The ability to put one foot in front of the other and walk is the sort of thing many people take for granted, but for Ella Weiske, it’s a monumental achievement. Ella was born with cerebral palsy and requires a wheelchair to get around, yet she always dreamed of walking across the stage to collect her high school diploma on her own two feet.
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In spring of 2023, Ella finally got that chance! The teenager spent months before her graduation from Ripon High School in Wisconsin building strength and practicing walking on an innovative new device called a Trexo. All of her efforts were worth it when she stepped onto the stage to a standing ovation from classmates, faculty, and staff.
“Just to walk and physically grab my diploma, that’s going to be the best part of my day,” Ella said before the graduation ceremony.
Walking on graduation day was so important to Ella that she spent months in physical therapy to make it happen. Her family raised $45,000 with an online fundraiser to buy the Trexo device, which is a wearable robotic designed to help children walk. The device is controlled by a tablet, and it helps Ella gently move her legs. She can adjust how much support is needed, gait angles, and speed.
“They are robotic legs that get strapped to her legs so the beauty is when she fatigues, when her legs fatigue, when her muscles get too tight, the robots just keep going,” said Ellas mom, Deb Weiske.
Ella says just the feeling of her feet hitting the floor makes her happy, but it’s the independence the device offers that gets her really excited. She dreams of strolling through the shops downtown, going to her brother’s baseball games, and opening up her world with help from her robotic legs. But first, graduation!
On the big day, Ella was able to use her Trexo device to walk across the stage with the other members of the class of 2023. The entire school body was on their feet, cheering for her, as she collected her diploma with help from her sister, Liz Weiske. It was an emotional moment for the teachers and students who have rooted for Ella for the past four years.
“I knew she’s wanted to walk and I knew she wanted to walk for graduation and just seeing that she actually has it now and all the hard work it took to get to where she is today it’s just amazing and magical,” said Ella’s best friend, Jenna Konrad.
Just graduating is an achievement on its own, but Ella’s life-changing walk meant so much to her, and to everyone who knows and loves her. We’re so proud of Ella for working hard to accomplish her goals.
You can watch Ella’s momentous walk in the video below!
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