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My name is Kari Baciak and I have been a member of the Cuyahoga County Mayors Secretaries Association (CCMSA), and the secretary for the Village of Brooklyn Heights’ Mayor Mike Procuk for the past thirteen years. I have four beautiful daughters, ages 21, 18, 11 and 7. My youngest daughter, Ella, was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 4 1/2, and has multiple seizures daily. She currently attends Cuyahoga Heights Elementary School and has a 1:1 aide with her at all times. Ella qualified for the Extended School Year program, so this past summer I enrolled her at Camp Cheerful during the months of July and August for day camp. She attended every day, all day long. This was the first time that Ella was away from me and everyone else that she was accustomed to. Ella easily fit right in at Camp Cheerful, was loved by all the camp counselors, and looked forward to attending each day. On her first day, I received a phone call from Camp Cheerful and they indicated the need of a wheelchair for Ella. With over 52 acres of woods, trails, fields and aquatic areas she was having a difficult time maneuvering about all day. I made a few phone calls, and by the end of that day, I arranged to have six wheelchairs donated and delivered to Camp Cheerful.

I was a co-chair for this year’s CCMSA May luncheon, and throughout the thirteen years that I have been a member, I have never once made a charity suggestion, until this year. It was easy this year for me to suggest that a donation be made to Camp Cheerful. With first-hand experience this past summer with my daughter, I knew that these dollars would extend to great lengths for these children with disabilities.

Camp Cheerful gave my daughter the ability to participate in a variety of recreational activities that encouraged her confidence and independence, created opportunities for lifelong friendships, while having fun and improving her quality of life. She enjoyed hiking, swimming, canoeing, arts & crafts, music, sports and games, along with having reading, math, speech and occupational therapy on a daily basis.

Ella recently started riding lessons in the Therapeutic Horsemanship program at Camp Cheerful. I cannot wait to see how Ella’s riding sessions impact her life. I know that it will improve her balance, strength, hand-eye coordination and give her a sense of normality. When Ella was born, I thought that I would have to teach her about the world. Instead, she taught me more about the world than I can ever imagine.

You never know how strong strong is, until strong is your only choice.

Kari Baciak, Ella's mother
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