Long named national spokesperson

Drew Long and her daughter, Caroline, display a special-needs shopping cart they developed at their Alabaster home. Caroline recently was named the national Easter Seals Child Representative of the Year for 2012. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

An Alabaster girl and her family will spend the next year traveling across the country to represent the Easter Seals organization after she was named the non-profit’s Child Representative of the Year for 2012.

Caroline Long, who was diagnosed with multiple disabilities – including Rett syndrome – early in her life, has been involved with the Easter Seals of the Birmingham area’s Pediatric Therapy Services center in Pelham for the past 10 years.

Local Easter Seals representatives nominated Long for the Child Representative of the Year a few months ago, after the organization’s programs helped her show steady improvements over the year.

After reviewing the story of Long’s progress over the past few years, officials at the national Easter Seals office in Chicago selected her for the national honor.

As the Child Representative of the Year, Long and her family will serve as the spokespeople at Easter Seals events across the country. This year will mark the first time someone from the Birmingham area has been selected to the position, said Easter Seals of the Birmingham area’s Director of Development Kelli Keith.

“Every time Easter Seals has a corporate sponsor rally, they will fly the family out to be in attendance,” Keith said. “They will have a year full of public speaking and making appearances at events all over the country.”

Keith said the local Easter Seals branch nominated Long because of the obstacles she has overcome in the past several years, and because of the progress she has made through the organization’s programs.

Rett syndrome, a developmental disorder primarily affecting females, causes many complications, such as losing the ability to speak and walk, along with other disabilities.

“(Caroline) has such an incredible story. This is a child that looked typical all the way until she was a year old,” Keith said. “Pediatricians kept telling Caroline’s family that she was developing fine, but (Caroline’s mother) Drew Ann (Long) knew something was wrong.”

After Caroline was diagnosed with the syndrome, Keith said some pediatricians told the family Caroline would “never do anything.”

“She can now speak with her DynaVox, which is huge. She has even been able to stand with the help of a walker,” Keith said. “She is beating all the odds. With therapy, she has been able to do some amazing things.”