As you travel south on Red Mountain Expressway in Birmingham, Alabama, the digital billboard changes to United Way of Central Alabama’s campaign graphics. What you first notice are the infectious smiles on the faces of mother and son, Eryca and Kylin Lewis. United Way is proud to highlight this family’s story as we partner in education and health with United Ability (formerly United Cerebral Palsy), a United Way agency that provides innovative services connecting people with disabilities to their communities, and empowering individuals to live full and meaningful lives.
Kylin, now 23 years old, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months. “When we realized he was not walking, we began his testing,” said Eryca. “Then, when he was 2, we were able to enroll him in United Ability’s Hand In Hand Early Intervention program. While the staff worked with Kylin through physical and speech therapy, they helped me learn how to care for his needs at home.” This caregiver training and support are at the heart of United Ability’s philosophy to ensure that a child’s learning and development can be maximized wherever they are throughout the day.
“When a parent finds out their child has a disability, their dreams are shattered,” said Gary Edwards, United Ability’s chief executive officer. “What United Ability is able to do is help parents dream new dreams for their child.” Eryca admits that advocating for Kylin has been, at times, an “emotional rollercoaster.” However, she is thankful for the support she receives through United Ability and United Way, and her faith in God and the support of her family keeps her strong. “When I saw the billboard, my mind went straight to my mom who passed away last year,” said Eryca. “We lived together and she helped me care for Kylin at every turn. I would love to be able to share this with her.”
Kylin, a huge Marvel and DC comic’s fan, is also aspiring to get back in school to become a Spanish interpreter. “Disability doesn’t matter,” says Kylin. “If you have a strong mind and will, that’s all that matters.”