How did Team Marley start you ask?

Lately we have had people ask “What is the story behind Team Marley?”  Well it all started on a canoe trip is how we start out the story … most chuckle but it is true.   After the July Canoe Trip we would meet Marley in person in August of 2011

Sunday, August 28 brought a beautiful day of sunshine, a little chill in the air, and a day of inspiration that neither Clea nor I will soon forget.

Before I tell you about August 28, first let me tell you how the idea for this show (The Best of the Best in Ohio) all started. If you follow the blog, you know that on one of the hottest days in July, we decided to go on a canoe trip. We posted that we were headed to Mohican, a few responded, and a canoe trip and very special day was had by all. More importantly, very special friendships have been born from this day.

Briana, who is Cara Kaufman’s sister, was someone we had never met but she will be someone we will now never forget. Clea and I took to her immediately and we knew there were going to be some big laughs for the day… that our friends is an understatement. As we are canoeing, we start talking about the WB Show in August and ask if Briana is coming up, she gives us the I DON’T DO HORSES Speech and we say, “So Cara are you going?” immediately dismissing Briana–the non-horse person. Then Cara says that she will not be there either, as they have a triathlon for Marley, her niece. From the minute we heard about Marley and everything that this little gal has been through and will go through for the rest of her life, we start talking charity show for her cause, United Cerebral Palsy. The day finished out and Clea and I had this in our minds for the next week. We both agreed at that point that it was too late in the year but it was a goal for 2012. We would keep thinking about it.

Then about one week later, Clea is on her “thinking vessel” dragging the arena–our Case tractor and 4-in-1 (She loves that thing.)–and she comes in and says, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a barrel race with the top 15 or 20 riders in Ohio?” I said, “Oh that would be a race now!” Then we started thinking from there, and it has not stopped.

The weekend of August 28, we had the privilege of meeting Marley in person and let us tell you: Once you meet her, you can not help but feel a change in your heart. She is without question inspiring.

As they arrive, we go to greet them and Briana gets Marley out of the truck and then unloads her pink camouflage walker. Marley gets in her walker and gets to getting around the ranch. As you start to talk to Briana and Marley you realize that she has been raised as a normal child and although she may have this intense disability, we both feel she will not let it hold her back. As Clea says, “She is one bad ass little girl!”

Meet Marley” …As told to us by her mom, Briana Rickly. (Sept 2011)

How old is Marley and does she have any siblings?

Marley is 4 years old. She was born along with her brother Maverick on November 10, 2006 at 28 weeks. She was diagnosed early with Cerebral Palsy at 5 months as a result of an MRI. I think her early diagnosis and some pivotal people coming into her life is one of the reasons she has enjoyed so much success.

What does Marley enjoy most?

Marley loves wrestling with her dad, cousins and uncle; walking in her walker; exploding into a contagious laughter; listening and dancing to music. She likes to order you to “dance” or “sing” on command and then joins in herself. She loves being outdoors especially on windy, snowy and rainy days. (She is very sensory motivated.) Marley tends to be shy at first but will warm up to you after she teases you with her sense of humor and has you laughing. She is a bit timid in a large crowd but that diminishes quickly especially if she becomes the center of attention, a.k.a. “the princess.”

Tell us a little about you and your husband.

Chris and I are both college graduates and are Holmes County natives. Chris is just now making a career move, which will allow him more freedom to help with Marley and Maverick getting them to school and different therapies for Marley. I am a special education teacher at West Holmes Middle School. My education and experience in education has been a blessing in understanding what Marley’s needs are. As parents, you are your children’s biggest advocates and any tools you can acquire to help your child is paramount.

You must get a lot of support from your family and friends, correct?

Our family support has been invaluable, from doting cousins to aunts, uncles and grandparents. My mom especially helps with taking her to Cleveland to therapy several times a week during the school year. My sister, Cara, and family, include her in activities that would be very hard to manage without them. And of course they are always there in times of emotional stress that comes with having a special needs child.

We know she had accomplished so much at a young age, what is her most recent accomplishment?

Marley most recently accomplished the Cleveland Triathlon Super Sprint. She and “Team Marley” raised almost $6,000 for United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland. They are the designated charity of the Cleveland Triathlon and this is their biggest fundraiser for the year. We cannot say enough good things about UCP. The therapists, personnel and facility are outstanding. As a client of UCP, you see so many children being helped by this organization and much of it is free if not covered by insurance. Children of all nationalities, economic backgrounds and severity of Cerebral Palsy are treated at UCP. This facility has an extensive collection of equipment needed to treat a variety of conditions; they offer intensive programs (Steps to Independence) to push CP kids to the next level of accomplishment. But most of all they have the “cream of the crop” when it comes to therapists and personnel. Everyone there knows every child and treats them as part of the UCP family–their support is invaluable. So when Marley crossed the finish line on August 7, she did so as a result of this amazing organization, and we are so thankful to them and everyone that supports Marley and UCP.

What will the near future hold for Marley?

Marley will attend preschool this year for the first time. Chris and I are very anxious about sending her. With the support of family, therapists and educators, we feel we have placed her in the proper setting so she can enjoy as much success in socialization and academics as possible. Marley is a very determined, hard-working little girl. She truly tries to be all that she can be.

All in all…

August 28 was filled with thoughts about Marley and the show and great time spent with remarkable people all here to find a way to make a difference in not only Marley’s life but in any special needs child’s life.

The Best of the Best 2011 and forward

Marley is infectous and she keeps our wheels turning to do more and more for the cause.  2011 was a great outcome for the 40 days we had to put it together, 2012 to say amazing, would be an understatement it was more than we ever expected and we can not thank everyone every enough for all of the support.  We are hoping 2013 will bring as much joy to everyone who touches the show as it does to us.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts

Behind to everyone and love everyone a little more than you did yesterday.

Until we see you again
Dawn and Clea

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