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When we are challenged to the depths of our soul,
we sometimes discover something within us that gives us the courage to prevail.
Each of the Rancho “graduates” profiled in this series is distinguished by a
spirit of hope that could not be defeated merely by the adversity of a disabling
The remarkable individuals profiled here are but a few examples of the miracles
that occur at Rancho every day. We stand in awe of their accomplishments
as the spirit of their hope burns brightly and inspires us all.
Ana Wilson - Discovering Confidence to Achieve Her Dream
At Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Ana Wilson found the
tools she needed to overcome the ravages of cerebral palsy. And eventually she
not only found hope at Rancho — she found love and the fulfillment of her dream
of having children.
Ana was born with cerebral palsy, a brain disorder that makes motion
increasingly difficult. Ana’s Rancho treatment team spent years providing
therapy and support to help her achieve the maximum amount of independence
possible. Occupational therapists taught Ana to cook and do daily chores, to
move around with a walker and a three-wheel scooter despite her physical
limitations. This gave her the all-important confidence to know that she could
achieve the important things in her life, such as having children.
Wanting to give something back to the institution that had done so much for
her, Ana decided to volunteer at Rancho, in so doing finding more than
fulfillment out of volunteer service. Ana found love.
When she met James Wilson, a Rancho laundry employee, there were no immediate
sparks, but gradually something grew between them. “I fell in love with his
blue-green eyes and his giving and caring attitude,“ she said. A year after they
met, they were married. Ana had been well-prepared by Rancho for new roles in
life, and soon her dream of having children became a reality. She is now the
mother of two beautiful children, Adriana and Anthony.
Ana returns to Rancho for regular checkups. Each time, she pauses for just a
moment to say a special thank you to the place that helped her find love, and
gave her the confidence she needed to make her dreams come true.
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Greg Thompson - After Tragedy, Life Begins Anew at Rancho
When Greg Thompson lost the use of his legs in a freak boating accident on
the Colorado River, he thought his life was over. Actually, his new life was
about to begin. “I was sent to Rancho after my accident, because it was the best
place to learn how to make a new life,” said Greg, who has experienced the
achievements of Rancho from virtually every possible angle.
He spent four months at Rancho as an inpatient. Since then he has had success
first as an athlete, then as a working professional, and now as a husband and
father. “When you suffer a major injury, there is an ongoing struggle to
maintain your confidence in your ability to live everyday life,” he observed.
“The people of Rancho understand not only the physical, but the emotional
rehabilitation that is necessary for individuals with disabling conditions or
chronic illnesses to make the most of their lives.”
After he accepted that he would never walk again, Greg set out to prove he
could be a champion athlete. He soon became one of the world’s elite wheelchair
athletes, winning four national tennis titles and competing on several Rancho
He helped develop the Rancho wheelchair sports program and spinal injury
games, then decided to build a career based on helping individuals with
disabilities and joined the Rancho recreation therapy team. His desire to learn
eventually led to his current career as a supervising social worker at Rancho,
earning respect as a leader and role model for all staff. Greg also found love
at Rancho, marrying fellow Rancho therapist Lilli. Their family is now the
center of their lives.
It takes dedication to get up every day, get the kids off to school and come
to work,” he said. “But Rancho has taught me that sometimes the things we take
for granted are really the sweetest things in life.”
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Jim Knaub - Rancho Los Amigos Inspires the Will to Win
He dreamed of becoming a world-class athlete, but those hopes appeared
shattered along with his spinal cord when Jim Knaub was smashed by a car while
waiting for a street light to change. He knew he would never walk again, but he
didn’t know whether he had what it took to still become a champion.
Jim was brought to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, where he
underwent the complex spinal surgery and rehabilitation that restored his hope.
Achieving his dream wasn’t easy. Jim’s rehabilitation team created a
comprehensive program that enabled him to maneuver a wheelchair in record time.
Regaining more strength and determination each day, Jim’s Rancho team continued
to challenge him to be his best.
In six short weeks, Jim Knaub built his own bridge to independence at Rancho,
pushing hard to achieve his vision of being a champion wheelchair racer. He
worked tirelessly to build the upper body strength and the will to win essential
to achieving that vision. And he demonstrated the fortitude of a champion as he
began his racing career, learning with every race, until suddenly he was the man
Jim didn’t stop working until he was the undisputed world wheelchair
road-racing champion, winning an amazing 21 championships. Jim was at the
pinnacle. He next began designing and selling wheelchairs and launched his own
wheelchair manufacturing company. As a wheelchair expert and an elite wheelchair
athlete, he has traveled throughout the world.
Although he has come a long way on the road of life, he remembers how Rancho
helped him build the bridge to independence that turned his life from tragedy
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Jim Hankla - Rancho Los Amigos Enables Him to Walk the Walk
When five-year-old Kentucky boy Jim Hankla was diagnosed with polio, his
parents decided to fight instead of accepting the local wisdom that their son
would forever lose his ability to walk.
