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We all need someone. At the very core of being human is the need to connect to others. The tragic thing is that in our busy lives we are often forgetting to share a laugh or sit and listen. We have the ability, but not the time.

Isolation for any human being is a devastating experience – the whole premise of founding RedBalloon was about connecting people through sharing “good times.” I know the power of shared experiences, but what if there was something coming between you and the rest of the world? What if your disability meant that you often feel isolated, alone and disconnected?

Some years ago I was involved with Best Buddies (now called Social Inc) – a social inclusion program designed to help kids with a disability create a friendship with another child at their school.

Watching the friendships blossom between the kids was truly delightful.

So when asked the one thing I’d fix, the first thing was it had to be something that was possible (could I fix all loneliness and isolation on the planet? Not probable, but could I contribute to a sector of our community and fix one segment? Absolutely.)

“Happiness is only real when shared.” — Christopher McCandless, subject of Sean Penn’s movie “Into the Wild.”

Many of the children with disabilities who are part of the program have cerebral palsy – and I also watched firsthand the toll that it takes on the family around them.

A boy I met as part of the program with severe CP hated going to school and his father shared with me the sadness he felt for his child missing out on normal childhood things such as having a “buddy.” Once this young boy (who is wheelchair-bound) started “hanging out” with another kid in his class, his life was transformed. His father told me that he was excited to go to school and impatient for the weekend to finish.

The question I asked was, “Does it need to be like this?” and “What if it could be fixed?”

“Surely this is the dream of every parent of a child with cerebral palsy (CP); that tomorrow no child should be born with CP.” — Marelle Thornton AM, President of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and mother of a child with cerebral palsy

And what if I could be part of the solution, either through prevention or a cure… wishful thinking. The first thing in considering if something is “fixable” is to see a possibility.

We need to start with a big mission: “To prevent and cure cerebral palsy.” If cerebral palsy was eradicated, then this would eradicate the isolation created by the disability.

One of the roles I play is being a governor of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation. What we are doing is creating a “fighting fund” of $50 million to issue grants to researchers all over the world working on aspects of prevention; or cure of CP.

Already in the few short years that I have been involved we have come so far – and with every achievement we are one step closer to changing the lives of so many.

This 2-minute video tells the story and paints the picture of what could be possible.

It’s this deep sense of commitment from Professor Nadia Badawi together with Dr Iona Novak that inspires me to believe in the possibility.

I have no hesitation in now saying that one day there will be prevention and there will be a cure for cerebral palsy.” — Professor Nadia Badawi, 2010

I wish I could click my fingers and have cerebral palsy disappear. One disease gone, so that a whole sector of our community could no longer feel isolated. That is why I work so hard on raising money for the Research Foundation (feel free to help)

Photo: Natasha Garrity- Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation Ambassador

This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn collection

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