Insider May-June 2008

by Quest Staff on May 1, 2008 - 9:47am

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 3

Wish granted

On Jan. 7, Pantene spokesperson and Access Hollywood correspondent Maria Menounos interviewed Kathryn Bryant on the red carpet of the “27 Dresses” movie premiere in Los Angeles.

Not only does Kathryn Bryant know what it’s like to have a wish granted, the 35-year-old Christian counselor from Columbus, Ga., now finds herself, as the result of having her own wish fulfilled, implementing a program that will help make others’ dreams and wishes come true as well.

Bryant, who learned she had limb-girdle muscular dystrophy as a 6-year-old, found out in December she’d been named winner of the grand prize in the Pantene Beautiful Wishes contest. As a result, Pantene granted Bryant’s wish, providing the startup costs for her to start a foundation that aims at helping children with physical disabilities socialize with and relate to others in similar situations.

Bryant says the goal is to create school peer mentoring groups that bring together kids with physical disabilities and severe chronic conditions.

“The best thing we have to currently meet this need is the MDA summer camps,” she says, noting that she wants to complement the weeklong summer camp experience and provide a social support network for kids and teens year round.

Bryant says she finds the motivation to help children with physical disabilities in her own experience with self-acceptance issues as a teenager and young adult — times when she felt “alone” and “different” as her muscular dystrophy progressed and precluded her from participating in athletics or caused her to struggle.

“Now I have the opportunity to take what I’ve been through to help kids, teens and young adults who are just like I was.”

Dog day afternoons are just fine by him

From the day two years ago when Chuck Archer got his service dog, she’s been making a huge difference in his life, and the lives of others with disabilities.

Archer, 53, has spinal muscular atrophy, but if anything, it only has spurred him to success. After earning an accounting degree, he spent 20 years working for the Arkansas state government in financial management.

In 1995, though, after decades of declining walking ability, he knew it was time to move on to a power wheelchair. He retired from his civil service career and his normally active community involvement slowed.

Until 2004.

Chuck Archer with Dulce, his very talented service dog. Archer’s energy and confidence have soared since they teamed up.

His wife, Marcella, was watching a TV show about service dogs and learned to her amazement that a dog training school, Southwest Service Dogs (SWSD), had started up not far from their Mayflower, Ark., home.

Chuck contacted SWSD and months later was the ecstatic owner of a gentle and unbelievably talented golden retriever named Dulce, whose skills include retrieving dropped objects and “handing” payment to cashiers when he’s shopping.

“She made an incredible change in my life — my energy level, my level of confidence,” he says.

In 2006, Archer was named MDA’s Arkansas Personal Achievement Award recipient for his community service, which includes several dog-related efforts. One is a program for kids with reading difficulties that pairs them with “motivational” dogs while reading. A second program pairs kids with dogs during times of crisis. “It’s their demeanor,” says Archer. “They have a calming influence.”

Now president of the SWSD Board of Directors, Archer hopes one day SWSD will train hearing dogs. Both his sons living at home have hearing loss. It’s a very different type of training, he says. Ordinarily service dogs should ignore noise, but with a hearing dog, it’s just the opposite. They need to be the ears for their owners.

“Seeing the look on a child’s face, the light in their eyes, is wonderful.

“After seeing the dog at work they say, ‘There are things I can do myself. I don’t have to call Mom.’”

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