Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014 Shares Journey to Parenthood

Are you a person with a disability who has ever wondered whether or not you would one day become a parent? Or are you a parent or caregiver who has ever had the same question regarding your son or daughter? Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014, Kelsey Kleimola, recently shared her story with UCP and discussed this very topic. See her story below!

by Kelsey Kleimola, Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2014



From a very young age, I’d always known I wanted a family.  I fantasized about being a mother, imagining a world in which my wheelchair didn’t exist.  Not because I felt sorry for myself, or because I didn’t think parenting would be a possibility, but because I honestly didn’t think all that often about having a disability, or that it might keep me from my dreams.  To me, having a disability was as much a part of me as breathing– something I’d lived with my entire life.  I’d learned early on that I could either let it define me or let it drive me.

 I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was ten months old.  After being told, throughout many times in life, that I would never be able to do anything, and that any hope for a bright future looked grim, I worked hard to prove my naysayers wrong.  When they said I couldn’t do something, I pushed forward– and I did it.  I attended a public high school, even though I was told I’d never talk.  I was accepted into an amazing college, though I was told that would be an impossibility.  I continued to dream, despite those who were quietly whispering, “You can’t.” Always, though, my heart went back to one thing– wanting to be a mother.

Then an amazing thing happened.  Some might call it miraculous.  Right there, in the middle of my everyday life, I met my husband.  We met in an online chatroom and during the first several weeks of us talking, I was upfront and honest.  “I have cerebral palsy,” I said.  His response? “So what?” It was then that I knew, this was the man God had chosen for me.  On a snowy February day, two years after we’d first met, we got married.


A month before our second anniversary, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy.  I’d gone through a normal, healthy pregnancy.  I was elated.  My thoughts rushed back, not for the first time, to the little girl who longed for a family of her own. I was wrapped in a perfect bubble of happiness, knowing no one could burst it. But people tried.  They questioned how I would care for a baby on a daily basis.  What would happen when my son grew older and began to walk?  What if he ran away from me and into a dangerous situation?  What would I do?  How would I cope?

 But do you want to know the truth?  While everyone else was busy worrying, I was busy loving. I reveled in the sweet smell of my baby boy– the fact that I could make him laugh so easily, that I could make him happy and that I was his mommy.  I chose not to live in a world of “what ifs.” Instead, I savored the moments that I knew would pass all too quickly. I focused on what I could do as a parent, instead of the little things that I needed help with.  I could change his diapers, give him baths, feed him and snuggle him.  But most importantly, I wrapped my son in the certain knowledge that I was his mommy, and that was enough for both of us.

That was five years ago.  Since then, we’ve added a gorgeous baby girl to our family.  Neither one of my children have ever questioned why I’m in a wheelchair. This is their normal, and that’s OK.  But when the difficult days and voices creep in, once again whispering, “You can’t,” the sweet laughter of my children reminds me that I did.


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Kleimola is from Grand Rapids, MI and currently lives in Ypsilanti, MI with her family. She will compete at the Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 competition in Long Beach, California on August 4 – 10, 2014. Feel free to follow her on Facebook!


UCP Launches New Online Resource for Kids & Parents


Lauren Cozzi: 202-973-7114,
Alicia Kubert Smith: 202-973-7168,

UCP Launches New Online Resource for Kids & Parents

Overhaul of Brave Kids portal second phase of new Public Education & Outreach efforts

Washington, DC (April 11, 2012) – When Kristen Fitzgerald lost two of her children to catastrophic illnesses, she pledged to redirect the anguish of her tragic experiences toward easing the suffering of seriously ill children and helping parents avoid the struggle of finding resources and emotional support for their own children. She founded “Brave Kids,” an online portal for information and support, and now, almost 12 years later to the day, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) has molded Fitzgerald’s vision of love into a powerful new resource for kids and parents, adding the perspective of people with disabilities.

Brave Kids was launched in the San Francisco Bay Area during March 2000. The Brave Kids website rolled out nationwide in 2002, in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco; the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital; and a number of corporate sponsors. Following the launch, Brave Kids donated resource centers to pediatric wards of hospitals located in California and Florida. UCP took ownership of the website in 2011, and is proud to carry on the legacy of Brave Kids by providing the information, resources and support that visitors and users have come to trust and rely upon.

The new Brave Kids ( is an encyclopedic resource for children, youth and teens ages 6-17 with chronic/life-threatening illnesses and disabilities, their families and caregivers, providing information and resources on numerous disabilities, medical conditions and genetic diseases. It includes a secure online community for parents and caregivers to share ideas, gain support and have conversations about issues relevant to this group.  Brave Kids is a part of UCP’s new Public Education & Outreach initiative, which aims to provide vital support and information to people with their disabilities and their families during key moments of transition. For more information, visit

“UCP is proud to couple UCP’s strong tradition of serving people with disabilities and their families with Kristen Fitzgerald’s vision that no parent should feel alone in times of grief and struggle,” said Stephen Bennett, former UCP President & CEO. “Brave Kids is a critical piece of UCP’s Public Education & Outreach initiatives, which guide people with disabilities and caregivers through the entire life cycle. UCP is delighted to relaunch Brave Kids and deliver regularly updated news and content through the resource.”

Brave Kids provides the following:

1.       Information, resources and a support community. In addition to detailed information about health and wellness, family and caregivers can sign up for a monthly newsletter and connect with Brave Kids on social media platforms by following Brave Kids on Twitter and Facebook. Users will also stay up to date on current issues. An important part of Brave Kids is the secure support community of individuals whose common experiences help to build connections are share information.

2.       A place for kids, youth and teenagers 6-17, to get information to lead fuller, richer lives. The special Just for Kids section helps young people access information that helps them lead a life without limits, giving tips and tools about growing up in today’s world. The website is specifically created to be simple for both children/teens and adults to navigate.

3.       A vital link in UCP’s continuum of transitions initiatives that span the entire life cycle. UCP’s Public Education & Outreach (PEO) efforts provide people with disabilities, their families and caregivers with support, resources and information throughout all stages of life for a life without limits. This is part of UCP’s mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with a spectrum of disabilities.

Brave Kids would not have been possible without generous donations from the Medtronic Foundation and Shionogi. Inc. “We could not have brought Brave Kids to a wider audience without the support of these two key partners,” Bennett said. “Both understand the importance of quality, objective information to parents and caregivers and care deeply about the future lives of those we serve.”

For more information on how you can support Brave Kids or any of UCP’s Public Education & Outreach efforts, please contact Nick Pietras, Manager of Strategic Partnership & Events, at

About United Cerebral Palsy
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit