Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

BLHS senior an inspiration

October 5, 2006

A positive attitude in the face of adversity can be hard to find, but it's how Lindsey Anderton lives her daily life.

The Basehor-Linwood High School senior was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was about 14 months old. The disorder, which can affect motor skills and learning, most likely was caused by a lack of oxygen to her brain during Anderton's first five months of life. She was born 15 weeks early and spent several months at St. Luke's Hospital on a ventilator. Lindsey's mother, Linda, said doctors were skeptical whether Lindsey would ever walk or talk.

"CP is a non-progressive disease, meaning that it will never get worse, but it may seem worse because it is not as noticeable in an infant," Linda Anderton said.

"It seemed like a bleak diagnosis at the beginning. Only time would tell if she would be able to do anything."

Even though the going was a little slow and many times difficult, Lindsey overcame the odds. She has had several ear, eye and orthopedic surgeries and now walks with the help of a walker. While Linda Anderton said some of Lindsey's thinking is slightly delayed, the 18-year-old speaks clearly, attends mostly regular classes, makes good grades and finds ways to be involved at school.

A true Care Cat

Throughout her life, she has been a basketball and volleyball trainer and involved in Brownies, student council and National Honor Society, but she has really found her place as a Care Cat.

Care Cats is a branch of YouthFriends that allows high school students to mentor elementary school students. Lindsey began volunteering as a Care Cat during her junior year. YouthFriends coordinator Tammy Potts said Lindsey has excelled in the program.

"She's a Care Cat who really truly cares about kids," Potts said. "It's important for young people to see people of all abilities."

The district provides transportation for Lindsey to travel to Glenwood Ridge Elementary School to help tutor children in math and reading in Jennifer Gilbert's classroom.

Last Friday afternoon, Lindsey spent time working with several students on addition flashcards and worksheets. She never missed an opportunity to tell the young students that they were doing a good job.

"I had her last year as a Care Cat, but I requested her this year because she's just so positive," Gilbert said. "Nothing gets her down. She's just an inspiration."

Lindsey is determined to continue her education at Johnson County Community College or Kansas City, Kan., Community College. She wants to become a teacher.

"I want to work with kids, but I also want to work with computers," Lindsey said. "So, maybe a computer teacher."

Her positive attitude and work as a Care Cat despite her disability has earned her quite a bit of attention. She has been featured on a couple of television news stations, including Phil Witt's "Reaching for Excellence" on Fox 4 News. The news team followed her one school day a few weeks ago. That segment will air Oct. 11 and 12. She also rode in the YouthFriends' red convertible in the Homecoming parade last week.

All the recent attention, full days of school and volunteer work may seem exhausting for somebody with cerebral palsy, but Lindsey said, "I'm used to it."

A positive influence

"To make this a priority, that says a lot about her sheer willpower," Potts said about Lindsey's dedication to Care Cats. "She's already overcome so many obstacles. Lindsey wants to be a teacher, but in many ways, she's already taught a lot of people many things."

Not only do the children Lindsey mentors look up to her, but her mother said she has helped her family as well.

Her mother and her father, Ralph, and her sister, Amber, had never really been around disabled people before Lindsey was born and she has allowed them to feel comfortable and more compassionate toward people with disabilities. Lindsey even inspired her mother to become a nurse and work with children with disabilities.

"Lindsey has changed my life in a huge way for the better," Linda said. "Not once has she ever complained or said, why me? She doesn't feel sorry for herself. She's always just done what she's had to do."

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