For a long time, Hope Frey has been an overcomer.
Walking has been difficult for the Fremont resident, who also has limited use of her right hand and arm. Despite such challenges, she’s made strides.
In 2004, she spoke to senators at the State Capitol and then to congressmen in Washington, D.C., regarding state funding for people with disabilities.
She received the Volunteer of the Year award through Gentiva in 2012.
Now, Frey has started a People First self-advocacy group for people with disabilities. The group meets from 5-6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at Deerfield Apartments Clubhouse, 1021 S. Howard St., in Fremont.
“It’s always been my desire to start one of these groups, but I never had the chance to do it full blown until April,” she said. “My first meeting was April 5.”
More than 10 people attended the first meeting. A smaller number attended a second, but she hopes more will attend.
Frey said she’s always wanted to be an advocate for those with disabilities.
“I have a disability and I just want to advocate for myself and teach people how to advocate for themselves,” she said.
The People First of Nebraska, Inc. website said it is the only statewide disability rights organization run by and for people with all types of disabilities.
Individuals in local chapters meet to learn from each other and practice advocacy skills.
“People First believes that people with disabilities should be treated as equals and given the same decisions, rights, choices, responsibilities, and chances to speak up and empower themselves,” the website states.
Frey said local group meetings could include various topics from fire safety to leadership to self-advocacy.
She wants the group to be successful and said the full name of the local group is “People First of Platte Valley Who Never Give Up.”
Frey knows a little bit about that type of determination.
When she was 14 months old, the former Hooper resident had a seizure that caused paralysis on one side of her body. Doctors said she’d never be able to walk again, but her dad, Jerry, worked with her.
And she walked.
In 1992, her dad was killed in an accident on her parents’ 15th wedding anniversary. She and her brother, Thad, were injured. She faced more sadness when her mother, Linda, died in 2002 due to complications from diabetes.
Frey has made various accomplishments in her life and has had therapy for her right hand. In 2013, she was able to write her name with her right hand.
In April, she attended an event for physical and spiritual healing, not associated with People First. Leaving that event, Frey said she was able to walk without leg braces while her helper, Tammy Ritthaler, held her cane.
“I never used to be able to move this (her right) arm without help,” she said.
But since April, Frey said she has been able to do more things with her arm.
“I feel like I pick my feet up more and I have been walking for two months now with no leg braces and am doing very well at it,” she said.
Frey has been careful, however.
“I’m doing it the safe way and going back to my occupational therapist and physical therapist to help me in this journey,” she said. “My main goal is for them to say I don’t have to wear my big leg braces anymore and I would like full ability of my right hand. I don’t know if that will happen. We just have to wait and see what’s in store.”
One of her goals is to be able to shake her occupational therapist’s hand with her right hand.
Frey noted that the nonprofit People First group isn’t necessarily spiritually linked.
But Frey believes she has a calling to launch a group to help people with disabilities to learn to speak up for themselves, because — at some point — they won’t have parents to speak up for them.
She points out something else.
“Everybody has a disability in some way or another,” she said.
At the same time, people can learn to persevere.
“Anyone can be an overcomer as long as they believe in their faith,” she said. “With faith, anything is possible.”
She believes anybody can become an overcomer.
“I’m a true example of it — that you can overcome many challenges in life,” she said.
Frey wants to get the group started on the right track so it will be successful.
“I’m never giving up on it,” she said. “I’ve got the faith inside of me to know it’s going to grow into an amazing group.”
Those seeking more information may call 402-719-3968.
More information is available at http://www.peoplefirstnebraska.com.