A Comprehensive Cerebral Palsy Resource

A Perfect Christmas Gift

Story written by: carol

If you saw a man wearing a hat with paintbrushes attached to it, what would you think? Naturally, this bizarre sight might bring up all sorts of questions, and might stir ideas in your imagination, but if you stuck around long enough to see this hat on the head of Jesse McKinney, you would soon realize exactly what he was using it for: for painting beautiful landscapes.

Jesse McKinney invented this hat years ago to help him pursue his dream of being a painter – a dream that at one time seemed farfetched given the cerebral palsy that prevents him from exercising the fine motor skills in his hands required for painting. While this ingenuity and never-quit attitude might impress others, however, it is nothing new to Jesse; after all, Jesse has not only been dealing with cerebral palsy all his life, but has also been finding ways to conquer cerebral palsy all his life!

In 1993, Jesse became the first person with severe cerebral palsy to graduate from Penn State University – completing a bachelor’s degree in horticulture – and in 2001 he won the Novice Class at the NPC Wheelchair National Bodybuilding Championships in West Palm Beach, Florida. Four years later, Jesse returned to the same competition and won the Lightweight Division. Who sent him a congratulatory letter after he achieved this feat? None other than bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger – congratulating Jesse on becoming the first person with cerebral palsy to ever win the highest amateur wheelchair bodybuilding competition in the world.

After all these accomplishments, and after all the hard work Jesse has put in over the years to become the man he is today, he is now facing a new challenge – one that is unique from any challenge he has faced before. Jesse recently met the love of his life – Laura Antranigian from Portland, Maine – and the couple hopes to be living together in Portland by the end of the year. Because Jesse will have to establish residency in Maine for 30 days before he will be able to qualify for services, however, he not only has to save up the money to move, but must also save enough money to last him for his first month there. While this might seem like a large obstacle for some, however, it is nothing but a bump in the road for Jesse!

Jesse and Laura – who also has severe cerebral palsy, and is also a painter – have started a fundraiser online to raise money, and are hopeful that they will be spending Christmas together in Maine. Given all that Jesse has overcome already, one can safely assume that if this is what Jesse and the love of his life desire, this is exactly what they will have!