Leilani Gutierrez, center, enjoys a cold drink with her...

October 10, 2004

Leilani Gutierrez, center, enjoys a cold drink with her friends Max

Thornell, right, while Steven Barela, left, takes a break driving

Leilani around during recess at Newport Heights Elementary School.

Gutierrez, a first-grader at Newport Heights Elementary, was

paralyzed in a car crash on Mother's Day four years ago.

I wanted to show a little of Leilani's regular day in school. I

spent time with Leilani in the classroom, but it was during recess


that I was able to show her having fun with her friends. Every day,

Max and Steven come to play with Leilani, and other students join in

as Leilani chases them around the playground in her chair. During a

break, Max bought a cold drink from the cafeteria and helped Leilani

cool down.

It was great to see how the other students treated Leilani as just

another friend to play with and accepted her even with her


-- Douglas Zimmerman

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