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Meet our Clients

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Sales of Courage Kenny Cards support the services of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, a nonprofit which partners with and inspires people to maximize their health and abilities to achieve lives of purpose and potential by providing a full continuum of exceptional rehabilitative services. Read the stories below to meet some of the clients whose lives have been impacted by Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

Clara Carlin

Meet Clara Carlin, a fun-loving, smart, and outgoing seven-year-old girl with an irresistible smile that lights up any room. Clara is a natural in front of the camera, and she believes, "My job is to smile and make everybody happy!"

Clara's journey began even before she was born. At 26 weeks pregnant, her mother, Nicole, underwent a groundbreaking fetal spinal bifida surgery - the very first of its kind in Minnesota. Nicole and Clara's surgery took place at the Midwest Fetal Care Center, a collaboration between Children's Minnesota and Allina Health.

At just two months old, Clara began physical therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, and the impact was profound. It allowed Clara to develop her mobility and discover her potential, which now extends to athletics. At Courage Kenny, she actively participates in basketball and softball and eagerly looks forward to expanding her repertoire by trying tennis and swimming through the Sports and Recreation programs which are made possible by generous philanthropy. Courage Kenny has quickly become Clara's second home, where she is learning to thrive and grow alongside her peers.

With increased mobility and enhanced core strength, Clara fearlessly embraces life's childhood adventures. Courage Kenny has not only empowered Clara physically but has also provided her with a sense of belonging and the chance to be just like any other kid. Through the Sports and Recreation programs, Clara has the opportunity to continue growing into a spirited, active, and unstoppable young girl who continually redefines possibilities and radiates joy wherever she goes.

In the summer of 2021, Rachel Story was busy working a summer job, enjoying family time, and preparing for her senior year when the unthinkable happened. Rachel was on the way to her family's lake cabin when she was involved in a serious car accident. The impact of the accident left her with a crushed L1 vertebrae.

Rachael participated in occupational and physical at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health. Although Rachel was given a 3-4% chance of walking again, she wanted to walk across the stage at graduation. Anyone who spends time around Rachel can quickly tell that when she sets a goal for herself, she will achieve it. She worked extremely hard, often going above and beyond her therapy sessions, and less than one year from her accident, Rachel was walking again. More importantly, while participating in the intense rehabilitation services at Courage Kenny, she successfully applied and got accepted to college and completed her senior year.

Rachel credits her strong support system of family and friends for being by her side throughout her recovery and pushing her to keep setting and achieving new goals. Rachel and her family are beyond grateful for the impact Courage Kenny has made in their lives. "Courage Kenny has been so great; everything is personalized to Rachel's needs. Her therapists have always thought outside of the box and find solutions when things aren't working." Rachel's mom, Stephanie shared.

Today, Rachel is nearing the end of her first freshmen year of college at the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business, where she is more determined than ever to keep achieving her goals. Rachel visits the fitness center at the U of M on a regular basis to continue working on her overall strength, and she has recently joined Courage Kenny's Adaptive Swim Team. "I am a VERY competitive person!"

At just 19 years old, Rachel is a true example of when you set your mind to something, you can achieve anything.

Rachel Story

Jacob Gayle

Dr. Jacob Gayle moved to Minnesota in 2011 to lead the Medtronic Foundation and the Company's Community Affairs program. One of the first stops he made, was to visit Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (Courage Kenny), a key beneficiary of Medtronic Foundation support. Little did he know, seven years later, Courage Kenny would become central to his own journey as a new paraplegic in need of rehabilitation and therapy.

From his first spinal fusion and Harrington rod surgery due to idiopathic scoliosis as a teenage college student, through successive revision surgeries several decades later, Jacob maintained a global lifestyle that entailed living and working on nearly every continent, with his family in tow. Most days began at the gym at 5am for weightlifting, swimming and cardio and many days ended with transcontinental flights from one public health crisis to another.

When Jacob noticed he was having problems with balance and proprioception, he turned to Courage Kenny for assistance. Even specialists at renowned institutions like Mayo Clinic had great fascination in what they were observing in "real-time," but no answer for Jacob as to what specifically was happening before their eyes. Eventually, in December of 2018, he became fully dependent upon wheelchair for mobility. Yet, with his signature tenacity and the strengths and skills acquired through Courage Kenny, Jacob accomplished his longstanding desire to travel to Antarctica, albeit in a wheelchair.

This emblem of his unwillingness to allow disability to overtake destiny can be seen in his sessions in the Activity Based Locomotor Exercise (ABLE) program, which he has participated in since January 2021, almost ten years after his first visit to the institution as an interested philanthropist. Jacob participates in ABLE two days per week. He shared that Courage Kenny has a large impact on many facets of his life, including physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. In addition to ABLE, Jacob also does physical therapy, in which he utilizes the warm water therapy pool one day and the Lokomat another day every week.

Jacob retired two years ago and while he and his wife were deciding where they wanted to live. The choice was simple... Minnesota was quickly decided upon, given the impact that Courage Kenny has had and continues to have in Jacob's life. He has received surgery, services, and other supports from various organizations throughout his life, and believes Courage Kenny is unlike the others. "Courage Kenny's sense of community and level of respect, with no judgement, sets them apart from others. They take a people-to-people approach."

Alan Sakry is known as "Big Al" to his family and friends. He and his wife, Diane, and daughter, Jordan, have always been an active family. They love outdoor recreation and staying involved in their community. Alan is a self-described "upbeat people-person" who greets everyone with a genuine smile. It is not possible to meet Alan in any capacity—colleague, client, business contact, or acquaintance—without quickly becoming his friend.

