It's a special time of the year for Activ as we celebrate Disability Awareness Week, which starts Sunday, 29 November. This week aims to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrates their achievements and contributions in the community.
To celebrate, we’re excited to share a story of one of our customers, Mercedes, who is achieving amazing things!
Mercedes rides into the future
Inspirational Mercedes leads an extraordinary life. The seventeen-year-old was born with Spina Bifida, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism and developmental delay - but has never let anything get in her way.
Through the help and dedication of her mother Vanessa Portaro, and the guiding hand of Activ, Mercedes has achieved what most hope to in a lifetime. She has started her own honey business, performed at the circus and travelled across the country. But it’s her love of horse riding that is her real passion.
Mercedes began horse riding when she was just three years old at the suggestion of her physiotherapist to help with her mental and physical development.
“There were a couple of years there where all we could do to keep her on a horse was drape her over the horses back and let her scream,” said her mum Vanessa. “Then one day she just sat up on the horse, looked around, decided it was fun and has never looked back.”
Since then, horse riding has become a huge part of life. She has competed in a number of competitions including the annual RDA Metro Games in 2013 where she won the Mary Ferguson trophy for the event all-rounder pro and the 2014 Special Olympic National games where she won gold. But it’s her most recent efforts that has seen Mercedes achieve her greatest success.
She recently returned from Melbourne, where she competed in the Riding for the Disabled National Championships, regarded by many as the stepping stone to the Paralympics. She won a number of dressage awards, including two firsts and a second in dressage and took out the champion in her grade.
“I’m so unbelievably proud of Mercedes and everything that she has achieved. Her passion and dedication to succeed shines through in whatever she does, and the recent championships are no exception,” said her Mum, Vanessa.
“Supporting Mercedes to achieve her dreams is a team effort, and Activ plays a key part in that.”
Through Activ’s Individualised Services (AIS), Mercedes has been able to set out a plan to achieve her dreams now and in the future. Activ’s AIS staff have helped Mercedes develop her personal Plan, which identified her goals and dreams and have then worked with her to identify ways to achieve them.
Activ also provides support to mum Vanessa, helping her to manage her funding and providing her with guidance when needed.
“During her planning meeting, Mercedes spoke about her love of animals, the circus and her desire to enrich her friendships. We have worked with her to develop plans to achieve each of those goals, so it’s really great to see her fulfil her dreams,” said Activ’s AIS Coordinator Grace Smith.
“Each AIS customer we support is different with different goals that they want to achieve. In the changing world of the NDIS, it’s really important that we are able to tailor our supports to every individual customer we support,” said Grace.
Activ’s AIS Team currently has 36 support workers, which travel around the state supporting people like Mercedes to achieve their dreams.
“It’s really rewarding work, and we love seeing the people we support achieve such extraordinary things,” said Grace.
"Working with Vanessa and Mercedes is inspirational and we can't wait to see what she does next.”