Jonathan's speech therapist, for his many communication achievements.

Dave and Jane continue to work tirelessly to improve Jonathan's quality of life and functional abilities, and he now does many things other kids do including being "naughty" on occasion. Despite his cerebral palsy, he eats well, walks and uses most stairs without assistance, writes his name, and carries on conversations. He enjoys swimming lessons and playing baseball. "Jonathan loves his friends and loves going to school," says dad. "He's a very hard-working kid. He's had to be to make it this far."

Jonathan still comes to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute for therapy once a week, and his infectious laugh and shy smile make working with him fun and his therapists look forward to his appointments. Dave says, "Our number one goal for him is to be happy. He's a hard working kid, and we want him to learn and make progress - to keep moving forward - and he's really doing pretty well."






Stella Dockham: A big bright world of possibility
The Dockham family loves being together outdoors - especially trips to the park. Stella and her twin sister, Uma are smiley, active two-year-olds. Parents Mike and Nicole treasure their daughters "Like any siblings they love each other and play together," Nicole laughs.

Stella, according to her mom, "absolutely loves music and is always dancing." Along with traditional favorites like Itsy Bitsy Spider and Wheels on the Bus best sung by mom, Stella loves the song Royals by Lorde. "She just giggles and dances when she hears that song!"

When Stella was just seven months, Mike and Nicole had some concerns regarding Stella's vision. An MRI showed Stella had some brain abnormalities. "We were blindsided by the diagnosis. We were told that Stella might never walk or talk. We had no idea what to expect." Her parents took her to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to address Stella's motor delay and to help her learn important developmental motor skills. "The very first time we came to Courage Kenny, our therapist gave us hope. We knew this was the best place to be."

"The Early Childhood Family Center is now our second home," says Nicole. They visit three times a week and participate in physical, occupational and speech therapies. When Stella walks through the doors, she lights up and has a huge smile on her face. "We especially love her therapy sessions because the therapists include her sister into her therapy which makes it fun."

Does therapy help? "Stella began crawling at 15 months," reports her mom proudly. "We were so excited for her. Once she was crawling, her world opened up and we saw lots of growth and changes."

Thanks to therapy, Stella's world of possibility is big and bright. "We would like her to continue to make progress - whatever that means for her. As long as she is happy, it's good for us."

Stella Dockham





Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell: Ready for the challenge
Alex Mitchell is an active, energetic young athlete. He loves sports, and played baseball and football for his high school teams. On December 29, 2012, during his senior year, Alex was snowboarding with friends when he came off a jump wrong and hit his neck on the ground. "I had no feeling below my shoulders. I couldn't move anything," Alex remembers. An MRI and a three-hour surgery later confirmed Alex sustained a C-5 spinal cord injury. His doctors gave him a 30 percent chance of ever walking again.

Alex's journey has been long and hard and filled with remarkable achievement. Following intensive care, Alex came to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute for two months of intensive inpatient therapy. He then returned home and continued outpatient therapy three times a week for about a year. While Alex was busy with his extensive therapy schedule, he enrolled in online classes so that he could keep up with his schoolwork. In the spring of 2013, he graduated with his Rice Lake High School class and his twin sister, Maddie, by his side. "Family means everything. I couldn't have done it without their support."

Alex's courage and determination have yielded impressive results: He is relearning how to walk, to control his muscles and regain independence thanks to continued therapies and the ABLE (Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise) program at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. ABLE is one of five programs in the country of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network. The exercise regimens in the ABLE program maximize recovery by providing input to the central nervous system and challenging muscles below the level of injury. "At ABLE, my therapists help retrain my muscle memory so I can practice walking. It's really awesome. I love it. They really know how to push me." Alex's goal is to continue to gain strength and walk independently. "There is a lot of work ahead of me and I am ready for the challenge!"






Ashley Juntilla: Everyone here is like family!
"I wake up in the morning and can't wait to get here!" says Ashley Juntilla about Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Her silky brown hair catches the light as she unwittingly flashes a dazzling smile. "Everyone here is like family!"

She has traveled a long road to find this family. In 2012, at 23, she was involved in a motorcycle accident and received a traumatic brain injury. Following 10 days in a coma and weeks in intensive care, she awoke to double vision, right-side paralysis, and deficits in speech, memory and cognition.

After six weeks in physical, occupational and speech therapies, Ashley entered the inpatient Transitional Rehab Program at the Institute where "I worked on everything! I did physical therapy exercises to rebuild my bruised body; occupational therapy to help me dress, bathe and feed myself; and speech therapy to help me improve my thinking and memory to keep me on track." Adds her mom, Nancy, "Ashley was surrounded with excellent therapists who truly care."

"One day my physical therapist, told me, 'Ashley, I don't want to see you using that wheelchair anymore. You're going to walk.' I was extremely nervous, but, with his help, I took a few steps. I did it because he believed I could."

Today, she no longer needs a wheelchair or the speech and occupational therapies; yet, she works out daily in the Institute's Fitness Center and uses the pool to regain her strength and stamina. She has joined the Institute's swim team and golf team, and, "for the first time ever, I completed 18 holes!"

Ashley uses Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Advanced Primary Care Clinic, where the doctors and nurses specialize in treating patients with disabilities and complex medical conditions. "They know my entire history, so they treat all of me, which is really helpful."

Soon, Ashley begins the Institute's Community Reintegration Program, an intensive, six-month program designed to maximize her abilities and independence in her community. "I'm excited to begin this program because it will help me function on my own with less dependence on my parents. Don't get me wrong: I love my parents and I love living at home, but I know I need to be more independent and am excited to work toward that goal."

And longer term? "I want to volunteer at the Institute and perhaps work in some area of sports and fitness. This place has an aura of respect and understanding. No one judges you; they just help you move forward to be the best person you can be. I'm grateful for all they have given me, and I'd like to contribute to providing that to others."

Ashley Juntilla





Kira Abrahamson
Kira Abrahamson: Gaining confidence and a career
When Kira Abrahamson first came to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in the fall of 2012, she had gone through many temporary jobs. She was frustrated and discouraged. Would she ever be able to support herself? "When people keep telling you that you can't do a job," she says, "you begin to wondering what you can do."

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Kira is now making steady progress toward her goal of independence. With help from Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Work Readiness program and a dedicated vocational team, she learned to identify her strengths and reasonable workplace accommodations. She took a seasonal position in the Courage Kenny Cards shop, where she worked in a retail environment under the supervision of vocational evaluation staff. Supported on all sides, she began building her job skills and her self-esteem. Her positive energy brought smiles to customers' faces. "The people at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute had such faith in me," she says. "I learned to trust myself on the job."

Kira has since used her experience and references from Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to obtain a position as a teacher's aide at a Montessori school. "This is one of the challenges I've wanted to have in my life," she says. She loves being involved with the children through playtime, crafts, and reading aloud to them. "I don't know where this job will take me, but I now realize I would love to work with kids with special needs. I feel like this is a good fit."






Norm Coone: Freedom on wheels
If you saw Norm Coone sitting behind his desk at Wells Fargo, a vice president within the Technology and Operations Group, you'd think, "This guy has it all." And you'd be right - almost.

Coleman lost both legs to vascular disease, the first at age 26 and the second at age 31. He's had multiple recurrences of various cancers and lost part of a lung. "Doctors told me a number of times there was nothing more they could do for me," he says. "But I kept going." Once an electrician with a degree in electronics, he lost the physical ability to do that job, so he went back to school and earned a degree in computer programming.

For years, he resisted using a wheelchair. "I used artificial legs as best I could," he says. At 39, when he needed to build stamina and strength to reenter the workforce, he started swimming at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. "That's where I learned the fun of playing wheelchair basketball and softball," he says. "It was the best attitude adjustment I ever made."

Now 56, Coone has been with Wells Fargo for 15 years, managing people and projects across the country, traveling for work and pleasure. "A wheelchair makes all the difference in the world," he says. He has added mono-skiing and handcycling to the sports he enjoys. He's also involved with Operation Liberty, a Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute program that offers adventures to veterans with disabilities. He volunteers with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and participates in the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Business Advisory Council.

"Without Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute opening doors for me," he says, "my life would be much more difficult. Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute has given me freedom: freedom to ride on wheels, to travel, to move without a great deal of pain. That's life-changing."

Norm Coone





Jack Jablonski
Jack Jablonski: Helping others with spinal cord injuries
On December 30, 2011, high school sophomore Jack Jablonski had just scored the opening goal when the unthinkable happened. Skating after a puck, he was checked into the boards by two players from the opposing team. He dropped to the ground and didn't move. Surgery a few days later revealed the truth: Jack had severed his spinal cord and the damage could not be repaired. The injury had left him with quadriplegia.

