She’s already 9,000 steps in and Laura Schnellert still hasn’t had to leave the comfy confines of her St. James neighbourhood to hike up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Schnellert is taking part in the World CP Challenge, a global, virtual race to climb the seven summits of the world to raise awareness and funds for cerebral palsy organizations throughout September.
With pedometers at their hips, Schnellert and her team of four are counting their steps in support of the Celebral Palsy Association of Manitoba.
"We’ve always contributed and supported any way we could," she said.
Schnellert has been active in the organization for the last 35 years since her daughter, Karen, was diagnosed with moderate to severe CP at nine months old.
Schnellert wants to raise awareness that despite the limitations CP imposes — Karen, for example, is wheelchair-bound, has limited speech and needs help with basic needs such as eating and dressing — those with the condition are still valuable contributors to the community.
"She’s quite bright and she’s out and about in the community," she said, noting Karen lives with a roommate in an assisted living residence in south St. Vital, and, since finishing school, has been an active volunteer at Misericordia Hospital.
"She has a very purposeful life as we all try to do. She’s doing remarkably well."
Schnellert & Co. will need to take about 10,000 steps a day over the next four weeks to scale the peak, which is being tracked online.
Although the team doesn’t include her daughter, it does include her daughter’s long-time friend who also lives with CP.
Support for agencies like the CPAM means families can establish support groups and friend networks Schnellert said — a critical outlet for any of 370 million people worldwide connected to CP when it can often be far too easy to give up,
"Initially for families it’s just devastating. Some families deal with it better than others, but it’s not easy," she said.
"Many members of the association have become family friends."
The challenge, launched Sept. 4, comes on the heels of the province proclaiming Sept. 4 as World Cerebral Palsy Day, acknowledging the estimated 17 million people worldwide living with the condition.
David Kron, program and membership director for the CPAM, called the proclamation recognition of the agency’s hard work, which only serves a small niche in the greater disabled community.
CP remains a "hidden condition" from those who aren’t affected by it, Kron said.
The profile boost will help agencies better provide services and resources for families to cope and children be able to properly develop.
"CP affects everybody, every minute in different ways," said Kron, a Fort Richmond resident who was diagnosed with CP at birth.
"It’s always nice when the province and minister of health specifically supports different non-profit groups that are trying to help their little piece of the community."
For more, visit www.cerebralpalsy.mb.ca.