The light of Ashleigh's life

Horizons kicks off Points of Light campaign

Ashleigh Santistevan weighed only 1 1/2 pounds at birth and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 9 months.

But she certainly hasn't let that stop her from doing whatever she wants to do.

Her sister Faith, 9, is her 12-year-old sister's unified partner in the Special Olympics, where Ashleigh competes in bowling, swimming, biking and snowshoeing. She's popular at Craig Intermediate School, as well.

"Ashleigh's really happy and always smiling," her mother, Jo Anna, said. "She's a very likable kid."

Jo Anna said Ashleigh's upbeat attitude has helped her get through the tribulations associated with CP. So has Horizons Specialized Services, an agency dedicated to assisting those with developmental disabilities live as independently as possible.

"They pay the stuff insurance doesn't cover," she said.

Ashleigh has had about eight surgeries, and she has to travel to Shriner's Hospital in Salt Lake City to have them done. Although Shriner's performs the surgeries free of charge, even the travel expenses could get costly.

"It doesn't cost us anything, because Horizons will pay for it," Jo Anna said.

She's had such a strong relationship with the staff at Horizons that Jo Anna decided to join them as team coordinator at the Park Place group home.

"I've been dealing with helping Ashleigh be independent for 12 years, so (this job) really fits into my lifestyle," Jo Anna said. "I think God gave me Ashleigh to help people like this."

Kay Borvansky, resource development coordinator for the five-county Horizons system, said she empathizes with and admires the Santistevan family.

"It's put a huge strain on her family making sure she has everything she needs to reach her full potential," Borvansky said. "They're given some real challenges, and they manage to keep smiling."

She said families like theirs make funding for Horizons especially important, which is why their upcoming Points of Light fund-raising campaign is critical to the families they serve.

State funding is being cut dramatically and will significantly reduce the number of families in Moffat County who are helped.

"These families are really the ones who will hurt," she said. "It's really important that we help them because if we don't, they don't have anywhere else to go."

Points of Light is a drive for the early intervention program and family support services program. Trees will be placed in Craig, Steamboat Springs and Meeker and will be decorated with lights and a sign explaining Horizons' goal.

For each $1,000 raised, a red bulb will be added to the tree at the central office in Steamboat Springs. Borvansky said money contributed by Moffat County residents will stay here to help local families.

Borvansky said the mass mailing appeal will be sent out in the next week, with reminders sent in mid-December.

The campaign wraps up Jan. 1.

And as for the soon-to-be grown-up Ashleigh?

"I'll think she'll be independent," Jo Anna said. "She's got that attitude."

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.