A MESSAGE FROM THE FOUNDER
Diana's Friends, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization with a pending 501(c)3 application with the Internal Revenue Service.
There are thousands of children in the Central Florida area and hundreds of thousands all across the country afflicted with Cerebral Palsy and other neuromuscular disorders either from birth or subsequently acquired from traumatic brain injury.
These are static brain injuries and not degenerative. With the proper therapy in duration and intensity the child can "relearn" how to perform functions that are normally handled by a damaged portion of the brain.
This elasticity of the brain to "relearn" activities is most evident in younger children before we literally become "set" in our ways. The earlier we are able to deliver lots of therapy to a child in both intensity and duration the better that child's future becomes.
Unfortunately, finding the means to get quality therapy whether it is the facility, the therapist, or the funds is very difficult for most families and downright draining.
Diana's Friends, Inc. is a very simple model. We raise funds from the public and spend 100% directly on helping children receive the intensive therapy that will change their lives for the better. Nobody in Diana's Friends, Inc. is paid for their time or receive any other sort of remuneration. The Board spends their time for these afflicted children because it's the right thing to do.
Years ago my wife Jan and I discovered that our firstborn child, Diana, was afflicted with Cerebral Palsy. At that time we devoted everything we had and everything we could scrape together to assuring her quality of life. We sought out doctors, therapists, facilities, and anything that purported could help her.
What we found was incredibly disappointing. The state of therapy in the United States was lacking for what Diana needed and few people seemed expert in her specific needs. For many patients what was available was just fine, as it was mainly geared to the "average" patient's needs. But what do you do when your child needs more than the average patient? We traveled all over the country to try to find what would work best for Diana and eventually found a very specialized Polish therapists in Michigan. These therapist were trained at a specialty clinic in Poland which uses an intensive protocol for children with neuromuscular disorders.
In many instances, health insurance only pays for very limited amounts of therapy....an hour or two per week. Without sufficient therapy these children will never experience even the most basic gains without repetition, repetition, repetition. The intensive protocol used by the Polish therapist is three hours per day five days per week for three to four weeks. It is only with this repetition and constant reinforcement that child will experience relearning of motor functions. The analogy would be to ask how long it would take to learn to play the piano if one only practiced for an hour or two per week. Undoubtedly it would take the average person many many years to even gain a basic competence.
The same goes with any other "learned" neuromuscular activity such as standing, ambulating/walking, use of hands and legs and so on. Repetition, repetition, repetition and continually moving the goal post are the keys to the progressive protocols that yield the wonderful results.
We were so pleased with what we experienced as parents and the gains that Diana made that we determined to either move to Michigan or open a similar clinic in our native New Orleans.
The Michigan clinic agreed to train and equip our therapists to open in the New Orleans area. Upon opening in 2003 the clinic was one of very few intensive therapy clinics in the country and the only one in the Gulf Coast area.
We set up a 501(c)3 Foundation to help children with the cost of therapy just like Diana's Friends is currently doing.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area in late 2005, the clinic lost most of its patients and therapists and was forced to shut down shortly thereafter. In those few years, the clinic and Foundation spent over $400,000 helping 30-plus children in the area receive therapy. Children who were in wheelchairs got out of them. Children who would have been placed in wheelchairs did not need them. Children who could not previously walk were using walkers and canes. These children experienced wonderful improvements in their quality of life.
Upon moving to Florida in 2011 we made a therapy trip to Michigan for Diana and discovered that a Polish therapist couple from the clinic wished to move to Florida.
The couple has opened the Orlando Pediatric Training Center, LLC doing business as Celebration Pediatric Physical Therapy in Kissimmee, FL.
Since that time we, in conjunction with Diana's Friends, Inc. have spent over $200,000 to help several dozen children receive therapy at the center from all across the country and world. Parents seek out this Therapy Center from as far away as Brazil, Argentina, Dubai, and Pakistan and as close as Florida, Texas, Michigan, Nevada, and California.
The therapy has been so successful for the children we must do more for more. Thus the reason all contributions are very important. Just a few hours of therapy today could create a tremendously positive ripple effect in a child's life that he or she may not require as many services as an adult. It allows them to have the best quality of life they can possibly have.
Long term plans for the Center are to grow to larger facilities capable of helping many, many more children by adding even more modalities and other therapeutic protocols. Celebration Pediatric Physical Therapy will become a specialty destination center to help children worldwide as well as in our own Central Florida community.