Our twin daughters, Hannah and Libby, were born at 25 weeks gestation, approximately 4 months early in February 2004. Hannah’s amniotic sac had become infected and she was in distress. The twins were delivered by emergency c-section and moved to their new home in the Georgetown University Hospital NICU.
The road for Libby was a typical one for a 25 week preemie, a three month stay with very minor complications. Hannah’s path, however, was much more complicated.
Hannah endured a massive brain hemorrhage on day 3 of her stay, putting her life and her future in jeopardy. However, Hannah’s determined spirit, even at a weight of 1.5 pounds was apparent. She fought through one heart surgery and six brain surgeries, massive infections, and feeding issues to leave the hospital six months later on July 21, 2004 a healthy but medically fragile baby.
We received Hannah’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy at 18 months of age and even then her drive to persevere was evident and she moved forward with a smile on her face. She was eager to participate with her twin and older sisters in all of their activities, fighting through physical therapy to move, crawl and then walk, taking her first independent steps at 3 1/2 years old. Hannah continued to progress, and we continued to surround her with physicians and therapists who saw the potential in her, regardless of what her medical records said.
Hannah made her feelings even more crystal clear on a ski trip to Pennsylvania when the twins were 5 years old. I had organized lessons for our three other girls and had decided with Mark that we each would take half a day spending time in the lodge with Hannah, while the others skied. While we were waiting in line to get our rental skis, Hannah pulled on my my coat sleeve and very sweetly but directly asked, “Where are my skis mama?” In that moment, I had failed her. I took the easy road and hadn’t investigated what options there were for my very determined daughter with motor challenges. As I apologized to her, I made a promise that moving forward I would work to find fun activities for her to participate in, just as her sisters did.
In the Fall of 2014, I retired from my job of 16 years and with time on my hands, started to think about what was still lacking in programs for kids with disabilities. Hannah participated in a ballet class on
Saturdays, basketball on Sundays and horseback riding on Tuesday evenings. The one opportunity she’d never had access to was to stay after school and participate in a program like her typical peers. This is how Open Door Sports came to be. Supported by the wonderful folks at The Player Progression Academy, I set out to fill the gap in after-school programming for kids with special needs and was determined to provide another opportunity for these kids to find success and joy in sports.
Hannah was our inspiration for creating Open Door Sports and continues to be our motivation for providing free high quality, high energy programming for kids and young adults just like her!