Standing Together For Cerebral Palsy
Born 27 weeks premature, Ben Anderson was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and cerebral palsy when he was 12 months old.
"Immediately when we found out, we questioned, 'What does that mean?' We called the Cerebral Palsy Alliance then and there and the next day, two people from the Allambie Heights Centre came to our home," Ben's mother Kerrie tells Peninsula Living. "They let us know that everything was going to be OK. From the very first contact, they were amazing."
For the next four years, Ben visited the centre for occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy. And since starting high school at Mater Maria, Ben has continued with aqua therapy and swimming lessons at the centre twice a week.
"It's a fantastic social outlet for Ben," his mother explains. The teenager has also taken part in a mentoring program and social networking groups.
Lauren Hansen, the head swim coach and exercise physiologist at the Allambie Heights Centre, says she has seen Ben go from strength to strength over the years.
"When I ﬁrst started at the centre about four years ago, Ben was just learning to swim on his own. He could swim independently, but not very far. Now, he can swim at least one kilometre unassisted.”
In February, Ben will be giving back to the centre that has provided invaluable help throughout his life - most at minimal or even no cost. The Mona Vale local, along with this family - dad Peter, mum Kerrie and sister Izzy - are set to participate in the Krazy Kosci Klimb, which is an 18-kilometre walk to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko.
The 15-year-old signed up to the challenge solely to raise money for the CP Alliance's Accessible Gym and Sports program, which provides supported access to exercise equipment and programs that are suitable for people with cerebral palsy. Ben is a regular - participating in swimming lessons and swimming gala days. "The event also provides an opportunity for young people living with CP and their families to challenge themselves to go beyond their best," Kerrie adds. Ms Hansen believes that Ben will be able to complete the walk due to his determination. "He comes to swimming training every week and never misses a class. He’s always keen to beat his personal best time when we do non- competitive races,” she smiles.
"His endurance because of his walking and swimming is gradually increasing."
Ben's aim is to raise $8000 for the CP Alliance. He has currently raised $2500.
At present, Ben and his family are training twice a week for the 18 kilometre Kosciuszko trek.
“We usually walk around the Narrabeen Lake loop, and sometimes Oueenscliff to Shelley Beach, or around Longreef Headland," Ben says.
"The walks have become a lot easier. Right now, we are trying to build up our stamina," Kerrie tells Peninsula Living. "We are still all so exhausted at the end of each walk!"
For the trek, each of the 20 teams participating are encouraged to dress up - and Ben’s family, along with corporate sponsors that have become involved in Ben's group, have already chosen their theme. "We're going to call our team ’Ben’s Pit Crew'. I’ve been a car buff since I was very young, as Dad as always been into cars," Ben explains, who hopes to one day get into the automotive industry. "So we haven't worked out the speciﬁcs of our costumes, but we'll probably all be holding chequered ﬂags."
While Ms Hansen believes an 18-kilometre walk is no mean feat, she says the challenge will do Ben - and other participants - the world of good "mentally and physically".
“It’s such a nice thing to do - having family and corporate sponsors helping each other," she states.