After months in the hospital and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Jack went home. He immediately began outpatient therapy in Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's ABLE (Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise) program. Part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network, ABLE is a revolutionary program that helps people living with paralysis to improve their health, fitness, strength, and quality of life. "My coordination, strength and muscle mass have all improved since coming to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute," Jack says.

Today, Jack is a senior and captain of his high school hockey team. Like every high school student, he loves sports and hanging out with his friends. "I don't know what to expect in my future," he says, "but I want to continue to get stronger with ABLE and work toward a normal life. My main goal is to get back on my feet. There is still hope."

While Jack stays busy with school, athletics, and therapy, he also takes time to champion two causes close to him: hockey safety and spinal cord injury research. The Jack Jablonski BEL13VE in Miracles Foundation raises funds for scholarships so other people with spinal cord injuries can receive the same therapies that Jack has benefited from. "I would not be where I am today without Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute," Jack says. "I am very fortunate to have the ABLE program available to me."






Maci Mauch: Feeling accepted and having fun
Born with spina bifida, living with paraplegia, six-year-old Maci Mauch loved cheering on her soccer-playing big sisters, Morgan and Ashley. "But her dad and I wanted Maci to have her own sport to play," says her mom, Maggie Mauch.

At Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Maci discovered wheelchair softball. Last summer, at age five, she became the youngest member of the Junior Rolling Twins Softball Team.

"Joining this team has been super for Maci," says her mom. "She's interacting with other kids with disabilities and having so much fun! These kids show each other that they can totally forget about their disabilities and let the fun happen. Imagine the confidence boost that gives them. And we parents get to watch them just being kids."

Before connecting with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Maggie feared that her daughter's life would be filled with exclusions and sitting on the sidelines. "Instead, Maci now feels inclusion and acceptance. Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute is all about opportunities. Maci was welcomed with open arms into a community of ability, not disability. We've even met Paralympics athletes involved with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute sports programs. How inspiring is that - for any child?"

What does the future hold for Maci? "With one softball season under our belts, we're looking forward to season two," said Maggie. "Our goals are to stay healthy, grow, and learn more independence each day. Programs like this fit our game plan perfectly."

Maci Mauch





Laura Andert
Laura Andert: A job well done
Laura Andert is a people person. She proves it every day in her job at a Panera Bread bakery-café. "I greet guests, help them with seating needs, explain our menu options, make friendly conversation, and do whatever I can to ensure they have a pleasant dining experience," she says.

Andert, who has cerebral palsy, worked hard to get her job, and she wants to keep it. In 2009, her counselor at Minnesota Rehabilitation Services referred her to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Supported Employment Services. "Every two weeks, I'd meet with my Supported Employment counselor, Tom Birbeck, at my workplace, and we'd talk about how my job is going. Knowing that Tom was supportive of me and my efforts validated that I really could do this job, and do it well."

While work is important to Andert, so is a balanced life. "I love biking, swimming, and working out. And spending time outside listening to music. Number One is hanging out with family and friends, going to movies, dinner, and shopping."

As for the future, she sees herself gainfully employed in a job she likes, but also traveling and experiencing the world with a husband-to-be.

"I'm thankful I got connected with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute because I'm happy with what I'm doing today. I have met great, supportive friends who help me be the person I want to be. Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute is a wonderful resource with connections into our community, and the people there are caring and sincere."






Brenda Bous: A PCA means independence
"We all need oxygen to breathe," says Brenda Bous. "I happen to also need a personal care attendant." Pneumonia during infancy led to cerebral palsy and life in a wheelchair. Today, with help from a PCA, this active, independent woman volunteers at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and other organizations, where her skills and positive attitude are in demand.
Brenda Bous





Susan Fink
Susan Fink: From swimming to sailing
Courage Kenny Cards artist Susan Fink ran marathons and taught kindergarten before a skiing accident in 1999 severely injured her spinal cord. She became a client at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in 2000.

I started using Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to regain physical strength and balance by working in the warm-water therapy pool. Each new skill I needed was first attained in the pool. Not only did my walking improve, but equally as important, I began connecting with other people with disabilities and found friendship and moral support.

Later, I used the driver's assessment and training program to learn to drive with hand controls. Regaining freedom and independence in getting around was huge.

