By Emily Williams
More than 60 children sang “Happy Birthday” for United Ability founder Dorothy Levy as she arrived at her 105th birthday celebration June 16 at the organization’s Hand in Hand Learning Center.
At her request, the party was held on the playground, and Levy was able to witness firsthand just how far the organization has come since its early days.
“This makes me incredibly happy,” Levy said. “Miracles are truly happening here.”
Levy served in an instrumental role in the founding of Spastic Aid of Alabama, later known as United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham and recently rebranded as United Ability.
At the time, she was raising her son, Harry, who was born in 1938 and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Doctors were not well educated about the disorder and could not provide much support for families.
“We found that we could get him help from a certain place in Manhattan,” she said. “We decided we would pursue it, but we wanted to include other kids in this area who might need the same service. That’s how it started and that’s how it spread.”
Joining together with local physician Dr. John Simpson and Rabbi Milton Grafman, Levy and her husband helped establish the Spastic Aid of Alabama with a goal of serving children with day programs and residential services.
“I am so happy to see all of the efforts that all of you people I see in front of me are working at to make better lives for all of the kids who have disabilities,” Levy said, adding that she hopes those efforts will continue to spread throughout the country.
While celebrating with organization officials and participants, Levy tested out wheelchair access to the playground’s treehouse and took advantage of all photo opportunities.
“Mom, this was your dream, that a place like this would exist,” said Levy’s daughter.