In January 2013, Alan survived a massive stroke that nearly took his life. It left the 40-year-old mortgage broker and motivational speaker with impaired language, making it difficult for him to give more than one-word answers. He also lost movement on the right side of his body.

Courage Kenny has been an integral part of his recovery journey, offering a full continuum of services from Intensive Care to kayaking on Lake Superior. He spent time at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Courage Kenny Transitional Rehabilitation Program. He participated in years of outpatient therapies at Courage Kenny.

From the beginning, Alan was committed to a rigorous rehabilitation process with determination and a positive attitude. "The staff at Courage Kenny have been really helpful and encouraged me to work hard," he said. "I am always pushing for improvements to reach my next goals." Because of his motivation and never-give-up attitude, his right side and speaking ability have continued to improve.

Over the years, Alan has embraced adventure and opportunity with many of the community-based programs Courage Kenny offers to maximize his health and get back to living his active lifestyle. His favorite activities include wheelchair tennis, golf, bowling, water-skiing, off-road biking and kayaking. Alan works out three times a week at the Courage Kenny Arthur Andersen Minneapolis Alumni Fitness & Wellness Center and the Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise Program, an innovative therapy approach to improving health, fitness, strength and quality of life.

Being a part of the Courage Kenny community is important to Alan. Despite his significant challenges in vocalizing words, he volunteers at the Courage Kenny Service Desk. He answers questions, greets visitors and clients, and shares uplifting high fives, huge smiles or thumbs up to brighten everyone's day.

Alan loves to try new things, and he knows Courage Kenny will be there with an adventure or an opportunity for him to reach new goals. When asked what is next, he says, "Downhill skiing, scuba diving and skydiving!"

Alan Sakry

Hailey Ramlow

Seven-year-old Hailey Ramlow is an outgoing and loveable six-year-old girl who enjoys playing floor hockey in the garage and hunting, fishing and 4-wheeling with her mom and dad, Alicia and Wes Ramlow.

Hailey's mom, Alicia, remembers vividly when she was 29 weeks pregnant. She was at Lowe's ordering countertops when suddenly her water broke. Four weeks later, Hailey arrived via C-section at 33 weeks gestation. After three days in the NICU, Hailey spent her first three weeks of life at the hospital before going home. Around the time first birthday, Alicia and Wes began to notice Hailey was behind on several growth milestones. That was when they were referred to Courage Kenny Kids.

"No parent wants to be told that their child has a disability, but Courage Kenny welcomed us with open arms and now they have become a family." says Alicia. Hailey began physical therapy at Courage Kenny to help her with spasticity caused by Cerebral Palsy shortly before Courage Kenny closed in 2020 for the pandemic. It was a difficult time, and Alicia and Wes did the best they could to keep Hailey moving and learning at home. They incorporated "therapy" for Hailey into taking care of their two dogs, Lincoln and Letty, and the family's 15 chickens (who, yes, all have names). Hailey loves giving her dog's ice cubes and works on picking up apples and feeding the chickens.

In early 2021, Hailey underwent a spinal operation, Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, to reduce the spasticity in her leg muscles. After time in the hospital, she returned to Courage Kenny to relearn how to stand and walk. Hailey started therapy using a wheelchair and today she is moving independently. Alicia remembered the day when Hailey decided to walk on her own. Her family was outside flying a kite and she says, "Hailey just took off!" Another memorable milestone for Hailey was riding a tricycle for the first time at Courage Kenny. Alicia says, "The support that therapists give to Hailey is incredible. Courage Kenny has made a real difference in Hailey's strength, coordination and confidence."

One of the best outcomes that Alicia has seen in her daughter's time at Courage Kenny is how her confidence has grown. At Hailey's first evaluation, Alicia laughed and remembered, "Hailey was a complete pain in the butt. She cried the entire session!" That didn't last long, because now Hailey loves her time at Courage Kenny. Hailey was very shy when she began therapy and now she has as much fun doing her therapy work as she does playing. In fact, Hailey does not allow her mom or dad to attend her therapy sessions anymore because she wants time with her therapists all by herself.

"Our greatest hope for Hailey is that she has true happiness in life and she never allows her physical challenges stop her from doing the things she loves." Alicia says. "We want Hailey to be independent with her peers and do all the things that her friends do." In that, there is little doubt. Hailey is excited to start dance lessons soon and Hailey says, "I want to be a doctor to help kids like me!"

When Jilli Gilmer, a young mom, furniture upholsterer, and member of the US Air Force reserves, was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in December 2019, she was about three months pregnant. At the time, she never imagined how much rehabilitation her recovery process would involve.

Shortly after her surgery to remove the cancer, she connected with Courage Kenny for ongoing rehabilitation therapy. Jilli re-learned how to eat, stretch out her face and neck muscles against scar tissue, and generally regain body strength. She also began speech therapy because the surgery had affected the way she spoke.

In April 2020, Jilli gave birth to her healthy son six weeks early to start radiation treatment. The treatment severely affected her ability to eat and drink independently, requiring her to use a feeding tube, leading to a significant loss of weight and strength. Again, she worked with our physical therapists to regain the strength needed for her active lifestyle.

After making significant progress, Jilli was discharged from her physical, occupational, and speech therapies through Courage Kenny in late 2021. "It was a little bittersweet," she says, "because I enjoyed the appointments, especially occupational therapy. My therapist helped me adjust to my new normal and gave me tools to continue down the healing path." Jilli is full of gratitude for every part of the care she received from Courage Kenny's Cancer Rehabilitation services. Since then, she has been busy with her young family and doing all of the creative things she liked before cancer—upholstery, apparel design and art. "It's a really good feeling to have some independence back."

