By Kristina Houck
Born with athetoid cerebral palsy, Jennifer Johnson cannot walk or talk. Using a communication device, the 42-year-old San Diego resident will explain how the equipment has improved her life during the Beach and Country Guild’s 44th annual Dia Del Sol on Oct. 16, which benefits United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego County.
“I am going to talk about my life being non-verbal, how it affected me before I got a communication device and how independent I am now with a communication device,” said Johnson, who was diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy, a birth defect caused by brain damage, when she was about 6 months old.
The Rancho Santa Fe-based guild holds several small fundraising events throughout the year, but Dia Del Sol, an annual luncheon and fashion show, is its largest event. All proceeds benefit UCP, which offers the San Diego Assistive Technology Center so individuals with disabilities, their families, professionals and other community members can learn about assistive technology solutions through hands-on exploration of a wide variety of adapted computer hardware and software, environmental control access, and augmentative and alternative communication devices.
Because she cannot use a regular mouse, the center helped Johnson obtain an adapted joystick and an adapted keyboard with a keyguard so she doesn’t hit other keys while she types.
“[UCP’s] Assistive Technology Center will benefit from this fundraising event by getting new equipment for the center and loaning devices out to people to try out or look at a device before they get one of their own,” she said.
The event will feature a gourmet luncheon, silent and live auctions, and a fashion show with several local designers and boutiques, including Kenneth Barlis, Maggie B, Mister B, Max Mara, Nicole Miller, Nordstrom and Ted Baker London. There will also be a children’s fashion show, featuring children with cerebral palsy.
Live auction items include a seven-night stay at a Baja California resort, seven nights for two on a SeaDream Yacht Club cruise, a jet flight and wine tasting experience in Napa Valley, a cocktail soiree for 20, and more. Mini-live auction items include a breakfast getaway, gourmet dinner, luggage, and more.
“Since I’ve been going to this event, it has been one of the most lively and fun events,” said guild president Maria Parnell, a Rancho Santa Fe resident who has been with the guild for seven years. “The energy is high, everyone has a good time, they love being there and it supports a very worthy cause.”
The guild has supported United Cerebral Palsy for 44 years. From assisting someone in finding their first job, to creating support groups for families, United Cerebral Palsy’s mission is to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people affected by cerebral palsy.
“They need our help. They need somebody like this group to focus on their cause and donate to them directly,” Parnell said. “We make sure that the money stays here for the centers we work with. It’s nice to see our money at work.”
“This event is important because it will benefit and help the center out by helping many disabled people,” Johnson said. “And once someone with a disability or their family member knows about the center, they will use the center more and that may lead them to a more productive life in their community and add to their contribution to society.”
Dia Del Sol takes place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 at The Grand Del Mar, 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.beachandcountry.org/dia_del_sol.