WHEELING — Spend just a few minutes with 12-year-old Brady Dorsey, and you’ll discover a bubbly brunette bookworm who doesn’t hesitate to crack a joke at her own expense.
Brady was born nine weeks early, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She wasn’t always whip-smart and self-assured. Until age 10 she endured an unstable home life and was almost 100% dependent on others.
She is a testament to the transformative power of a loving family as well as consistent rehabilitative therapy.
The spotlight shone on Brady and her adoptive family Thursday during the annual dinner preceding today’s Kalkreuth Vendor Invitational Golf Tournament at Oglebay Resort. Once again, the event benefits Easterseals Rehabilitation Center, where Brady has been a patient of Medical Director Dr. Ellen Kitts since she was an infant. For the past two years, Brady has received regular physical therapy at the center.
“Every single week I feel like we’re problem-solving something new. … Tammy has been very helpful in giving ideas and things that we can do to reach Brady’s potential,” Brady’s mother Stephanie Dorsey said of physical therapist Tammy Doyle.
On stage in her wheelchair, Brady addressed the roughly 200 golfers and guests at Glessner Auditorium last night to thank them for supporting Easterseals. She opened with a joke: “Did any of you have trouble finding a seat tonight? You didn’t!”
Easterseals Rehabilitation Center in Wheeling has provided outpatient medical rehabilitation services to children since 1937. Easterseals treats 2,500 clients annually on average, 90% of them children. The nonprofit center takes most insurances but turns no one away for inability to pay. Donations such as Kalkreuth’s help provide about $300,000 worth of uncompensated care.
President John Kalkreuth thanked the company’s vendors for supporting the tournament and raising money for Easterseals. Kalkreuth Charities has committed $30,000 towards the cause so far this year. Vendors at Thursday’s dinner pledged an additional $20,000, bringing the total of Kalkreuth’s donations to Easterseals over the years to $250,000.
“For almost 20 years, John Kalkreuth and his organization have been one of Easterseals’ greatest benefactors. As a result, thousands of area children have been able to receive affordable, high-quality healthcare,” Easterseals President and CEO Jay Prager said.
A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS
Stephanie Dorsey first met her future daughter when Brady was 3. Dorsey, who had worked for Easterseals right out of college, was teaching an inclusive preschool class for 4-year-olds at McNinch Primary School, and Brady was in the special needs preschool class next door. The following year, Brady was in Dorsey’s class.
“Brady had a rough home life, and we became very close,” Dorsey said. “We would take care of her at school, things that typically would maybe get done at home.”
Although Child Protective Services was involved, Brady remained with her biological family, and they left the school district after that year.
Fast forward about five years to Christmastime 2019. Ohio County Department of Health and Human Resources called Dorsey. They had taken custody of a child, and they found her name in the file.
“They said they didn’t have a place for this child to go and would I be interested in taking the child in,” Dorsey said.
They didn’t tell her who it was, but Dorsey said she couldn’t imagine any of her students being homeless, so she said “absolutely” — contingent on her husband Bill giving the OK. He didn’t hesitate, so they became Brady’s kinship family and officially adopted her in April 2021. Brady’s new family includes sister Reagan, 17; brother Quinn, 13, and brother Liam, 10.
Kitts said she has seen Brady since she was an infant. In 2017, Brady had major surgery to reconstruct his hips. Over the next two years, Brady’s behavior and physical capacity worsened. Since being placed in the Dorsey’s home, Brady has advanced tremendously.
“She has become a very independent person with a wonderful personality,” Kitts said.
Doyle, Brady’s physical therapist, started working with Brady in March 2020. At that time, Brady couldn’t move between her chair and other surfaces, had very limited walking ability and couldn’t sit up by herself for long. Today, she can walk 500 feet using a walker without assistance, can transfer in and out of her wheelchair and can sit on the floor during mat activities.
“Brady works hard during her therapy sessions and almost always does so with a smile on her face. We often discuss the latest book she is reading or a new pun or joke she has come up with during our sessions,” Doyle said. “It is a pleasure working with her.”
Brady said she’s not going to lie: The exercises are difficult, but “everyone there is so nice.” And there’s always something new to work on.
This summer, occupational therapist Mary Conley has been teaching Brady to put her hair in a ponytail.
“My mom used to have to do it if I wanted it to stay in,” Brady said. Conley adapted a hairbrush and worked with her on technique, particularly how to use her left hand — coined by Brady as her “Monday hand” — to keep hold of the hair band.
“Now I do it so it actually stays in,” Brady said.
“I feel like we’re a team,” Stephanie Dorsey said of the Easterseals staff. “I don’t feel like a physical disability should prevent her from doing anything that she wants to do — or could do.
“Sometimes I think she doesn’t realize her potential. … I think we’ve really worked as a team to get her to keep growing as an individual and be independent.”