Upcoming run honors life of child with cerebral palsy

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, September 30, 2013

 BELOIT-- Hannah Elisabeth Perry lived her seven years with one of the worst kinds of cerebral palsy.

“Her entire body was affected,” said Jenn Perry, Hannah's mom. “She had little control over movement. She needed almost 100 percent help from other people. Given that, her life could have been terrible. But she made the best of everything.”

Hannah died April 7 after a short illness unrelated to cerebral palsy, Jenn said.

To pay tribute to their daughter, Jenn and her husband, Josh, of Beloit are hosting a 5K run/walk Saturday, Oct. 5, in Beloit.

They are doing it to raise scholarships for parents with special needs children who want respite through Dutter House in Beloit. In addition, some money will allow students at Beloit's Central Christian Church to attend the Christ in Youth conference.

The Perrys want people to challenge themselves by entering and finishing the race because Hannah challenged herself every day.

“Pulling her head up was difficult,” Jenn said. “Swallowing was hard for her. Going to school tired her out, but she loved being around all the people.”

Hannah completed at least three fun runs for kids while being pushed in a wheelchair. Each time, she was excited to cross the finish line. Each time, she inspired others, especially her mother.

In 2009, Jenn began living a healthier lifestyle, started running and lost 130 pounds. Since then, she has taken part in many 5Ks, a few 10Ks and five half-marathons.

“I was overweight but felt blessed because I had legs that worked,” Jenn said. “Hannah had such determination and joy for life. She always gave it her best.”

In addition to school, Hannah thrived on church and time with her 6-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister. At an early age, Hannah had therapy with horses, which kindled a love affair with the animals. Hannah also laughed a lot.

The lovely sound was something Jenn never took for granted.

“At 6 months, Hannah started smiling,” Jenn recalled. “At 2, she started laughing. The tears streamed down my face the first time I heard it because I didn't know if she would ever be able to laugh.”

Jenn is thankful to Dutter House for giving her respite.

The house on Beloit's Luety Parkway offers a safe and welcoming place where Rock County parents can bring their children with special needs. Rosemary Dutter, who opened the house in late 2009, knows that parents of children with disabilities sometimes need time off. She understands that even devotion needs a break.

“Having Dutter House was a lifesaver for me,” Jenn said. “Just having to take care of Hannah's every need and two other children in the house was exhausting. We were blessed to have funding to use the Dutter House every Friday afternoon.”

So far, more than 120 people have signed up in advance for the run/walk. People also can sign up on the morning of the event.

Hannah's grandmother, Deb Perry of Edgerton, said many people have followed Hannah's story. In 2007, she helped organize a fundraiser in Edgerton that raised more than $20,000 for Hannah's specialized health care.

“The little angel had all kinds of people who wanted to see her succeed,” Deb said. “People absolutely loved her. She had a smile for everyone. She had a big impact on the community. It was great to have the support of generous, generous people.”

Jenn describes the upcoming walk/run as a way “to bring some goodness” out of what has happened to Hannah.

“She was only alive for seven years,” Jenn said. “But she probably had more life in those seven years than most of us have. Every day and every moment were huge for Hannah.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.



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