When you meet Hadley Kramm of Potomac, Md., you cant help but smileher smile lights up the world.
Her parents, Kenny and Shelley Kramm, never dreamed that Hadleys beautiful spirit would reach out to children across the globe through the work of two organizations they foundedboth inspired by their daughters cerebral palsy. Their storyone of finding opportunity in adversity and helping others in the processis inspiring to all who face challenges in their lives.
Hadley Kramm was born a beautiful little girl and 10 days later suffered a devastating bilateral brain hemorrhage that left her with multiple disabilities, completely changing her familys life. In the early years of Hadleys cerebral palsy, the Kramms were saddled with coordinating and financing physical, occupational, and speech therapy for their daughter, while coping with the realization their hopes and dreams for her would not happen.
Then, after two years of struggling, the Kramms found new direction. Rather than dwell on their own unhappiness and loss, they decided to focus on making Hadleys life fuller and happier. What followed reached far beyond Hadley and has improved the lives of thousands of children.
It began with solving the daunting issue of getting Hadley to take bitter-tasting seizure medications four times a day. Kenny, a pharmacy technician in his familys business, began experimenting with concentrated flavorings to disguise the taste of Hadleys medication. The results were dramatic and Hadley began taking her doses.
After years of research, Kenny developed the FLAVORx System, a formulary system that allows pharmacists safely to add one of 42 flavors to liquid medications to make them more palatable. Today, his system is used in more than 3,000 pharmacies nationally and internationally, boasting such flavors as bubblegum, creamsicle, chocolate silk pie, and mocha cappuccino.
Kenny says, It felt good to do something constructive for Hadleys problems that will help others. People are now more likely to take their entire dosage of medication and recover quicker.
While Kenny Kramm was perfecting FLAVORx, his wife, Shelley had a brainstorm of her own. With a background in interior design and landscape architecture, Shelley decided to design a playground where both her daughters could play safely. Area playgrounds were fine for Hadleys older sister, Sarah, who suffered no disabilities, but routinely posed challenges for Hadley, who would soon move into a wheelchair.
One day I took Sarah and Hadley to a local park and had a difficult time negotiating Hadleys stroller through the bark chips and railroad ties, Shelley says. I realized then that something as simple as playing shouldnt be taken for granted with children with disabilities.
Shelleys idea blossomed into Hadleys Park Inc., a nonprofit organization creating and developing unique playgrounds where children of all ages and abilities can play and interact with each other in a beautiful, functional, and accessible environment. Her grassroots organization raised $1 million to create the first fully accessible theme playground in Maryland and one of the first of its kind in the nation. Individual citizens, multinational corporations such as McDonalds, and such notables as Mark Shriver (John F. Kennedys nephew) and William Bush (George Bush Sr.s nephew) have supported the project. The success of this playground also inspired Marylands governor to build 11 others of its kind.
The playgrounds, all with safety surfacing made of recycled tires, incorporate fully accessible theme play structures such as pirate ships, castles, and frontier towns. They may also include oversized four square and hopscotch, Braille tick-tack-toe boards, and sign language tiles offering parents with disabilities a place to play with their unimpaired children as well.
Shelly adds, These playgrounds literally level the playing fields, joining the abled and disabled, where people can truly see one another for who they are.
Shelly and her organization have opened two playgrounds to date and, independent of the governors project, are building 31 more in Maryland. The concept now serves as a working model for similar projects across the country and abroad.
When asked what she thinks of all the good thats come of her parents work, Hadley, who speaks very little but comprehends almost everything, indicates she most enjoys the special, high-backed swings at the playgroundsand loves greeting everyone who comes to play there.