Extensive research led them to the premier facility in polio rehabilitation
—Rancho Los Amigos in Downey. Thus the Hankla family pulled up stakes and moved
to California to help their son recover.
After he arrived at Rancho, Jim was eventually placed in the care of a
treatment team headed by Jacquelin Perry, MD, who was developing a series of
innovative techniques for the management of polio. “Rancho’s aggressive
treatment enabled me to go through life without crutches,” says Jim, explaining
what to him was indeed a miracle.
Jim’s experience at Rancho instilled in him an attitude of self-determination
which was destined to assist him in reaching his dream of becoming a civic
leader. He earned a masters degree in public administration, and worked his way
through numerous leadership positions to become the City Manager of Long Beach.
Today he is CEO for the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, a massive
street and rail project which will someday connect Southern California’s ports
to downtown Los Angeles.
Recently, Jim began experiencing fatigue, and returned to Rancho’s renowned
Post-Polio Center, which was established by Dr. Perry, and has been working with
therapists to control his symptoms.
“Life isn’t about the rough spots — you have to find a way to work through
those,” Jim says. “You’ve got to think about the positive. Lots of people didn’t
walk away from this disease, but I did because I was lucky enough to come to
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Manuel Andrade - He Saves Himself with the
Help of Rancho Team
Manuel Andrade took the final step of his life
into a South-Central Los Angeles fast food restaurant.
At that moment, four bullets from an unseen attacker slammed into his
body, one lodging in his spinal cord, rendering his
legs useless for the rest of his life.
It would have been easy to give up on himself. But Manuel is not a
quitter. His Rancho Los Amigos treatment team harnessed his positive
attitude and prepared him for Rancho’s world-renowned wheelchair sports
program. Now the top-rated wheelchair hockey goalie in the world,
Manny is making the saves for Rancho. “When I discovered I could
never walk again, I chose to stay positive,” Manny said.
Manny is one of many Rancho athletes who have improved dramatically
as a result of the wheelchair sports program. Funded
by Las Floristas, the program includes competitive basketball,
football, tennis, baseball, soccer and hockey. Manny is a
star in them all. “He is incredibly strong, and is a leader for our
teams,” said Rancho Sports Director Lisa Hilborn. “He is always
positive and never lets anything stop him from doing his best.”
That positive attitude and his amazing strength have been key as
Manny has helped propel Rancho to the top of the world
wheelchair sports ratings. He is also an outstanding role model
for his teammates, both on and off the athletic field.
In addition to his excellence in sports, he is currently enrolled
in college, working toward a career in computer-aided drafting.
“None of these good things would have happened without Rancho,”
Manny says. “I get emotional and physical strength, but most of all,
I feel like I’m part of a wonderful family.”
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Ann Ruth - Flying High with Endless Courage and Rancho
As a toddler, Ann Ruth was a fireball,
performing the most difficult athletic feats with the greatest of ease. But when
she was only five, her life would change forever. Executing a somersault on a
balance beam, she slipped and landed on her neck, suffering a spinal cord injury
that left her paralyzed from the neck down.
Annie was brought to Rancho Los Amigos
where a team of highly specialized physicians and therapists worked together to
teach her to live as independent and full a life as possible.
Annie learned a special technique that
allows her to breathe during the day without a ventilator. After spinal fusion
surgery at Rancho, she was able to operate an electric wheelchair with her chin,
and learned to use a computer with a custom-designed mouth-stick, an invaluable
tool developed at Rancho and now being used across the nation.
A torch bearer during the 1984 Olympics,
today Annie is a computer consultant, and award-winning artist. She holds a
bachelor’s degree in communications from USC and recently completed her master’s
in business administration at Pepperdine University.
If you ask Annie, she’d say none of this
would have been possible without the caring guidance of Rancho’s staff. “They
didn’t bring out the violin. They helped me realize my injury didn’t have to get
in the way of my life.”
For three decades, Rancho staff have been a
second family to Annie. Over all those years, her courage has inspired hundreds
of other individuals with disabilities to get on with their lives.
Today, Annie’s irrepressible spirit sends
her off regularly on thrill-seeking adventures such as parasailing, hang-gliding
and skydiving. And why not? Because for Annie, the sky’s the limit!
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Irma Resendez - Rancho Inspired Her to Walk; Now She Inspires Others
Irma Resendez awoke 10 years ago to her
biggest nightmare — she was paralyzed from the waist down. After several days in
a hospital, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and told she would never
When she came to Rancho, her life changed
forever. Her treatment team, headed by David Saperia, MD, believed they could
teach Irma to walk again. And after four months of hard work, she did. Today,
she is still working hard, spending much of her time helping fellow Hispanic
scope with the challenges of Multiple Sclerosis.