Jilli Gilmer
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Landin Patrow

Seven-year-old Landin Patrow has attended Courage Kenny Kids since he was nine months old. He struggles with eating, is mostly nonverbal and has just started learning to walk. With no formal diagnosis, his doctors tentatively use cerebral palsy to explain his delays.

Landin has been involved in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy from a young age. This past summer, Landin began an intensive program using the universal gym, which is a system of bungee cords for building strength and balance. Over the summer, he progressed from just eight independent steps to walking 120 steps!

Landin loves dinosaurs, watching sports and charming everyone he meets. His mother says "he's very social for not being able to talk" with thumbs up, high fives and fist-bumps for days.

Alex Mitchell became paralyzed from the neck down after a snowboarding accident in December 2013. He was 17 years old and a senior in high school. After a 1-month stay in the ICU, he came to Minnesota to be at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

Alex started with the Locomotor Exercise Program (ABLE). When he began his therapy, he was in a power wheelchair and later transitioned to using forearm crutches. He has regained a lot of strength through the ABLE program and years of outpatient therapy. Now he uses a manual chair, can stand unassisted and walks with a cane.

"Without Courage Kenny, I would never have recovered from my injury to the extent I have. I would not have been able to go to college and prepare for a career I love so much."

Alex has since graduated with a recreation therapy degree and completed an internship as a Sports and Recreation Intern with Courage Kenny. Alex is now an employee in the Transitional Rehabilitation Program here at Courage Kenny.

Alex Mitchell

Anthony Wright

Since 1990, Anthony Wright has had six back and neck surgeries, which left him disabled and addicted to pain medications. He couldn't eat or sleep and had to use two canes and a back brace.

Anthony decided to participate in the Courage Kenny Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program. After hours and hours of exercises and training, he no longer needs his canes or back brace, and has not taken opioids since.

Anthony is an artisan who spends his spare time out in his garage making canes and walking sticks, and loving every minute of it.

After driving for almost 50 years, not being able to was not easy for Bil Frank, who developed foot drop - a result of a pinched nerve from a long ago back injury.

After two surgeries, Frank arrived at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Golden Valley for an assessment with a specialist in our Driver Assessment and Training department. It was determined that Frank would need to adapt his car by installing a device so he could drive with his left foot. He would also need to take driving lessons and pass the MN State Road Test before he could hit the road again.

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute has been helping seniors and individuals with disabilities through driving assessment and driving training for more than 35 years. For Frank, this expertise was greatly appreciated as he took lessons with Jennifer Fischer, a certified driver rehabilitation specialist at the Golden Valley campus. "It was a little scary at first learning how to drive without my dominate foot. I don't think I'd be driving at all without Jennifer and Courage Kenny - everyone was so wonderful."

Fischer explains that learning to drive with your left, or opposite foot, can be really difficult: "It's really re-learning how to drive; sometimes it's trickier than learning how to use hand controls for driving. However, Bil was able to pick it up very quickly."

This spring, not only did Frank pass his driving test, but he was able to get the adaptive device installed into his own car so he could drive again. He's now back to feeling confident behind the wheel.

Bil Frank

Cindy Olson

Cindy Olson used to work in a school system, but lost her job during an economic downturn. After being out of work for a few years, Olson felt intimidated entering the workplace again and struggled with chronic depression and anxiety. To help her re-enter the workplace, Olson came to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Vocational Services Department and worked with their Job Placement specialists. With their help, Olson was hired as an accounts payable specialist for a medical products supplier.

"You lose your job confidence when you've been out of work for a while," said Olson. "It's definitely taken some getting used to; you just have to take it one day at a time."

Olson has been in her position for over a year now, an important milestone, and is taking on more responsibility at work. To help her manage her anxiety and new challenges, Olson has continued working with an Extended Employment job coach through Vocational Services.

Extended Employment provides one-on-one monthly support from staff members who help clients learn strategies to keep their job. Services are available for as long as a person is employed and they wish to continue services - a relationship that often spans years.

"Cindy has come so far since we first met and she started her current position," said Mary Carter, Olson's job coach. "Her self-esteem has truly improved and she is able to use her skills effectively. And it shows with her added responsibility."

"I am very thankful for Courage Kenny and Extended Employment services. The support from Mary has been invaluable to me. When I first arrived my self-esteem was very low. This helped me get where I needed to be."

Olson, who plans to retire in the next few years, said she is looking forward to spending time with her family, including her granddaughter. She also looks forward to spending more time on her art, and making cards for special occasions. Her talent has been noticed at work where she has been asked to create cards for her co-workers' birthdays.

This responsibility at work and stronger relationships with her co-workers demonstrates how Olson has moved forward professionally and personally, proving that strength and confidence can break down any barriers that get in her way.

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Leeza Temple arrived at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in March 2017 following a major surgery that resulted from an accident at work. She had a significant amount of pain when she started the three week inpatient Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program (Pain Program), but was hopeful that this program would help her get her life back, despite the pain that might always be there.

After arriving at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Golden Valley, Temple explained that she was pretty scared and didn't really know if she could trust anyone. This quickly subsided after her first class with Patricia Pribyl-Brown, Program Lead for the Pain Program, who, along with other staff, became a strong figure in her recovery. "The staff members were so knowledgeable and so helpful, every step of the way," said Temple.

