Joan Karpenko


January 2019

In 1993 my world was turned upside down and would never be the same again.  But it has been an amazing experience and I have no regrets as it has made me a better person.   From a routine ultrasound 5 months into my pregnancy, I was told my daughter, Ali, would have Spina Bifida.  She probably would never walk and would have many physical and mental challenges.  I was scheduled to terminate the pregnancy but could not go through with it. (For 22 years I was a professional cake decorator.  We closed our family bakery in 2004.)   For many years since Ali’s birth, my dream was to be involved with families who would face the same situation.  It’s just a connection you feel from having a child with a disability.  It is such a good feeling to be able to support other families who are following in our footsteps, to help them find services, equipment and to connect them with other families.  When meeting these families you don’t feel like strangers, but as if you have known each other for years.  My daughter Ali and I have been working on having an all accessible playground in Grand Forks.  Phase 1 was built in September and Phase 2 will be built in the Spring.  It has been an amazing project with community support.  We can’t wait to see kids with disabilities enjoying it.  A 52 year old friend in a wheelchair has never been on a playground and is excited for this one to open!!!