As she joined support groups to deal with
the challenges of her illness, Irma soon realized that they were all conducted
in English, leaving Spanish-speaking MS patients with nowhere to turn for
Thus, Irma founded Familia Unida, a
bilingual support group serving MS patients throughout the nation. “I realized
it was my calling to help others, so I started as a volunteer at Rancho’s
Multiple Sclerosis Clinic,” she said. “Dr. Saperia and my other friends at
Rancho encouraged me to begin Familia Unida, and even provided space and support
for our new group.”
Each month, more than 50 individuals with
MS attend meetings designed to provide critical information about MS to the
Spanish-speaking population. The program has been so successful that Irma is now
helping to establish chapters of Familia Unida across the country.
“I have always believed that one person
could make a difference,” Irma said. “But Rancho inspired me to be that
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Jan Berry - Rancho Leads Him Back From “Dead Man’s Curve”
His song warns: “You don’t come back from
“Dead Man’s Curve.” But Jan Berry, half of the legendary rock group Jan &
Dean, did just that!
The duo’s hits included “Surf City U.S.A.,”
“The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve”. They and the Beach
Boys defined the west coast surfer sound of the 1960s.
Jan’s career was moving fast — too fast.
While driving his Corvette Stingray through Beverly Hills at more than90 m.p.h.,
he rounded “Dead Man’s Curve,” slammed into a parked gardener’s truck, destroyed
his car, and nearly destroyed himself.
He lay in a deep coma for more than a
month, his medical team not knowing whether he would survive the traumatic brain
injury he sustained in that horrific accident. Emerging from the coma, Jan still
suffered from memory loss and aphasia, a condition which prevented his body from
understanding commands from his brain.
Arriving at Rancho in 1969, his right side
was paralyzed and he could barely speak. But he had a dream — to get back
onstage. Robert Waters, MD, the head of Jan’s treatment team and today Rancho’s
Chief Medical Officer, recalls that Jan had an enormous mountain to climb. “He
had to re-learn how to do everything, including such everyday activities as
speaking, let alone reading and remembering music,” Dr. Waters said.
But Jan never gave up, and his Rancho team
never gave up on him. And after years of hard work, Jan began singing again.
Now, almost miraculously, Jan & Dean are touring again to sold-out concert
“Rancho kept me focused on reaching my
dream,” he said. “Without Rancho and Dr. Waters, I never could have done
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Alex Beanum - Getting Back on Track at Rancho Los Amigos
He was the electronic Master of the Highways, the man who headed the Caltrans
traffic management division in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. But that didn’t
prepare Alex Beanum for what he would face when his car went out of control on
the winding tramway road in Palm Springs. When the smoke cleared, Alex was
paralyzed, never to walk again.
Transferred to Rancho to begin his rehabilitation, Alex spent the next six
months learning how to make the most of his new life. “They taught me how to
embark on a whole new lifestyle,” Alex said. “I am a very fortunate man to have
gone through a life-threatening experience that could have ruined my business
and political careers.”
Alex learned first-hand what it means to “build bridges to independence” at
Rancho Los Amigos. “Thanks to Rancho, I was able to resume my business
endeavors, continue my term as vice mayor of the City of Cerritos and raise a
very beautiful family with my wife Victoria.”
The word “integrity” has always defined Alex Beanum. After his personal
experience with a catastrophic accident, Alex fought for a better life for
others, using his public visibility as a platform.
In addition to becoming mayor of the City of Cerritos and serving another
four-year term on the Cerritos City Council, Alex has worked tirelessly as an
advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities.
Today Alex is retired from Caltrans, but is still working to help others. He
is a distinguished member of Los Angeles County’s Commission on Disabilities,
and also serves as a Charter Member of Rancho’s Community Advisory Council.
“I’m excited about serving individuals with disabilities,” he said. “Although
we have accomplished a lot, there is still much to do, and I believe much of
that work will happen at Rancho.”
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Bobbi Jean Tanberg - Shooting for the Paralympic Games in
Bobbi Jean Tanberg came to Rancho as a therapist with a disability. But
although she had completed her physical rehabilitation, her adjustment to
disability had not yet occurred.
“Rancho helped me understand why my experiences in society would be different
just because I was using a wheelchair,” she said. “I had just as much and maybe
even more to offer sitting down as I did standing up, and yet society was making
me feel the opposite.”
Bobbi began working with Greg Thompson, then a Rancho recreation therapist.
“He exposed me to the world of wheelchair sports, which I saw at the time as a
way to increase my fitness level, have fun and meet some people,” Bobbi
As she gained experience and confidence in the Rancho rehabilitation sports
program, Bobbi realized she could express herself through athletics. “My dream
was to become good enough in basketball to make the USA Women’s Wheelchair
Basketball team,” Bobbi remembered. “It was an outrageous goal, but why not
Greg was very supportive, helping me see that by my actions of pursuing my
dreams and doing the things I want to do, it makes me the same as others who do
not have disabling conditions. And my example would help others understand that
we are more the same than we are different.”