Today, I continue to do therapeutic exercise three times a week in the pool. With the help of physical therapists, I have developed a series of exercises to do in the fitness center using machines that are accessible in my power chair. I've taken tai chi and adaptive yoga classes as well.

My body is always changing, requiring readjustments to live with less pain. Resources are always available at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to help in my journey. Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute focuses on what I can do. One activity that really lifts my spirit and brings me joy is the sailing program. I've learned to independently sail a small, specially fitted boat. Just sitting on the dock at Lake Harriet on a beautiful summer evening, sharing the experience with others, is for me a major benefit of the program.






Todd Fultz: Determined to walk again
A head-on collision in 2008 left Todd Fultz with devastating injuries: broken back, pelvis, hips, legs, and ankles, internal injuries, bleeding in his brain. After multiple 10-hour surgeries and months of physical therapy at home, he still was unable to put any pressure on his legs.

Fultz is an athlete. An all-state wide receiver in high school and a college MVP, he's used to getting up after being knocked down. Determined to walk again, he went to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute St. Croix.

"Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's warm-water pool is the Fountain of Youth for those of us who face challenges," he says. "It gives us a glimpse of the possible. My therapist helped me from my chair into the deep water and told me I'd be able to stand. I was skeptical, but I did stand!"

In Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's gym, Fultz worked the parallel bars, at first suspended in a harness to remind his body what walking feels like. Over time, he transferred more of his weight from the harness to the bars, then a walker, then two canes. "A year after my accident, I was walking. Not quickly, and not on uneven surfaces, but without help."

Today Fultz is back to work at his roofing company, coaching touch football with his 6-year-old son, and enjoying his family. He can't imagine what his life would be like if he hadn't found Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. "It's essential in all aspects of recovery - emotional and physical. It's a wonderful place."

Todd Fultz





Connor Harthorn
Connor Harthorn: Sweet on camping
Connor Harthorn has moderate cerebral palsy; his father, David, has multiple sclerosis. So far, Connor and his family have attended Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Family Camp three times. Plus Connor has gone on his own to Sports Camp, Outdoor Leadership Camp, Power Soccer Camp, and MS Youth Camp. In Connor's words, "Camp is totally sweet!"






Lindsay Heimkes: Getting stronger with ABLE
In the summer of 2006, Lindsay Heimkes was looking forward to her sophomore year at Sheridan College in Wyoming. A member of the school's basketball team, she was tall, strong, healthy, and active - until a devastating car crash on July 12 left her paralyzed. A quadriplegic.

In 2009, back home in Minnesota, Lindsay heard about a program at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute called ABLE, for Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise. Part of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network, ABLE is a new approach to an old truth: that exercise is good for everyone, even people living with paralysis. Most participants experience improvements in health, fitness, strength, and quality of life.

At first, Lindsay's goals with ABLE were simple: to stabilize her health and improve her core strength. But after three months of customized workouts, she took her first steps with a walker. For people with spinal cord injury, being upright again and walking, even with help, are amazing feats.

"I've definitely gotten a lot stronger," Lindsay says. "I look a lot healthier. I have more core strength so I don't tip over when I reach for things or use my computer.

"ABLE gives me hope and encouragement. Years post-injury, I have had significant changes. It shows that you should never give up. And it doesn't feel like therapy because we're always having fun. You can tell Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute employees really care."

Lindsay Heimkes





Tom Isaacson
Tom Isaacson: Chronic pain meets a positive attitude
When a tumor, surgeries, and degenerative disc disease left Tom Isaacson with chronic pain, he became dependent on painkillers - powerful narcotics. He turned to the Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Today he has coping skills, a support system, and a new goal: walking a half-marathon with his daughter.






Mara LeRoy: Learning life skills
Five-year-old Mara LeRoy has blonde curls, a winning smile, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. "We connected with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute when Mara was nine months old by taking a Waterbabies swimming class," says mom Kathie. Dad Paul adds, "Waterbabies classes are for kids of all abilities. That's the real world, and we know Mara will live in the real world."

Soon, Mara began physical and occupational therapies at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. To help Mara transition from Waterbabies to land-based physical therapy, her therapist held the first few PT sessions partly in the pool and partly out. "It worked!" Kathie says. Mara was able to build her sitting and posture skills.

In OT, Mara learned how to drink from a straw and from an adapted water bottle - skills she needs to keep herself hydrated.

