MISSISSAUGA, ON, July 30, 2015 — Twenty year-old Renee Foessel has her sights set on gold during the upcoming Parapan Am Games. Born with hemiplegia, a type of cerebral palsy that has left the right side of her body weak, the former ErinoakKids client and top ranked world para-athlete is vying for the podium in three events at the international competition.
“Growing up with cerebral palsy, there have always been challenges,” says Foessel. “I could never participate in school events or sport activities. After being exposed to sport at ErinoakKids, I began to understand what I could and couldn’t do, and set goals for myself.”
At the age of three, Foessel began receiving service at ErinoakKids for cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement or posture caused by abnormal development or damage to the brain of an infant or young child. By the age of seven, she joined ErinoakKids’ baseball program as part of her therapy program. Soon after, she began competing in sports in her community, including sledge hockey and later track and field events and wheelchair basketball competitions in her teens.
Over time, she improved her motor skills and muscle strength and excelled in sport. In 2013, she was named the most outstanding female field performer by Athletics Ontario. At the Parpan Am Games next week, Foessel is competing in the discus throw, javelin throw and shot put events, where she is ranked No. 2 in the world and among the top 10 in the world, respectively.
For Foessel, it’s a love of sport that drives her passion to succeed.
“I wouldn’t be involved in sport today if I hadn’t gone to ErinoakKids,” she says. “If they hadn’t exposed me to sport and taught me to understand my abilities and build my confidence, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today.”
Jon Greenaway, a transitions consultant at ErinoakKids, who supported Foessel in her move from high school to college, isn’t at all surprised by her achievements.
“Renee is very positive and rises above adversity to face every challenge,” he says. “Her success is a combination of what she has been able to achieve and who she is — a role model for so many kids.”
Outside of sport, Renee has completed a post-secondary diploma in Community and Justice Services this year, and is now looking towards a bachelor’s degree of Applied Arts and Criminology in the fall.
“No matter what, try the best you can,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to go past your comfort level no matter what anyone else says.”
For more on Foessel, visit http://paralympic.ca/renee-foessel
ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development is Ontario’s largest children’s treatment centre, serving more than 15,000 children and youth annually who have physical and developmental disabilities, autism, communication disorders, blindness/low vision and hearing loss. Our mission is to help our clients achieve optimal levels of independence, learning, health and well-being. Serving Halton, Peel, Dufferin — and, for some services, Waterloo and Wellington — ErinoakKids has approximately 650 staff and 11 sites from which we provide a comprehensive array of assessment, medical, therapy and support services that help children and their families. For more information about ErinoakKids please visit www.ErinoakKids.ca
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