Amelia Saddles Up for the Cup

“To have a place like The SPOT that is so compassionate, understanding and able to really make a difference in my child's life is a godsend.”  - Todd Krueger 

Established in 1980 at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, The Children’s SPOT (Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy) has been serving the community of Kansas City for 40 years with one goal, to help children reach their highest level of functional ability and success in the environments where they live, learn and play. One of the most inspiring stories that have been born from the SPOT belongs to Amelia.  

Amelia Krueger is a determined seven-year-old girl who receives physical, speech and occupational therapy services at The Children's SPOT on a weekly basis.   

When Amelia was just a few months old, her parents, Jennifer and Todd, observed that she was delayed in reaching various developmental milestones in comparison to her twin sister, Sarah. For instance, Sarah, was able to roll over and hold her head much sooner than Amelia. Eventually, Amelia would hit these milestones, but not without intensive and rigorous effort. It took tremendous effort for her to balance during these activities. However, it was not until Amelia attempted to stand that her progress came to a halt.   

At one year and nine months, Amelia began her journey with The Children’s SPOT and her physical therapist, Beverly Renfro. Beverly has been with Saint Luke's Health System for 32 years. Right away, Beverly noticed that Amelia's ankles were turning inward, so she referred her elsewhere for ankle foot orthotics.

After a few months of therapy, Beverly was concerned; Amelia was unable to progress as expected, so Beverly recommended that she visit Children’s Mercy for testing. After a brain MRI and an evaluation, Amelia was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that causes young children to have problems with motor skills, muscle tone, coordination, and posture. Amelia's family was relieved to finally know the definite cause of her motor delays, in order to tackle it with the appropriate care.  

“Beverly is an amazing advocate. Amelia has formed a bond with Bev and can trust her and she is now one of the family,” said Jennifer. “She constantly encourages us and tells us, ‘she is going to get there, just in her own time.’ When I doubt something, she is one of the first people I turn to with questions within her expertise, and she helps me out.”

When Amelia first started at the SPOT over 5 years ago, she was unable to walk. Now, she can gallop, jump, and step up and down from a curb on her own, just to name a few. Of the many challenges Amelia has overcome, her most exciting accomplishment so far is her ability to run. The moment she ran for the first time, her mother caught  it on video and said, "Look Amelia, you're running!" Amelia was overwhelmed with joy! This was a very significant accomplishment due to the level of balance running demands. 

“She has put in so much work to progress to where she is today,” said Todd. “She is quite impressive to me. I often wonder if I were in her situation if I would be as positive as her, and I don't know if I would be.”

“At the SPOT, we start seeing children as early as birth and our goal for the children we see, like Amelia, is to be able to accomplish everyday tasks on their own,” said Beverly. “We alter what we need to work on in her therapy with obstacles that come up and tasks they need and want to master.”

Being a twin, Amelia is lucky to have a special kind of bond with Sarah. They are best friends, tell each other everything, and recognize their complementary strengths and weaknesses. When they were younger, Sarah would sit next to Amelia and do her therapy alongside of her. Sarah has always been her biggest cheerleader.

“Sometimes, Amelia can get frustrated when she is unable to keep up with her sister or classmates, but Sarah is very patient and considerate of Amelia,” said Jennifer. “Sarah stops and waits for her as often as she needs. She is her defender, cheerleader and protector.”

When Amelia was three, Bev recommended she begin a special kind of therapy to help work on her core strength and balance. Amelia started hippotherapy at Heartland Therapeutic Riding. Hippotherapy is the practice of horseback riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment. The rhythmic movement of a horse moves the rider's body in a way that improves balance, strength, muscle control, flexibility and coordination.  She fell in love with Simon, her first horse, and never looked back!

Amelia worked hard during all her hippotherapy sessions, and advanced to therapeutic riding classes, where she started learning horsemanship and riding skills. Amelia's growth allowed her to transition from Simon to a more advanced horse, named Nick.

Recently, Amelia was asked to compete at the United Professional Horseman's Association National Championship Horse Show at the American Royal. There were riders from all over the country, representing different therapeutic riding centers. Out of the 6 riders from Heartland, Amelia was one of the riders chosen to compete in the Exceptional Challenge Cup Walk & Trot with Assistance.  

"As her physical therapist, it was such an honor for me to be there and cheer her on,” said Beverly. “There was Amelia sitting on her horse. She was out there with other people, but she had this bright yellow shirt on, and just was so tall and straight on that horse. I have to say I got a little teary. It was great."

“Raising Amelia makes me incredibly proud. There are enough challenges growing up as it is. I'm not greedy, so I wouldn't ask for her cerebral palsy to be taken away, but I would trade places with her in a heartbeat,” says Todd. “I am so incredibly proud of her ability to handle what she has with humor — to keep that positive and upbeat attitude on her face as much as we see it makes me so incredibly proud of the person she is.”

When Amelia's parents remembered that her name means 'hard worker', they believe that they have given her the perfect name. Her journey isn’t over, and with her can-do attitude, perseverance and determination she will be able to do anything she sets her mind to.

“We have an amazing team and people that support her, from her speech, occupational and physical therapist at the SPOT, to school, her doctors and everyone at Heartland Therapeutic Riding,” says Jennifer. “It can be overwhelming how many people support her. They are all important cogs in the wheel.”

"Every little new thing that a child with special needs does, you just really celebrate. It is a big deal for the family and their support team. Just being able to do normal, typical things that everyone else can do. That is the biggest part of it all, " says Beverly. 

“To have a place like The SPOT that is so compassionate, understanding and able to really make a difference in my child's life is a godsend,” says Todd. “We wouldn't be where we are without them.”

Learn more about how The Children's SPOT helps children of all ages and abilities reach their own milestones, like Amelia.