The three-week Pain Program is designed to mimic that of a full-time work schedule and provides the tools for patients to learn to self-manage pain, preparing them to live more independently. Self-management classes and therapies, aquatic and land exercises and medical management-including the tapering of opioids-are part of the Pain Program's longstanding success. One year after discharge, 76 percent of patients reduce their number of hospitalizations.

For Temple, the Pain Program helped her reduce her pain medications significantly, a goal that was very important to her. She also participated in the Diving Program in the pool at Golden Valley while she was in the Pain Program, which led to her getting her diving certification and a trip to the Bahamas with her husband where they went on three tank dives a day. For a former rescue diver, this brought a lot of joy back into her life after a very difficult time.

"I'm so glad this place is here," said Temple. "To teach us that we can go on. The tools they gave me helped me move forward and continue to give me the strength to say, 'I got this!'"

Leeza Temple

Nora Laudenbach

Since 2012, Courage Kenny St. Croix continues its strong partnership with the Stillwater Area School District 916, providing pediatric services for youth ages eight and younger at the Early Childhood Family Center (ECFC).

Programming at the ECFC includes Early Childhood and Family Education, Early Childhood Special Education, child care, and Courage Kenny therapy services for children with special needs.

For Nora Laudenbach, Courage Kenny Kids at the ECFC has already made a great impact on her young life and her family.

"Courage Kenny has made a huge difference in our lives because when we first came here, Nora couldn't even sit up on her own at a year old," said Nora's mom, Meg Laudenbach. "And so, little things like that - we've achieved all these milestones."

These milestones for Nora included sitting up for the first time, crawling for the first time, and walking with an assisted walker.

Her dad, Andy, explained part of the success of the model of Courage Kenny Kids: "One of the great things about how they do therapy at Courage Kenny is they really make it into play therapy, so they use toys, and they do activities that Nora has a lot of fun with. And just seeing her achieve all of these milestones, and how fast she's achieving them, it really gives us hope that she's going to keep on this trajectory and keep doing awesome. It's really cool and exciting to watch."

In conjunction with our partners at the ECFC, Courage Kenny has developed opportunities for children to interact with peers through common space programming such as the gymnasium and outdoor playground where activities can take place with peers from the preschool or daycare programs side by side. The indoor play structure (as seen above featuring Nora) provides real life scenarios for youth to address, such as different surfaces and steps that replicate the measurement of a school bus step or a street curb. Not only does this allow kids to do what all kids should do - have fun - but sets them up to reach all of their goals for future success in school and in life.

Will Hamilton and his family started coming to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - St. Croix (Courage Kenny St. Croix) when he was only five or six years old to try out the warm-water therapy pool and see if it was a safer option for him to exercise and build strength. He's continued to come back ever since, still working out in the pool once a week.

It wasn't just the water that allowed Hamilton to move more freely and get stronger that kept him coming back, but it was also the staff and the welcoming environment that he felt at Courage Kenny St. Croix.

"I think the staff are very welcoming and respectful. That's one of the most important things I've got from coming here. They never make you feel like you're excluded, or different."

Through the years of workouts at Courage Kenny St. Croix, Hamilton not only found his body getting stronger, but his confidence as well. It changed his perspective on his life.

"I used to feel so stuck in what I can't do, but the people at Courage Kenny really taught me to understand myself and become more independent," said Hamilton. "As the exercise made me stronger, it boosted my confidence and I started looking forward to my future. I really appreciate Courage Kenny for that."

In addition to exercising in St. Croix, Hamilton was introduced to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Wheelchair Track & Field program in 2014 and he was instantly hooked. One of his life goals is to become a part of Team USA as a wheelchair athlete and hopefully compete in the Paralympic Games in 2020.

When he isn't working out and training for the Paralympics, Hamilton attends St. Paul College in the Sport & Exercise Science program.

Will Hamilton


Sonoma is a sweet and energetic 5th grader, but life didn't start out easy. Sonoma and her twin sister were born 3 months premature. As a result, Sonoma experienced many challenges her first year of life with the most significant being Cerebral Palsy which affects body movement, coordination, gross and fine motor skills and speech.

Despite her challenges, Sonoma was determined to keep up with her sister. When she was little, the girls participated in able-bodied sports like youth soccer and gymnastics. As she got older and sports required more physical demands, Sonoma didn't want to feel behind anymore. A family friend referred them to Courage Kenny which offers an abundance of activities for youth and adults with disabilities. The first thing Sonoma tried was wheelchair basketball, and she was hooked! Her mom, Michelle, remembers when Sonoma said, "It's the only hour all week where I feel normal."

Since then, Sonoma has tried just about every activity at Courage Kenny, and mom has seen tremendous progress in her attitude and ability. "It just lights her up!" Mom says, "For a long time we were always trying to figure out how she could participate in activities - now the opportunities are endless at Courage Kenny".

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Last year, a trip to the doctor for what Camden's mom thought was a cough turned into a MRI test confirming he had Cavernous Malformation--leaking blood vessels that were causing bleeding on his brain stem. Camden underwent a successful 9-hour brain surgery, but due to the location of the bleed, he had to regain most of his gross and fine motor skills.

Cognitively, Camden didn't change a bit, but he has had to work to regain his independence. When he went home from the hospital he still could not crawl or walk. As soon as he began physical and occupational therapy at Courage Kenny Kids he started building his confidence and then made tremendous improvements. At first he was frustrated, but then he started to crawl and then walk on his own. Camden really worked hard to improve his balance and enjoyed the therapy sessions that were geared towards his interests. His mom says, "His therapists were great and came up with fun projects to help him practice his skills."

Now, just a little over one year later, Camden has returned to all things first grade: skating lessons, playing t-ball, swimming and riding his bike.


