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Former Patient Appointed by Governor to State Council on Developmental Disabilities

Kara is a former Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California patient with developmental disabilities. Over the course of her lifetime, Kara has been diagnosed with various congenital orthopaedic conditions affecting her limbs and spine. She is a vibrant and determined 28-year-old woman.

In June of 2019, Kara received a special letter from California State Governor Gavin Newsom.

“It is my pleasure to appoint you as a member of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities,” wrote Gov. Newsom. “Thank you for accepting this important responsibility.”

This letter and appointment signified a milestone achievement in Kara’s life after working and advocating for people with disabilities in California since age 18. The recognition did not surprise Kara’s sister, Elisabeth.

“Kara is smart, ambitious and doesn’t let the world tell her no,” said Elisabeth.

Kara spent many of her formative years as a patient at the Northern California Shriners Hospital, and said that many of those years at the hospital helped shape who she is today. Her orthopaedic care team played an instrumental role in helping her gain the mobility, confidence and independence she enjoys today.

“Today I own my home,” said Kara. “And I’m working to make life better for people with disabilities in California.”

Kara lives independently with support from her sister and other family members. She is serving her three-year appointment as a member of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. In the past, Kara served as vice chair of the Redwood Coast Regional Center Self-Determination Local Advisory Committee, and as a member of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities’ North Coast Regional Advisory Committee aiding Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake and Mendocino counties. She has also been active with her regional chapter of People First of California, a self-advocacy organization run by and for people with developmental disabilities, since she was a teenager. She is passionate about making sure children and adults with developmental disabilities are equipped with necessary resources to be able to integrate into mainstream school and living.

“Some kids are still sent to special schools,” said Kara. “I hope more children with disabilities can attend school with the general population in the future.”

Kara’s journey as a Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California patient began when she was an infant. A team of orthopaedists cared for her throughout her entire childhood until she was 17. Former assistant chief of orthopaedics Preston James, M.D., and orthopaedic surgeon Joel Lerman, M.D., were prominent medical staff members on her care team. Kara was born with lower limb deformities that required ongoing bracing and casting. She saved some of her tiny baby leg casts and braces for posterity.

“Those little braces remind me of how far I’ve come over the years with help from Shriners,” said Kara.

An invitation to speak at her local Shrine Club, the former Pomo Shrine Club in Ukiah, turned out to be her first foray into public life and advocacy. When she was 13, she attended and shared her experience as a Shriners Hospitals patient. The Northern California Shriners Hospital holds a special place in Kara’s heart.

“I was a patient from 9 days old until I was 17. Their orthopaedic team is the best,” said Kara. “I love Shriners.”

In her free time, Kara cares for her pet parakeets and creates art. She also enjoys traveling, especially to Disneyland. She looks forward to another visit to Disneyland when COVID-19 precautions are lifted. In the meantime, she remains focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities by working hard as a member of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.


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