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Marie & Alondra

  • 17 Years Old

  • Diastrophic Dysplasia & Scoliosis

Marie was paralyzed at 8 months old and then adopted by mom Michele at age one. She’s had a life of ups and downs; like most people. Her disability caused scoliosis which meant over 20 surgeries for back rods, lots of days of school missed and then she developed a seizure disorder at age 10. Her seizures are not predictable, so she cannot spend much time alone as she needs an adult to be there in case she has a seizure. 

Marie is a fabulous athlete. She plays basketball for Blaze sports all girls/women team and wheelchair tennis. She is very kind and helpful to others; always willing to teach her classmates math or lend a hand around the house. She is currently studying children’s healthcare in college. 

The home her mom has purchased will be where Marie learns to live independently. This venture will tremendously help her gain the necessary independence that all young adults long for; without the remodel, Marie cannot reach the next milestone in her life: learning how to live in her own home with just a little help and eventually be totally independent.

“Marie & Alondra will be neighbors; living in the same duplex and equally working towards more independent living.”

In her current living situation, Alondra has to be carried through the home by her parents because the hallways aren’t wide enough for her wheelchair. This keeps her from being independent, but with an accessible space she can do most things on her own.

For seven years, Alondra has lived in a home inaccessible to her needs. She has had many back surgeries and is in physical therapy to learn how to manage life in a power wheelchair. She plans on living with her parents for many years to come, so a home that is accessible to her will be life-changing. Alondra is applying to a technical school to be a medical assistant. Her favorite color is burgundy, and she loves lively Spanish music.

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Photography by Marcelino Aguilar


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  • 5 Years Old

  • Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele

Joseph has always been a little Superman. Even after receiving the prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida, we couldn’t have been prepared for the challenges we were about to face. Joseph was born prematurely with a large, open hole in his spine and bravely began his life with 77 days in the NICU. He underwent ten surgeries, countless medical scans and tests, revolving doctor appointments, and multiple hospital stays, which are the routine for so many special needs children. This can be scary for a young child, but Joseph is brave beyond his years.  

Like many children with spina bifida, Joseph developed hydrocephalus, a condition that allows fluid to accumulate in the brain. This can cause brain damage from the buildup of pressure. Joseph had a shunt surgically placed in his skull as a newborn to protect his brain. The tiny tubing and valve keep the fluid that cushions the brain freely flowing. Despite the effects of hydrocephalus and an underdeveloped cerebellum, Joseph grew into a smart, funny little five-year-old boy.

For the first year and a half of his life, Joseph required 24-hour oxygen and a feeding tube for all his nutrition. By 18 months, he received his first tiny wheelchair as he is paralyzed from the waist down. He was non-verbal and used a voice-producing device until the was three and half years old. Then one day he recited the entire alphabet and hasn’t stopped talking since! Today, he only requires supplemental oxygen at night and eats by mouth on his own. He loves showing off his wheelchair “tricks,” meeting new people and learning their names. Although he has some developmental delays you will notice when you meet him, what outshines those is how earnestly he wants to be your friend. He has a strong memory for stories and loves to repeat (and repeat!)  the adventures of historical heroes he has learned about.  

“He loves showing off his wheelchair “tricks,” meeting new people, and learning their names.”

Joseph’s determination through each health challenge is growing into a resolution to be independent. His family and amazing team of therapists is doing everything they can to help him accomplish this. Unfortunately, even something as simple as a narrow doorway can thwart his efforts. That obstacle, along with a flight of stairs, means he must be carried to his bedroom. And this is just the beginning of how Joseph becomes like an infant all over again. He must be lifted to a changing station for diaper changes and all his grooming and bathing needs are fulfilled by mom and dad in a bathroom designed for those who can walk independently. 

Generous friends of the Smith family sent Joseph’s story to Sunshine on a Ranney Day and soon Joseph will have the independence and dignity he desires. The makeover of a downstairs bedroom and the transformation of a bathroom that is not accessible will provide him with the physical means to begin an independence that will stay with him his entire life. We are incredibly excited and grateful to everyone involved with this phenomenal gift.  

Just like Superman, underneath his sweet smile and friendly conversation, Joseph has strength and bravery that has kept this little guy soaring through everything life presents. Thank you to Sunshine on a Ranney Day for breaking down walls to help Joseph not just roll, but fly!

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Photography by Vicki Alsup Photography


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The Cottage School

Founded in 1985

TCS is a school that provides an educational environment for students in grades 4-12 with a wide variety of special needs. In addition to struggling academically, socially, and emotionally many of our students come to us broken in spirit. Our program works on building our students’ self-confidence, self-determination and helping each one of them find their voices. The Cottage School prepares individuals for fulfillment of their true and tremendous potential as confident, productive, and independent adults. The number of families that have shared with us how this program has literally saved their child’s life is innumerable. It is not just a school; it is a community; it is a soft-landing spot and launching pad for our student’s futures; it is a family. As one of our middle school students recently stated…”It is our differences that make us a community…but our similarities that make us a family.”

Cottage School (TCS) is delighted to be partnering with Sunshine on a Ranney Day for the upcoming makeover of our main office lobby area. Two Atlanta area non-profits working together to help support children with special needs…we couldn’t think of a better match! We are especially excited that this new relationship is one that we anticipate will go well beyond this project. Helping those in need in our community for years to come as we refer families respectively between our programs for their specific needs makes this an exceptional collaboration.

“It is our differences that make us a community…but our similarities that make us a family.”

This project is so much more than a “face-lift” for us. The design area is the first stop for our prospective students with their families as they search for that soft-landing spot after struggling in prior environments.This initial meeting can be rather emotional as background information and struggles are discussed. We have dreamt of meeting with these families in a warm, comfortable setting where they immediately feel at home. The work that Sunshine on a Ranney Day is providing us with that and so much more.

In addition to prospective families, all visitors (including community partners, donors, prospective sponsors, fellow educators, begin their visit to The Cottage School in the main lobby area. It is the focal point for our entire campus that also sees an average of 150 students and 40 staff members a day traveling through this space. 

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  • 16 Years Old

  • Spastic Quadriplegic Meningitis

This strikingly handsome young man may look familiar to many of our Sunshine on a Ranney Day followers as he was one of the children we worked with in our early years. Raynel received our twenty-third designer room makeover. At the time, he was only nine. He was delighted with his vibrant videogame themed room which was expanded to make room for his medical equipment and increase his ability to move around. Now, Raynel is nearing his sixteenth birthday and has become an incredible young man. Not only has Raynel grown quite a bit since his last makeover, but his family also had to move. His current room and bathroom are too narrow to meet his needs for transferring, showering and moving throughout the home. He is currently in need of a full adapted bathroom that will allow his chair to be rolled into the shower and decrease the physical strain of lifting him over the tub and supporting him during the bathing routine.

His current room and bathroom are too narrow to meet his needs for transferring, showering and moving throughout the home.

Raynel has Spastic Quadriplegic Meningitis which was contracted at the age of four. The effects of the infection led to many permanent disorders including obstructive hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, a neurogenic bladder, developmental delay and hearing loss. He is fully dependent for all activities of daily living. Raynel has had a cochlear implant and is learning to use American Sign Language to communicate. His parents are learning ASL along with him so that they can continue to communicate with him as his language advances.

Sunshine on a Ranney Day is ecstatic over being able to see how much Raynel has grown and continue to support him as his needs change. He is truly extraordinary and continues to inspire us with his strength, positivity and illuminating smile. We are eager to complete these renovations and see him smile once again!

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Photography by Niki Murphy Photography

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