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Posted: April 17, 2009 12:00 a.m.

A motorcycle ride for Heather

Ministry holds bike ride fundraiser for local girl with cerebral palsy

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Stronger together: Heather Munson, center, smiles with her mother Patricia and sister Amber.

In many ways, Alcovy High School freshman, Heather Munson is like any other 15 year-old teenager. She chats on the cell phone, has a crush on a boyfriend at school, engages in sibling spats with her 12 year-old sister Amber and loves watching American Idol. But for Heather, every day begins and ends with the challenges of coping with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle movement and appears in early childhood but doesn’t progress or get worse as the person grows, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Although Heather was born prematurely, her parents, Patricia and Billy Munson, had no indication that their daughter would suffer any developmental delays. At 12 months, she was diagnosed, and her mother began the journey of researching ways to help Heather improve the quality of her life.

Patricia and her children worship with Bishop Tim and Pastor Stacey Needham at Living Way Worship Center International Church on Highway 81 in Covington. The church family put love into action when they recently built a sidewalk at the Munson home to give Heather an easier ride to the front door in her motorized wheel chair.

Joel and Samantha Sheppard, founders of "Spoke ‘N For Motorcycle Ministry" at LWWCI, organized their first annual Spring charity ride scheduled for Saturday, April 18. Proceeds will help to make the Munson home handicapped accessible. The registration is from noon to 1:30 p.m. and the fee is $20 per rider and $10 per passenger.

The first 100 bikers to register will receive a free T-shirt. The ride from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. will commence at the church and travel to Monticello and stop in Shady Dale at Champion’s Store and return to the church by a different route.

Barbecue sandwich plates for $5 will be sold by the LWWCI youth to raise funds for their upcoming two-day mission trip to Washington, D.C.

Rain or shine, the afternoon activities include biker games, and one dollar donation raffles for biker’s accessories, for example, leather vests, helmets and gift certificates. In addition to the horsepower contest and 50/50 drawing, Clowns for Christ will face paint and airbrush tattoos. Everyone is invited to attend a free concert at 6:30 p.m. featuring Builders None.

In terms of raising the necessary funds to purchase the handicapped shower, chair and hydraulic lift, Samantha said, "We hope people will see the need and support the event and have a good time of fellowship together."

Due to the demands of Heather’s therapy sessions, Patricia Munson resigned her job. For the past nine years, she built a cleaning business that gives her more flexibility as a single mom.

"At home, Mom has to do pretty much all the lifting by herself and I feel so sorry for her back because she has carried me for fifteen years," said Heather of her small-framed parent.

Heather says she is doing well in school and just received the news that she will be going to the tenth grade next fall.

"It’s not by my works, but it is through God," she said. "If I was doing it in myself, I would fail, but through him as my strength every day, I can make it through."

Physical therapy has strengthened the use of Heather’s left hand and she can perform tasks such as typing on the computer, combing her hair, brushing her teeth and stretching her arm out to put on clothes. She recently walked 200 feet in a gate trainer.

"I told my doctor that I am not going to let my disability get in my way," said Heather who has aspirations of becoming a pharmacy technician. "If I see anyone going through something, I say, ‘Hey, cheer up. You don’t have to be sad all the time. You can be happy and just be you.’"

Heather hopes to write a book someday entitled, "Inspirations of Heather Munson." She wants to encourage others with challenges to continue and not give up on their dreams.

"Mother always tells me that I have a purpose here," said Heather. "I can do anything through Christ. I want to get on the microphone Saturday and thank every single person who has done this for me."

For more information on the ride or to become a sponsor for the event, call Joel Sheppard at (678) 300-7989.

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