Shamokin man given grim diagnosis at birth brings hope, awareness to those with disabilities
Editor's note: Monday Profiles are published on the first Monday of each month.
SHAMOKIN - Aaron Kalinowski is determined to provide hope and awareness to children with disabilities and stop the discrimination against people like them.
The 18-year-old Shamokin resident, who was born with cerebral palsy and Asperger Syndrome, runs and maintains two Facebook pages with a little assistance from his mother Carol: My Miracle, Living with Cerebral Palsy and Asperger Syndrome; and Stop Discrimination against Special Needs Kids.
"You can't just judge somebody really quickly. You have to spend time with that person and get to know them and you can make each other's lives better," he said Saturday at his city home where he lives with his parents Carol and Tony.
On these Facebook pages, Kalinowski and Carol share articles or pictures to encourage or inform their followers about his and others' predicament.
Although he turned 18 years old last Wednesday, Aaron Kalinowski wasn't expected to survive when he was born 3 1/2 months premature at 12 inches long and just under 2 pounds. If he did survive, he was expected to be a vegetable. He had brain damage, level three on one side of his brain - the highest, level four, on the other. His vital organs were so underdeveloped that his lungs were torn and scarred from breathing air too early. He underwent surgery on just the second day of his life to close a heart valve to stop his lungs from filling with blood - the first of at least eight surgeries for various ailments.
He is a miracle, his parents say.
Now, Kalinowski spends his time making YouTube videos of his gaming sessions, telling "yo mama" jokes and also helps his mother with her volunteer work with rescue dogs that assist people with disabilities.
And he was getting ready Saturday night for his first date with a girl named Erin - they'll be eating pizza and ice cream and watching a movie together.
"Like every other mother, I just want to put his diapers back on and stick him in the crib," Carol Kalinowski said.
He can walk short distances, but he uses a scooter to go further. He's always accompanied by his parents, but they have been discussing allowing him to be on his own since he turned 18.
"It's a hassle," Kalinowski joked about having his parents around all the time.
Graduating in 2015, the teen wants to pursue a computer programing degree and eventually work in video game development, which has been his "thing since day one," he said.
"Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you can't accomplish your goals," Aaron Kalinowski said.
His mother Carol calls him an inspiration.
"He wasn't supposed to walk. He wasn't supposed to talk. He wasn't supposed to anything," she said.
Now, Tony Kalinowski adds with a smile, "He doesn't shut up."
The younger Kalinowski fired back just as quick and said, "Hey! How dare you!"
Name: Aaron Kalinowski
Likes: The Annoying Orange YouTube series, Jeff Dunham, civics and politics.
Pets: Cinder, 6 1/2-year-old Boxer; Sophie, 4-year-old Boxer; Emmie, 2-year-old Boxer; Norman, 7-month-old Chinese crested dog.
Websites: https://www.facebook.com/stopdiscriminationagainstspecialneedskids and https://www.facebook.com/cerebralpalsyandme/info