By Michael Doran
Making her debut on the MCG on 14 October will be Claire Rae-Volarich, aka Chatterbox Claire. Claire, who lives in Launching Place, will walk the final lap on the hallowed turf of the MCG solo, a special feat for a three year old living with Cerebral Palsy.
When asked about Claire’s road to the MCG, mum Genevieve credited the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre with her development. “Since going to CPEC Claire has learnt to walk and talk in a beautiful, warm and caring environment,” Genevieve said.
“She had minimal speech before doing the therapy at CPEC and now she talks so much everyone knows her as Chatterbox Claire. The physios there helped her learn to walk, starting off with a frame and that has changed her whole life.”
Claire has learnt to ride a bike, which gives her a lot of fun but is also targeted at developing her legs on the path to walking unaided. This holistic approach is a feature of the work done by CPEC, where physio, speech and occupational therapists work as a team on each individual.
“We were on our own before we found CPEC and without them Claire could not have developed the way she has,” said Genevieve. “To be able to access all the services in one place is just fantastic.”
“We go to group sessions every Tuesday and we come away feeling so warm and accepted, in a world where it is easy to feel Claire’s condition is not accepted or understood by everybody”.
The MCG walk is the finish of the Melbourne Marathon, for which CPEC is the official charity and has a team of 500 taking part. CPEC receives no government funding, relying on donations to be able to provide its services.
The centre has a long waiting list of families keen to have access to same services, equipment and mobility aids that have been so successful with Claire.
“CP is the most common physical disability in Australia and the kids are as switched on as you and I,” said Robyne Somerville of CPEC. “It’s just that their little bodies don’t work the way they are supposed to.”
All the details of CPEC and the walk are at www.cpec.org.au