Michele Dahlerbruch is the incoming President of the Special Children’s League, a group close to her heart because of her son, Max—an adult child with special needs.
“Max is completely dependent,” Michele explained. “He can’t talk, he’s in a wheelchair and he needs 24-hour care — like a baby.”
Michele, a vivacious brunette, grew up on the Peninsula. She and her husband, Tony, the city manager of Palos Verdes Estates, live in Rancho Palos Verdes with their two children, Max, 25, and Katie, 21.
“When Max was growing up, the Palos Verdes School District was great for him,” Michele said.
“But when he was 22, he aged out of the system....”
She paused for a moment. “But, he’s happy and has a lot of love and care. Happy and healthy — that’s all I want.”
In 2011, hoping to help others and give back, Michele joined the Special Children’s League. The league was established back in 1957 when five close friends rallied around a mom whose child had cerebral palsy. The group has grown to forty women — including several who have children with special needs.
The Special Children’s League’s mission is to educate and reach out to the community regarding the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and autism. Their goal is to lift the lives and spirits of those affected, through education in the local community and as a team
member of United Cerebral Palsy.
The league’s major fundraiser, “An Affair to Remember,” takes place in November at the Palos Verdes Golf Club. It’s popular, always sells out, and is extremely successful. Last year, the group made over $100,000. A smaller fundraiser, the “Spring Sip & Shop” takes place in April.
“We support United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles. This year we’re giving them money to buy a new van because they need another one to transport clients,” she said. “We contribute money to groups that include our members’ kids, for example, we support grants for special education teachers,
Ride to Fly, and two different ski programs. We give to ICAN which provides work for developmentally disabled adults. This year they will purchase a photo booth so they can take pictures at parties.”
Children with special needs often inspire their families. “My son has taught my family a lot,” Michele said. “He’s taught us ‘don’t sweat the small stuff for sure’ and about the things that are the most important. I appreciate every day. My husband and I and my daughter are better people because
Michele’s daughter Katie graduates from UCLA this year with plans to study occupational therapy in graduate school.
“Growing up with her brother influenced her,” said the proud mother. “I’ve heard that 80 percent of kids who have siblings with special needs go into related fields. Katie will be Max’s advocate; she’s very passionate about it.”
And if Katie is anything like her mother, she’ll do it with compassion and charisma.
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