Now, several years later, Bobbi’s hard work and determination have paid off.
She has not only become a member of the USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team,
but is expected to be the starting forward on the team that will travel to the
Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia in October 2000.
“Greg and Rancho
gave me the hope to make my dream come true,” she said. “Now I am trying to
provide the same insight to clients I work with so that they can also realize
the power of their dreams.”
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Steve Clay - Artist Overcomes His Brush with Stroke
His art wasn’t just his job, it was his world. Steve Clay’s paintings hung in
the Smithsonian Institute, the Pentagon and even the Baseball Hall of Fame. So
when he suffered a stroke, the core of his world crumbled. “I went through so
many stages of depression, I had no idea where my life was going to lead,” Steve
He was in a wheelchair, his right side paralyzed, when he arrived at Rancho
Los Amigos in 1995. He had lost feeling in his painting hand and arm as well as
his right leg. Rancho team physical, occupational and recreation therapists
worked with Steve hour after hour, helping him build the bridge to his dream of
“In the beginning, I was so frustrated that I would storm out of sessions,”
he remembers. “But my vision to paint again and Rancho’s persistent therapists
brought me back each time to try again. “Even in the depths of depression, there
was a part of my soul that would not let go of being an artist,” he said. One
Sunday, he got the first glimpse of his future possibilities as he was able to
draw an image with his left hand.
“I still have the gift the Lord gave me,” he thought. As his therapy
progressed, Steve was able to leave the wheelchair behind, and slowly regained
the use of his right arm. He gradually began to use both hands to capture images
on canvas, using his left hand for broad strokes and his right hand for detail
work. Steve’s post-stroke paintings are featured at galleries throughout
America, as well as at Rancho’s annual Very Special Art Exhibition, which
showcases the creative work of Rancho graduates.
“I know I’m very fortunate to have a second chance in life,” he said. “I’m
thankful to Rancho forgiving me back my dream.”
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Yuri Espino - Creating Futures at Rancho Los Amigos
Yuri Espino was not yet four years old when she was hit by a car traveling 60
miles per hour. Sixteen days later, she awoke from a coma to a world that was
very different. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury, and doctors told her
parents she would be lucky to survive.
Yuri was sent to Rancho Los Amigos to begin the therapy that would determine
her future. Her parents hoped that one day she would return to school, but it
seemed impossible when they looked at their frail little girl.
With Yuri’s treatment team tapping into her courage, the power of her dreams
and the unwavering love of her family, she began to make slow but steady
progress. Her treatment team literally took her through “baby steps” until she
gradually gained the ability to walk with a walker, and to speak.
Today, Yuri attends a special education center with other children, which was
considered all but impossible before she came to Rancho. At Rancho, we know love
and hope play important roles in the remarkable achievements of our
This photo of Yuri and her parents shows more than words ever could how the
power of their love helped turn Yuri’s tragedy into a future filled with
Rancho continues to be the clinical and emotional support system for Yuri and
her family. Rancho’s treatment team will remain alongside Yuri as she envisions
her own dreams, and makes them a reality.
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Jacquelin Perry, M.D. - Enriching Rancho’s Tradition of Excellence
As we enter the 21st Century, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation
Center celebrates its unmatched heritage of medical rehabilitation excellence
and looks to the future for even greater accomplishments. This blending of
leadership and hope is symbolized by the images of Jacquelin Perry, MD, and the
Although many individuals have contributed to Rancho’s rich tradition,
Jacquelin Perry, MD holds a special place in the history of Rancho and
During more than 45 years at Rancho, Dr. Perry has been the driving force
behind many of the most daring and innovative discoveries in rehabilitation and
human performance assessment. Her early work with respiratory polio patients
requiring surgery led to previously unconsidered procedures to straighten spines
and thereby improve breathing function — allowing hundreds to lead more
Dr. Perry founded the first laboratory to quantitatively assess human
performance. She also pioneered the assessment of human gait — a field in which
she has led Rancho to world leadership.
Dr. Perry has also been drawn back into the field of polio as polio survivors
are experiencing post-polio symptoms. She has instituted research and new
clinical programs to provide answers. And as always, she is leading and
inspiring a new generation of colleagues. In the spirit of Dr. Perry, Rancho is
taking its initial bold step into the new century, the planned Institute for
Wellness and Fitness.
This will be the world’s premier facility of its
kind for individuals with disabilities, building upon the tradition of courage,
creativity and leadership that helped Dr. Perry and other great leaders make
Rancho the world’s rehabilitation Mecca. We thank Dr. Perry for her many
contributions and rededicate ourselves to building on the power of her
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Page last updated January 1, 2011
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