Dillon Borowicz

In the summer of 2012, Dillon Borowicz dove into his family's pool; but unlike the hundreds of times he'd done this before, this time he struck the pool's bottom and had to be pulled out by his brother. Formerly an athlete in football and lacrosse, Dillon became paralyzed from the neck down and began therapy as an inpatient at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

Dillon tackled his therapy with perseverance, doing whatever it took to improve. At Courage Kenny, he participates in ABLE, the Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise program, which is an innovative approach to exercise for people with paralysis. Dillon's health, fitness and strength have improved through the ABLE program. He returned to school and graduated with his high school class. Today he is a student at the University of Minnesota working to complete a Business and Marketing Education degree. Through Courage Kenny, Dillon found a new way to exercise, be challenged and succeed.

23-year-old, Rikaya Wafford's life changed forever last summer when she became the victim of a stray bullet lodged into her spine and it paralyzed her from the waist down. "I went out with a bunch of my friends and family in downtown Minneapolis, and on our way back to the car we heard gun shots and everybody was ducking but I was frozen. Like I just couldn't even move."

Despite the frustration of no suspect and the remaining bullet in her spine, Rikaya decided to stay positive, and is grateful that her road to recovery has been filled with support. "Because there were so many people around, I think it was easier to keep a smile on my face. I realize basketball is not going to be the same but you know, practice makes perfect, and I'm getting there, and I can't just stop living."

Rikaya continues to participate in therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. She has been using an electronic exoskeleton, a new robotic walking technology device, wth the goal of relearning how to walk. She is also looking forward to participating in the Courage Kenny Fitness and Wellness Center in addition to the sports and recreation programs. "I want to be as independent as I can be. I am not going to stop!"

Rikaya Wafford

Izzabella Mendenhall

When Izzabella "Izzy" Mendenhall, 7, enters Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Burnsville each week her smile is contagious and her personality brightens everyone's day. She shines despite the challenges she's had to face in her young life.

Born with rare genetic disorder - Oral Facial Digital Syndrome, when she first arrived at Courage Kenny Kids in 2016, the youngster couldn't walk or talk and had challenges with her balance. Since then, she's been working hard in physical, occupational and speech therapy and she's made a lot of progress.

Speech Therapist Jana Heidemann recognized early on that her young client understood what was said to her, but she had difficulty talking and responding with words. She suggested use of a Dynavox, a speech generating tablet that allows Mendenhall to select pictures and photographs which "talk" for her. With this new assistive technology, just slightly bigger than an iPad, Mendenhall has flourished.

She has made similar progress in physical and occupational therapy. "When Izzy first arrived she was crawling; in fact, she was in her wheelchair at school for the entire school year last year," said Maria Leider, physical therapist. "Now she mostly uses her walker. And she's moved past that, walking 90 steps without any support."

"Izzy is a persistent child and will try so hard at any activity," added Alyssa Winterfeldt, occupational therapist. "Right now she has mastered eating with a spoon and matching her shapes and colors with puzzles."

With her new abilities, Mendenhall is becoming much more independent and confident. Her grandparents, also her caregivers, are thrilled with the gains she has made.

"Izzy doesn't even know how hard she is working because she is having so much fun at therapy," said Kris Novetzke, her grandmother. "She is so proud to walk on her own and her new Dynavox allows her to communicate with us. She loves picking out her own clothes each day. She's really progressed so much faster than we could have hoped for. And I credit Courage Kenny for that."

It seems now the possibilities are endless for Izzy Mendenhall as she continues to break barriers and reach new milestones. Her future is as bright as her contagious smile.

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Allen O'Leary is a mover. He constantly pushes the limits of his body through fitness. Whether he hand cycles, cross country skis or completes 5Ks, he is always up for a new physical challenge.

O'Leary has always been an active person, however, it was a spinal cord injury that brought him to this new found passion for fitness, with a determination to walk again. In 2012, at age 29, while helping his grandmother clean her roof, a task he had performed many times, the ladder slid out from beneath him and he fell to the ground landing on his tailbone. The fall shattered his L1 vertebrae. After an 8 1/2 hour surgery to fuse his L2-T12 vertebrae, his recovery began.

O'Leary came to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Transitional Rehabilitation Program (TRP) where he spent three months in intense rehabilitation before returning home. This high-intensity inpatient rehabilitation facility is known for its excellence in treating people with brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injury. It serves as a bridge from hospital to home for people with complex medical conditions.

When O'Leary first arrived at the TRP he was using a power wheelchair. Beating the odds, he graduated to walking with a walker by the time he returned home. He also was able to achieve his goal of continuing to live in his third-story apartment that does not have elevator access. During his outpatient therapy, he began handcycling through the support and direction of the Institute's Sports and Recreation department.

Now, In the summer, three days a week he handcycles from his apartment in Uptown Minneapolis to Golden Valley, a trip of about xx miles, to work out for two to three hours at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Fitness & Wellness Center. The fully accessible Center is key to moving him toward his independence and fitness goals. In 2016 alone, O'Leary handcycled more than 900 miles. "The Fitness & Wellness Center is filled with adaptive equipment. Nothing is off limits there and there are always therapists on hand to help out when needed."

O'Leary recently received a grant to purchase his own handcycle. Now there really is no limit to how far he can move forward on his path to recovery from spinal cord injury.

Allen O'Leary

Kevin Smethers

On October 4, 2014, Kevin Smethers was injured in a helicopter crash in Texas. The crash resulted in five fractures to his neck and a severe spinal cord injury. He was airlifted to the University of Minnesota for surgery. Once his condition stabilized, he was transferred to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Abbott Northwestern Hospital for rehabilitation.

