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DOWNEY - The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation held a very special "bon voyage" celebration for Rancho Paralympian Katy Sullivan last week to wish her well in the Paralympics in London next week, as well as to thank the individuals and community organizations who raised funds to help send her there.
Nearly 200 people attended the reception, which was held in Café Amigos at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey.
Rancho Chief Strategic Officer Shawn Phipps, PhD, began the reception with a message from the hospital congratulating Katy and wishing her the best on her Paralympic quest.
"Every Rancho employee and patient will be pulling for you," he said. "We are so proud of you and what you have accomplished."
Born without legs, Katy learned to run at age 25 with the assistance of Hanger Prosthetics and Rancho physical therapist Julie Kasayama. In the seven years since she began running, Katy has set a new world record in the 200 meters, currently holds the American record in her category at 100 meters, and is ranked seventh in the world at that distance.
She will be running in a preliminary heat on Sept. 4, with the hope that she will earn a spot in the 100 meter finals the next day.
Bob Johnson began a series of special presentations by presenting a check for $500 from the Downey Elks Lodge.
"Katy, you have inspired all of us with your courage and your dedication," he said. "We are very happy to be supporting you, and we hope your Paralympic experience ends with a gold medal!"
Optimist Club of Downey President Meredith Perkins announced that three members of the club had donated a total of $700 to Katy's quest.
"When you take the track in London, you will have thousands of people throughout our community cheering you every step of the way," he said. "It is our pleasure to support you. We know you will represent our country well during the Paralympic Games."
Next up was Soroptimist International of Downey president Giggy Saab, who was joined by many of her fellow members in presenting a check for $1,000 and an additional $500 from a club member to Katy.
"We are here to salute an extraordinary woman who has captured the hearts of everyone she meets," Giggy said. "We salute you for the years of effort you've put into making the Paralympic team, and we will all be watching and cheering you on as you work your magic in London."
The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation announced that a total of $3,500 had been raised for Katy in a special appeal during the Rancho Golf Classic on Aug. 13.
Then Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe's local field deputy, Andrea Avila, announced that the Supervisor was donating $5,000 in matching funds to Katy.
"Supervisor Knabe promised you that he would help you raise every dime you needed to get to London," she said. "And now we are pleased to provide the final matching grant that assures that you will be able to attend and participate in the Paralympics. Go Team Katy!"
During the event, the Foundation sold limited edition T-shirts that were created by international fashion icon Zandra Rhodes. The cost for producing the shirts was underwritten by Rancho Chief Medical Officer Mindy Aisen, MD.
"We raised another thousand dollars at the reception from sales of these very special shirts," Dr. Aisen said. "We wish to thank Zandra for her support of Katy and Rancho, and for creating such a beautiful way to send Katy to London!"
Finally, it was Katy's turn.
"Rancho has given me so much," she said. "I learned to run right here on this campus and across the street at Apollo Park...I met my wonderful husband Jay Cramer at Rancho...I have now made so many new friends throughout the community, who have made it possible for Jay and me to go to London. I feel very blessed.
"I am so humbled by the fact that in some cases people who don't even know me have supported me on this journey of a lifetime," she continued. "I wish to thank every single person and organization that has been behind me. You have changed my life, and when I step on the track in London I know that I will be carried by your love and support.
"I am very proud to be a member of the United States track and field team," Katy said, "and I pledge that I will give my very best for my friends and family, for Rancho, for the community, and for the United States of America."
Bon voyage, Katy!
Published: August 23, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 19