Lori's Voice enriches lives of children with disabilities

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore, columns by local residents about their lives. 

At the age of 12, my parents took me to a doctor hoping he would be able to figure out why I walked on my tip toes. After many grueling tests and years of being a participant in several research studies, I was finally diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.

Being a teenager comes with its own set of challenges. When you add a neurological disorder to the mix, it can really shake up your world. I was a very determined young lady who decided early on that I was not going to allow any grass to grow under my feet. I had made up my mind to do the best I could with the abilities I had been given.

Not easy

Living with muscular dystrophy has certainly not been an easy road, yet along the way I have experienced many blessings that I probably would not have received if my life had been any different. I refuse to be defined as a person by the extreme limitations that restrict me physically. I have always chosen to look on the bright side of things, and I truly believe that when you surround yourself with positive people, and have a positive attitude, life can be very rewarding.

I met the love of my life in high school, and we were married in 1983. Dave is my best friend, my biggest supporter, and my own personal comedian. The two of us are like one body. He has encouraged me to be the best that I can be. Because of my physical condition, I was told that I would never be able to have children. It didn't take the two of us very long to prove that theory wrong. We have been blessed with three healthy children and two wonderful grandchildren.

I have always enjoyed reading to my children. Recently, I was inspired to write a series of children's books. Since my limited mobility prevents me from using a keyboard, speech recognition technology has played an important role in my new writing adventure. I use voice activated software and have dictated my entire book series using a computer. Each of my books are intended to encourage children to overcome obstacles. It is my hope that every child who reads my stories will be inspired to become the very best that they can be, regardless of their situation.

Needs not covered

My love for children and reading has ignited a spark and, together with my team, I have formed a nonprofit organization, "Lori's Voice." This organization allows me to use my voice and talents to help children with special needs. My greatest dream would be to enrich the lives of challenged children and make their lives a little easier by providing them with special medical equipment, summer camp scholarships, voice activated software, educational materials, and any other necessities that medical insurance does not typically cover.

Living with a neurological disorder has opened my eyes and has made me aware of the many medical necessities that are not available to children struggling with special needs. I hope that my story can encourage you to see that living with a disability does not have to mean the end of your ambitions or dreams. People with disabilities today have more opportunities than ever before to develop and utilize their special gifts and God-given talents.

Will you please join me in making the lives of children with special limitations a little easier? To learn more about Lori’s Voice, visit lorisvoice.org.

Coopersville resident Lori Hastings is a children's book author and co-founder of the nonprofit Lori's Voice that helps children with disabilities to obtain the life enriching medical equipment they need. She is also the 2019 recipient of the Disability Network/Lakeshore's Ability Award.

This article is a part of the year-long series 
Disability Inclusion exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.