Kevin spent several months as a patient in the Transitional Rehabilitation Program (TRP) at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Golden Valley. This high-intensity inpatient rehabilitation facility is well known for its excellence in treating people with spinal cord injury. Kevin appreciated the times during his stay when Nursing Assistant Rose Bourbeau ("Little Rose" as he affectionately calls her) would take patients outside to spend time in nature. He recalls how she loved to point out all the different flowers along the garden pathway.

"Rose has that little bit of extra kindness. It's just the way she is," says Smethers. When he returned home, he remembers thinking, "I should take a picture of that flower, Rose would like to see it." Kevin credits Rose with helping him appreciate the little things and encouraging him with photography. "As a quadriplegic, I travel a little bit slower. Now, I see beauty along the trails I travel."

Today, Kevin and his wife, live in Bemidji and go out a couple times a week in his Ranger so he can take photos. [wife] jokingly complains about the risk of being bitten by mosquitos because she is the one who has to sit in the bushes with the camera. She makes it clear though, that Kevin is the photographer, she just uses her hands to capture the angle that he wants. She says, "Kevin has the photographer's eye - he finds the subjects that captivate him."

In April, Kevin submitted a couple of his photographs for the first time to the juried Courage Kenny Art Show & Sale. His photographs sold out. Guess who bought them? Rose.

Kevin and his wife, continue their efforts to modify their home and find new tools to help him be as independent as possible. He's also exploring an adaptive device for his camera, so he will be able to control it from his iPhone. The Smethers want others in similar situations to know anybody has the potential for art.

"You may need a little extra help or do it differently, but it shouldn't stop you. There is a big, huge world out there. Get out and enjoy it as much as you can!"

Ariane and Martin Kokes were excited first-time parents. On, October 23rd, 2011, triplets Victor, Oscar and Mylo were born at 28 weeks gestation due to a birth complication. Oscar and Mylo went home after just a couple months, however Victor, the smallest of the infants, had a much longer hospital stay.

Today, the triplets are five years old. In addition to some of the typical challenges experienced by a premature birth, testing revealed that Victor has a rare congenital brain condition which causes developmental delays, fine motor and oral motor issues, attention and impulse control challenges as well as epilepsy. Mylo is high functioning on the Autism Spectrum and has speech delays. Oscar seems to be thriving without any physical or behavioral challenges. As the Kokes navigate their new world, Ariane Kokes is thankful for the supportive team of therapists at CKRI.

Victor started receiving services from Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute when he was about 18 months old. "Kim Noha was amazing," said Ariane Kokes. "I clearly remember her telling us that Victor has all of the pieces to be walking, and he'll get there by his second birthday." Victor worked hard and loved his therapy and therapist. Sure enough, by his second birthday, Victor was walking. As he continued to knock down his physical challenges, occupational and speech therapies were added.

Mylo receives speech therapy at Courage Kenny to help with articulation and communication. Ariane recalls how Mylo would give up and walk away when he wasn't understood. Today, he speaks more clearly and he has gained the confidence to speak and tell his stories. "There is no doubt Mylo gets his words out now and his incredibly imaginative way of seeing the world brightens our days and keeps us laughing!" says mom.

Oscar, as with many siblings of special needs children, spends a lot of time in medical office lobbies. Ariane appreciates Courage Kenny for making Oscar feel welcome in their home away from home. "The beautiful grounds, wonderful artwork, amazing sandbox and endless supply of new coloring sheets and books have made him feel like he has a reason to be there, too", says mom. In addition to the therapies that have served the Kokes family so well, the boys have spent many hours in the pool at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Golden Valley, where they have participated in adaptive and group lessons.

"It was great to have the opportunity to be in the pool together even though the boys' needs are very different." They have also enjoyed the summer sessions of Special Olympics Young Athletes Programs. "Those hours in the pool and class were wonderful learning experiences for our boys and priceless respite for us."

"I love ALL my Courage Kenny friends," says Victor.

Victor, Oscar and Mylo Kokes
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Grace Hartman

The Hartman family loves spending summer days at their cabin, and two-year-old Grace especially loves the outdoors and her dog, Harper. Jake, an environmental consultant and Sarah, an 8th grade science teacher, enjoy every minute watching their daughter play. "Grace loves to throw sticks for Harper to run into the lake," says Sarah.

When Jake and Sarah were pregnant with Grace, a routine ultrasound revealed their unborn child's backbone was not closing properly, a condition known as spina bifida. That is when they heard about a new treatment for babies who often had better outcomes when they had surgery to repair spina bifida while still in the womb instead of the traditional method of having corrective surgery after birth. They flew to Philadelphia which is one of only three places in the country that performs this innovative fetal surgical procedure. When Sarah was only 23 weeks pregnant, she and Grace successfully underwent the revolutionary operation.

Grace was born on October 30, 2014. She was 10 days old when she came back home to Minnesota. "Before Grace was born, we were told things like she may not be able to walk and she may need a shunt in her brain to reduce fluid." The in utero surgery was extremely successful for Grace. "She is exceeding all expectations," says Sarah proudly. Grace can walk on her own a little ways, doesn't need a shunt and she is a very healthy and happy little girl. "She's doing amazing!"

At Courage Kenny Kids, Grace participates in physical therapy to help her with her walking and balance and to make sure she is on track to meet her growth milestones. Because her lesion was low on her back, she doesn't have the strength to push down on her feet which has made walking and balance challenging. But, according to her mom, it's a challenge Grace can overcome with the help of the therapists at Courage Kenny Kids. Sarah says, "Grace's favorite thing to do at Courage Kenny is go into the physical therapy gym where they have lots of fun equipment."

