Being one of seven children, I am often asked, "Who's your favorite??". As a child, I learned the rule that nonono you don't pick favorites. You love EVERYONE. EQUALLY.
NAY! NAY I tell you!! I am now an adult of 23 years, and I shall share with the world that my favorite sister is LAURA LYNN VANDERSTAPPEN. HA!
Now, Laura is not my favorite because she's the nicest to me (don't let that sweet face fool you...) or because she loves me the most (Half the time when you tell the child you love her she says, "NO!"). Laura is my favorite because she, out of all of my siblings, has opened my eyes to a world that I never would have known without her.
Laura was born with a disability. The doctors never gave her an exact diagnosis. "Developmentally delayed" was what they said. My parents started exploring this diagnosis right away. When can we start therapy? Where will she go to school? How are we going to explain this to the kids? We will give Laura the best life EVER!!
One doctor had the nerve to tell my parents that it would be useless doing all of these things for their child. She would never amount to anything. After shocked expressions, angry words, and hot tears, my parents never went back to that doctor, and were more determined than ever to prove him wrong.
And they did. Laura did. Because she is amazing. In every. single. way.
My parents had Laura in therapy - both physical and occupational - at the young age of 3 months. The therapists came to our house ("HURRY UP AND CLEAN THE LIVING ROOM!!!!! THE THERAPIST WILL BE HERE IN 20 MINUTES!!!!" became an almost daily command) and did their job. And by did their job, I mean proved that horrible doctor wrong every day. Because Laura had so, so much potential. And they recognized it, harnessed it, and developed it... even if it did take a long time...
Being developmentally delayed means exactly what you think it means. Laura sat up for the first time when she was almost 2 years old. I actually remember my mom coming in to the living room and saying "Alright, who sat Laura up so close to the fireplace?" Blank stares. "Who did it?! I'm not mad!! I just want to know who sat her up!" Uhhhhhh. "OHMYGOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE DID IT HERSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE SAT UP ALL BY HERSELF!!!!!!!" And then we all started crying. Because it was that awesome. And we're criers.
Laura scooted around the house on her little butt for years. She still answers to the nickname 'Scooter'. And then, when she was 8 years old, Laura started to walk. By herself. As in, no help from anyone.
Laura has accomplished so much. An incredible amount for such a tiny girl. So many more milestones passed. Although her talking isn't all coherent, there is so much going on her brain that she shows us in other ways.
She recognizes. She recognizes faces, voices, things she likes, and things she doesn't.
She gets mad. She'll cross her arms and stomp away. She'll yell. She'll start to cry if something isn't fair.
She manipulates. She tattles on her siblings. She fake cries when she's not getting her way.
She is happy. The happiest of anyone I know. She laughs. She smiles. She tickles you. She tells jokes.
She LOVES. She give hugs and kisses. She says "I love you." She has so much love in her heart and soul, and she gives it to everyone. Everyone.
One of the best things to happen to Laura, my family, and so many other families in Walworth County is Lakeland School, a school that was made only for special needs children. One of the most amazing places on Earth. Laura started attending Lakeland when she was 3. She will be a student there until she is 21. Please watch the 5 minute video below to learn a little bit more about Lakeland.
Every year, Lakeland School has an annual fundraiser called School Fest. My mom has always been a big advocate for supporting this, because our lives wouldn't be the same without Lakeland. If you would like to buy raffle tickets to support Lakeland School, so that Lakeland School can continue changing lives for the better every single day, you can shoot me an email at email@example.com. Raffle tickets are 1 dollar each, or 6 for $5.00. I promise it's for a great cause.
OH, and there are some AWESOME prizes too:
GRAND PRIZE!! Samsung LED 43-inch TV and Blu-Ray Player
SECOND PRIZE! Nook e-reader with $100 Barnes & Noble gift card
CASH PRIZES$$$ - $200, (2) $100, (2) $50
Sa-weeeeet!!! School Fest is on May 7 (in case you'd like to attend!), and guess what... The winner doesn't have to be present! So seriously, you can be ANYWHERE in the WORLD and win, and they will get your prize to you!
Lakeland School is one of the best things that has ever happened to Laura, and my entire FAMILY. My favorite sister wouldn't be who she is today without it, and neither would her siblings. An amazing place with amazing people. That needs all the support it can get.
So don't forget to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ;)
I'll need your name, address, and phone number...