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Karen Gorr: Make Your Dreams a Reality

Karen was born in 1937. Her family consisted of her parents and a brother David who was two years older. Karen was born with cerebral palsy (CP). When David was three, he fell out of the family's Model A car and struck his head on a cement curb. After that, he started experiencing black outs. When David and Karen were five and three, their father passed away. Their mother Mabel worked very hard as a waitress to support her children.

The people in their small South Dakota town were quite malicious and didn't understand how anyone could have one, let alone two children, who desperately needed medical help. Mabel took the children to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and to the Crippled Children's Home in Jamestown, North Dakota. They were turned down at both places for three reasons:

  1. They were fatherless;
  2. they were poor; and
  3. they were two children with "handicaps" in the same family.

One doctor suggested that Mabel do what the Japanese do with "imperfect" children – take them to a high cliff and push them over the side. Mabel never went back to that doctor again.

Things went from bad to worse. Mabel had to have a tumor removed and was given only a 50/50 chance to survive. Now she had to find someone or someplace to care for her children.

The children were placed in the South Dakota State School and Hospital for the Feebleminded at Redfield. For Karen this began her 10-year battle to leave the institution. For David it would end sooner. When he was 12, he had pneumonia and died during a "black out."

The children went to "school" in the institution five days a week, where they sang songs and did arts and crafts. Karen was lucky. A kind, motherly woman, who was also a patient in the same building, taught all the children to read, print and play Parcheesi.