When the time is right, Jake and Sarah would love to see Grace participate in some of the many sports and activities of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute that encourages youth with disabilities to lead active and healthy lifestyles, like swimming. "Our goal for Grace is to make sure she realizes that she can be involved in as many things as she wants to be."

In July 2015, Kirk Ingram and his wife and high school sweetheart, Melissa, had just become first-time parents to daughter Alexa. Two weeks later on August 1, the 28-year-old new father was spending an afternoon boating on Lake Minnetonka with friends when he playfully dove off the pontoon into shallow water. He hit his head on the bottom of the lake and the impact of his dive crushed his spine. "The moment I dove in, I was not able to turn my head up whatsoever. I vividly remember that," he said.

Kirk underwent seven hours of surgery and today remains paralyzed from the chest down. During his recovery, Kirk spent six months in the Courage Kenny's Transitional Rehabilitation Program which serves as a bridge between hospital care and home. Nine months post-injury, he returned home to Melissa and their daughter, whom Kirk is still unable to hold. "I can talk to her, and Melissa has been great about putting her on my lap," he said. "She'll grab my arm, which is always nice." He continues to participate in outpatient therapy three days a week working to regain strength.

Prior to his injury, Kirk was an IT project manager. He says the support he has received from his company has been amazing. He is learning to operate a computer using dictation software with training from Courage Kenny's Assistive Technology team, and is excited to get back to his position as soon as possible. "I can give short commands that allow me to navigate the computer as well as type, by using verbal commands, not physical contact with the computer," he said.

Kirk has been working hard at his recovery, and Kirk and Melissa have a busy schedule with outpatient therapies and fitness. One of the highlights is using Courage Kenny's 92-degree therapy pool as a family. "Alexa loves the pool time!" In the warm water, Kirk can float and make minor movements which help him improve physical strength and function. When asked about his future goals, Kirk said, "My short-term goal is to drive my chair without an arm sling and be able to feed myself and feed Alexa. My number one goal has always been to hold Alexa."

Kirk Ingram

Justice Rickenbach

Justice Rickenbach is a spunky 11-year-old who refuses to sit on the sidelines, despite Prader Willi Syndrome. This painful disability impacts her strength, balance and coordination. Instead, she shows up every week at Courage Kenny Kids with a big smile on her face. She is ready to work - no matter how hard or challenging the task might be. Determined to take part in school activities to the best of her ability, she asks to work on specific activities in therapy.

Vocal communication has been challenging for her, but when surgeries to correct her voice and speech were not as successful as hoped for, Justice didn't let it get her down. She worked hard in speech therapy until she mastered her goals. Riding a bike like any other kid was also important for Justice. Though it took a couple years to learn, her persistence helped her build her core and work on her coordination skills. At first it was very difficult to stay upright without support, but within a month after joining the bike group through Courage Kenny Kids, she was riding a two-wheeler by herself.

Justice really wanted to roller skate with her classmates, but her therapists thought it might be too challenging. The very next week, she showed her therapists a video of herself roller skating at school with help. Within weeks, she was skating by herself. Other children in therapy are inspired by her determination to master new skills, and her classmates have learned that Justice shouldn't be defined by her disability, but by her accomplishments. "Justice is the most mature, loving, kind, motivated and sweet girl," said Erin Vesey, physical therapist. "She has served as inspiration to Courage Kenny Kids clients and staff alike."

By the time she was 16, Kianna Lehman was a hard-working teen, already a manager at Burger King while attending high school. Her life changed dramatically when she started experiencing physical changes including vision loss. Kianna found out she had optic neuritis - inflammation of the optic nerve - and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 18.

Despite her new challenges, Kianna was determined to move ahead with her educational goals and become the first in her family to earn a college degree. She completed her associate degree in Business Management at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and her bachelor's degree from Metropolitan State University in 2013.

Kianna participated in Vocational Services through Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute shortly after completing college. She began with a vocational evaluation which helped her address some personal challenges and develop new job goals. She also completed the Institute's Work Readiness and Pre-Placement Services.

"The hardest part was realizing that my earlier visions for myself would have to wait and I needed to consider different types of work right now. But when I realized I could help others, especially others like me, I thought, 'I can do this!'"

And, she did! Kianna was hired as a receptionist at Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) in St. Paul. At first she worked part-time, but she quickly moved to full-time work. The Institute's Extended Employment program is now helping her remain on the job. She meets with a Vocational Services staff member twice a month to support her and address any job issues she may have. The contact has been especially helpful when she is feeling overwhelmed, she says, and has helped problem solve job modifications like a new lumbar support for her chair at work. In November 2016, Kianna will celebrate two years of full-time employment.

"The staff at Courage Kenny are friendly and go above and beyond to help you," she said. "As hard as it may seem, you will like your results."

Kianna Lehman
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Jack Binsfeld

Jack Binsfeld was born in China with spina bifida, a congenital defect of the spine. He was a very serious, quiet child who lived in an orphanage until the age of five.

"We didn't think we could have kids. The first time we went to adopt, Neal and I instantly knew we were going to have a different life," said Jeanne. Neal and Jeanne Binsfeld are the proud parents of 11 children, eight of whom were adopted and who have developmental and/or physical challenges.

"Our children are our inspiration. All I can tell you is that the children are doing remarkable things." Taking stock of the Binsfeld children's gifts and talents, it's obvious Neal and Jeanne have worked to empower each of them to the best of their abilities. That includes Jack.

