You don’t have to wait long to witness a miracle at the Challenge Center in La Mesa, Just ask Breezy Perkins.
Perkins, 26, has cerebral palsy. She makes a six-hour round-trip bus commute five days a week for physical therapy appointments at the center where specialized training and equipment help her regain her mobility.
When Perkins is not intensely training, she's watching, expecting to witness a life-changing breakthrough along another patient’s journey.
“Throughout my life, you hear a lot of ‘You can't do that and you'll never be able to do that.’ And coming here, they don't say that,” Perkins said.
The non-profit is changing lives one step at a time by helping people like Perkins regain their mobility and independence at a cost they can afford.
“Challenge Center is unique,” Executive Director Tiffany Piquilloud said. “There's not another one that we know of like it in the country.”
Piquilloud, who also works as a senior physical therapist, said stories like Perkins’ are familiar.
“People come in and they've been told ‘Sorry, there's nothing more we could do for you.’ Insurance coverage has ended, and it’s just, you know, get used to this wheelchair or get used to this walker or whatever,’” she said.
What makes the Challenge Center different are its personalized therapy regimens and specialized equipment that allow, not without persistence, patients to achieve things they previously thought were impossible.
And as their bodies strengthen, their spirits transform, too.
“When you don't give up on people and you just keep persisting and you have the skillful staff we have, miracles happen. It takes a minute but they do happen,” Piquilloud said.
Perkins said there’s “no room for quitters,” at the Challenge Center.
“Even if I'm having a bad day where I don't want to do it, they don't let me quit,” she said. “They say ‘You have to be here and you have to do this and they bring you through it."
The encouragement and persistence of the nine-person staff is paying off. As they challenge their patients’ physical and mental limits, extraordinary breakthroughs occur.
Three years ago, it had been a decade since Perkins last walked. But she’s walking now and even learning to drive.
“It's not just changed my life, it's literally saved my life. I mean, that sounds cliché, but it really has,” Perkins said. “I was very depressed when I came here. I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. But I'm not anymore.”
Perkins now works at the center and her success story is on display for all of the patients to see. She's in school, too, studying to become a special education teacher.
The day NBC 7 visited the Challenge Center, a woman who was told she’d never walk again took her first steps in five years. The miraculous moment triggered applause and tears from those who were there.
These are the kinds of miracles that people who work and train at the Challenge Center in La Mesa say happen daily.
Piquilloud said they rely on grants, donors and fundraisers to keep serving clients. She said it’s been life-changing for her to see people regain their independence and find a new sense of purpose and hope.
The center serves people of all ages. Right now it’s helping patients from 2 to 102 years old.