Speech therapy was next. To communicate at school, Mara would need to use a speech-generation device. She tried touch screens, head-pointing systems, and eye-gaze systems. None worked. At the same time, she was learning to navigate a power wheelchair by using a head array. Her speech therapist realized that Mara could use a similar head control to operate her speech device.

Today, Mara attends preschool with kids of all abilities. Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute therapists regularly consult with her teachers and the specialists who work with her. "We're all excited about Mara's successes," Paul says. "Our job is to keep up with all that Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute has to offer, and all that Mara can accomplish - which is a lot."

Mara LeRoy





Brendan Loney
Brendan Loney: "Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute is my gym"
Athlete Brendan Loney played college hockey until a diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. For a time, he received physical therapy at home, but he was itching to get back into a gym. Today he works out at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, strengthening his muscles, rewiring his nerves - and building relationships.





Mike Melendez: Learning behavior skills
Four years ago, when Mike was nine, he sustained a brain injury in a car accident. Returning to school, he was enrolled in special education classes. Soon Mike started having behavior problems. His mom, Leilani, contacted Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Behavioral Health Program.

Behavior analyst Jennifer Kempenich and behavior professional Sara Nuahn are Mike's team at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Together, they develop strategies to help Mike. "He's been making good strides toward better interactions with peers and better frustration tolerance," Leilani says. "He's taking more responsibility for his actions."

One successful strategy has been the use of logic, supported by rewards and consequences. "After the accident, we had to restrict Mike's actions for safety reasons," Leilani says. "We couldn't let him go skateboarding so he wouldn't fall and injure himself. Before, he would just get frustrated. But when we explained the reasons and followed up with a reward - encouraging him to play a video game - he could redirect his frustration to something positive."

Mike is now mainstreamed in three classes at school. "I keep telling him to think big," Leilani says. "I ask him, 'Do you like video games? Think about developing them, not just playing them. Think about college.' "

Mike is happy with his Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute experience. "The people there help me with a lot of stuff," he says. "Like how to be a better person and deal with what happened to me."

Mike Melendez





Lance Philipp
Lance Philipp: Dealing with limitations
For most of his 33 years, Lance Philipp has been involved with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Born with cerebral palsy, he attended a preschool program at age 4. He has taken part in several sports programs: power soccer, wheelchair basketball, archery, downhill skiing, waterskiing, karate, and curling. He attended Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Camps and used the Transitional Rehabilitation Program as he moved into adulthood.

Lance earned his college degree as a computer support specialist, then became proficient in speech-recognition software. He volunteers at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Assistive Technology Lab, teaching these skills to others.

Meanwhile, finding employment that offers a livable salary and healthcare benefits has been elusive. "Medical Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, and the Community Alternatives for Disabled Individuals Waiver allow me to live as independently as I can," Lance says. "I am extremely thankful for these programs. However, the spend-down and payback requirements often act as disincentives to work. I'd much rather earn a living wage and cover my own expenses and needs."

Funding of fitness programs for people with disabilities has been greatly reduced in recent years. Lance used to work out at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute three times a week. Cuts have reduced his fitness sessions to one a week and require out-of-pocket payments.

"I know my capabilities," Lance says. "And sometimes the limitations I deal with from the outside are greater than my own."






Zoe: A bright future
All seven-year-old Zoe wants to do is play with her friends - and walk. Cerebral palsy and seizures make walking a challenge for her, but she has been getting the help she needs from the start. When Zoe was just 20 months old, her parents, Stan and Jodi, took her to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute for physical therapy. In time, Zoe was able to walk with a walker.

In 2010, the Greens came back to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute for the Intensive Therapy program. "Our goal was to help Zoe gain enough core strength to stabilize her movements and allow her to walk with a smoother, more stabilized gait," Jodi says.

Zoe and her Intensive Therapy team worked three hours each day, five days a week, for three weeks. "Zoe learned to use walking sticks," her mom says proudly. "Now she's starting to practice walking with just one stick."

Improved ambulatory freedom - unassisted walking - is important to this little dynamo, who loves playing house, dolls, and school with her friends and has an active imagination. Thanks to therapy, Zoe's future looks bright. "Therapy has enabled Zoe to gain the strength she needs to participate in activities and lead a full life," Jodi says. "Down the road, I envision Zoe progressing, walking stably with a single walking stick, flourishing in all she does."
Zoe Green