In the Chinese orphanage, Jack and Mia, who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, were not brother and sister but best buddies. So, the Binsfelds decided to adopt them together.

"All the photos of Jack were with a very, very serious face. We thought we were going to have to really work to bring out his personality. We just wanted to help him enjoy life because there was not a smile on anything we saw of him."

"The first year Jack was part of our family, he was so scared of everything. He couldn't communicate to us, but he spoke Chinese to Mia as neither of them knew English" recalled Jeanne. Then, she signed Jack up for the Rolling Rowdies wheelchair basketball team at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. "Since Jack began playing basketball, his personality has blossomed. He just loves basketball; it really brings out his spirit," said Jeanne.

But, the best part about participating in wheelchair basketball is watching Jack on the court laughing with friends and seeing his beaming smile.

"It's just amazing. It's wonderful to see him thriving."

First-time parents Aaron and Jamie Groth didn't know what to expect when their daughter Mackenzie (Kenzie) was born with spina bifida, a congenital defect of the spine. Together, they relied on their professional skills and knowledge as an athletic trainer and a third grade teacher to help nurture Kenzie both mentally and physically.

Last year, the Groth's began looking for more opportunities for Kenzie to be involved in extracurricular activities. "I knew of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, but really didn't know about all it offers," said Jamie. She inquired about skiing, but the program was already full, so she was directed to wheelchair basketball. "There was another little boy who started at the same time and they learned together," she said.

Jamie is very proud of her daughter. She has seen Kenzie grow in confidence and in team skills. "Before she participated in basketball, Kenzie was shy and quiet. Now, she's so happy."

Kenzie loves her coaches and is learning to work hard and is getting physically stronger. What does Kenzie like most about basketball? "Friends!"

With her newly discovered love of sport, Kenzie has also started adapted swimming lessons at Courage Kenny. "She loves her instructor and has grown as a swimmer" said mom. "I am grateful for the individual attention in lessons. She has fun, and she has been taught things I never realized she could do, like learning to dive."

Now, when asked her favorite subject in school, Kenzie beams, "gym class!" And when her class began learning about basketball, Kenzie was asked by her teacher to help teach the other kids shooting, dribbling and passing techniques. Future goals for her daughter? "I would love to see Kenzie stay active in sports and be part of all the things being on a team brings - confidence, friends and fun."

Mackenzie Groth

Janay Green

All ten-year-old Janay Green wants to do is create art and play with her friends. Her smile is contagious; if you spend just a minute with Janay, you can't help but smile right along with her.

When Janay was a toddler, she began to have seizures as a result of spastic cerebral palsy and a genetic disorder which caused developmental delays. That is when the family came to Courage Kenny Kids, a specialized pediatric rehabilitation program. It was here Janay worked several times a week with occupational and physical therapists and speech pathologists to help her achieve developmental milestones.

In 2010, when she was just four years old, Janay underwent a surgery known as Rhizotomy which is a procedure where nearly 40 percent of her spasticity-causing nerves in her spine were isolated, targeted and destroyed.

Because such a large percentage of nerves were cut, "She had to relearn everything," said her mom. "It was a long process, but Janay is a very strong and determined girl."

Through her therapies at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, "Janay's endurance has increased; her core strength improved, and she is more independent." In addition to Janay's hard work and persistence, her mom credits her amazing progress to her therapists." Janay's therapists genuinely care about her, and they have formed a special friendship."

Janay is now an active 3rd grader who loves creating all kinds of art, music and riding horses. She submitted her artwork, Flying Colors, to the 52nd annual Art of Possibilities Art Show & Sale featuring artists with disabilities at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Even better, her artwork sold - a confirmation of Janay's artistic talent.

"I like seeing people enjoy my art work", said Janay.

"She wants to be an illustrator someday, and I know she will be."

The life 28-year-old Thomas Cloyd envisioned for himself dramatically changed in July 2012. While boating during the 4th of July holiday, he dove into a shallow part of a Wisconsin lake, damaging his spinal cord. Lying motionless in the lake, Cloyd knew immediately he had just gone through a life-altering experience.

After five days in the hospital, Thomas began a grueling schedule of rehabilitation. The exercises in physical and occupational therapy challenged him physically, but the mental hurdle of living life as a quadriplegic was far more daunting.

"As a quadriplegic, I can't grip anything," explained Thomas. "So opening doors is difficult, holding a plate is tough, cooking - everything."

After several long months, Cloyd realized he needed to accept his new reality and emerged determined to do what he did pre-spinal cord injury: live life to the fullest.

"Once I pushed myself out there, I realized there were still ways for me to be active with my new body" he says. "Whether it is riding bikes with friends, touring breweries or playing adaptive sports, this is life and it can be fun. I'm in the prime years of my life, and I'm going to enjoy it."

Cloyd joined a local wheelchair rugby team sponsored by Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Not only does he love the extreme physical sport, but he values the support of his teammates.

"The team pushes each other both on the court and off. You meet people with similar level of function, Cloyd also participates in Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise Program (ABLE) of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network. An intensive fitness program, ABLE includes movement training and functional electrical stimulation, both of which aim to help people restore physical strength and function.

Cloyd continues to learn how to live with a spinal cord injury while working to regain as much strength and function as possible all while enjoying life.

"It's tough, but you need to push yourself to get back to life."

Thomas Cloyd
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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

Alan Sakry

Alan Sakry: Ready for the challenge
Alan Sakry 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
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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
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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.

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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.

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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

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