Her dream is to be a ballerina - she practices in her tutu and ballet slippers. Her favorite movie is The Little Mermaid. She likes to watch SpongeBob SquarePants on TV, read, and play on the computer.

Her dream is to be a ballerina - she practices in her tutu and ballet slippers. Her favorite movie is The Little Mermaid. She likes to watch SpongeBob SquarePants on TV, read, and play on the computer.

Her favorite books are The Cat in the Hat and American Girl books. She makes her bed to earn her allowance. She listens to her favorite singer, Elton John, on her MP3 player. The only difference between Shannon Saunders Eaton and any other 10-year-old is that Shannon is the 2009 National Child Representative for Easter Seals. And, oh yeah, she was born with cerebral palsy.

What is cerebral palsy? According to the National Institutes of Health, cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move, and to maintain balance and posture. CP happens when the areas of the brain that control movement and posture do not develop correctly or get damaged. The disorders appear in the first few years of life and usually do not get worse over time. People with CP may have difficulty walking and trouble with tasks such as writing or using scissors.

The story begins
Shannon began her journey with Easter Seals when she was three years old. "I took her to the doctor and he said she would never walk," said her mother, Roxanne Eaton. "And she would just lie around and get fat. Shannon started crying. It took a while, but we found another doctor. And Easter Seals." These days, Shannon goes to physical and occupational therapy every Tuesday night. And what does she do there? "They taught me how to walk," Shannon said. "They taught me how to do all the things the doctor said I would never do - potty training, tying my shoes, writing." She also uses the Wii Fit - her favorite activities are soccer and the ski jump.

Representing Easter Seals
Shannon's energy is the main reason Easter Seals nominated her to be its national child representative. "She's an amazing little girl," said Rob DuVall, Easter Seals director of marketing. Shannon does local commercials, like the one for the root beer float day Kroger hosts for Easter Seals. She recently spoke to a group in San Antonio, and has been attending events in Denver and Las Vegas.

Camp
One event Shannon is sure to attend this year is the Easter Seals Camp Challenge - she hasn't missed one yet. "Last year's theme was Survivor," Shannon said. "We got to make the grossest dessert that we called the whipped cream bird poop and the team leader had to eat it." She enjoys swimming, arts and crafts and the camaraderie of camp. "We get together in cabins or the mess hall and talk about the day and what we are going to do tomorrow - the whole group gets together." What is her favorite thing about camp? "No mom and dad!" she answered, laughing.

Helping others
When Shannon isn't working on her therapies, her dancing, or her school work, she's creating things - like a handle for her bed spread so it's easier for her to pull it up. "She worries about the elderly," said her mom. "She knows if it's hard for her, it's hard for them." Shannon is going to the regionals for Invention Convention at her school, a program that challenges students to create inventions that help solve common problems. Since Shannon's bedroom is on the second floor of her home, she was worried about getting out in case of a fire. For her invention, she created a fire safety slide to help others like her.
What's next?

Shannon recently underwent orthopedic surgery to assist with leg mobility. There is no doubt she will be up and about soon, practicing pirouettes and proving the doctor wrong once again. All in a day's work for a 10-year-old girl whose motto is, "Just try it. When you fall, get back up."


Marguerite Marsh is a freelance writer in Columbus. She writes about many topics, including families, relationships, artists and pets.