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Date: Friday, April 12, 2002
Title: Prospects brighten for Brittany; fund-raiser planned
Author: Sara Velasco, Staff writer

Brittany Kraus is in many ways a regular 5-year-old kid. She just started kindergarten this month and loves it. She knows what time the school bus is supposed to come to her house and waits excitedly in her kitchen every morning for the bus to arrive.

But the small 5 year old with blond hair and big cheerful blue eyes has one difference that sets her apart from most other kindergartners. She was born with severe cerebral palsy.

Brittany was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Since then, her family has embarked on a costly and sometimes difficult journey to help her develop strength and gain control of her body. She is showing slow progress, and her parents have demonstrated a remarkable amount of faith in Brittany, hoping that she will some day be able to walk and talk. The family is grateful for a strong showing of community support and will hold a community fund-raiser dinner for Brittany on Sept. 14.

The school bus that comes to pick her up every morning takes her to the Winnie Wakely program at Camino School, the only program in the county that deals with children with special needs. The ride to Camino School is a long way from her home and her twin sister Ashley's school, Sutter's Mill.

But although a great distance separates them, both twins are doing well in school.

"Both girls come home happy and excited about their day. Ashley's learned the pledge of allegiance. She says she plays with her friends Jacob and Kelly the most," said Annene Kraus, Brittany's mom.

Annene said Brittany is working on learning how to feed herself.

"Jeanette Williams is her teacher. From what I've heard from other people, Jeanette Williams is just awesome with these kids," said Annene.

Brittany's parents have done anything and everything they can to get quality medical treatments to help her development.

They even took Brittany on a trip to Poland to try a groundbreaking new therapy that was being provided to children with cerebral palsy.

The Polish treatment was a success, and good fortune has brought it to the Eureca Institute in Anaheim, the first such center in the United States.

The treatment involves developing muscle strength and building balance using revolutionary therapies such as the "Sunbeam Therapy," which uses elastic cords to provide tension and support to the body while the child completes therapeutic exercises.

But money is tight. The Kraus' insurance carrier doesn't cover the expensive treatments that are accelerating Brittany's progress. The insurance company says the treatments aren't necessary.

However, to Annene and Dave Kraus, every treatment available on the face of the earth that helps Brittany's development is necessary.

Brittany has been to three such treatments. Since Brittany first began her treatments, she has learned to stand up for minutes at a time without falling, and sit up and balance without aid, and walk with a walker.

"She rolls herself out of her favorite chair and onto the ottoman to lean on and stand up. When she goes to the Eureca Institute in October, they will work on balance and walking," said Annene.

Before she received the treatments, Brittany was not even able to sit up by herself unaided.

The predications of naysayers quickly sound a hollow chord with Annene.

"The doctor at Kaiser who has never really done anything with Brittany... He said she's never going to learn to walk," said Annene.

Brittany's progress may be slow, she admits, but slow progress is progress just the same, and Annene's faith in Brittany is steadfast.

The family has plans to return to the Eureca Institute again in October. They have taken Brittany on three trips for the treatment, and have plans to take her there every six months until she no longer needs it.

Eliminating the cost of round trip airfare to Poland helps cut part of the cost of the therapy, but nevertheless, each time the family takes Brittany to the Eureca Institute, it costs them about $10,000.

"How do you put a price on the quality of your child's life?" said Annene Kraus.

So the family scrapes and saves, applies for whatever grants and programs are available and holds community fund-raisers to pay for the treatments.

"It's amazing what you have to do. You have to wait for a denial from this person so you can get something from this agency. We've been doing it since she was a baby. I have a ton of paperwork," said Annene.

She feels fortunate to have the support of the community.

"For all the people who have helped Brittany, we greatly appreciate it and thank them with all our heart. We couldn't do it without the support of the community. We hear about people who don't have the support of their community and their family and friends, and they mortgage their houses. I don't know how they do it," said Annene.

Annene keeps her hope for Brittany's progress alive, which fuels her drive to obtain the treatments.

"That's what our prayers are for every night. I even heard Ashley say in her prayer the other night, 'Jesus, bless Brittany so that she can walk and talk like me,'" she said.

A spaghetti feed dinner will be held at the Mother Lode Lion's Hall in Diamond Springs from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 to raise money for Brittany's trip to the Eureca Institute this October. For more information, call Dave and Annene Kraus.


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