Filled with colorful butterflies and blooming flowers, Chryse Brown’s paintings reflect her creative nature and cheerful spirit.
“People tell me that I paint happiness,” she said. “I’m full of imagination.”
As a painter, Chryse’s art captures joy and inspires others – and the same can be said of her work as a volunteer at Akron Children’s Hospital. Chryse began volunteering in 2014, but her journey with Akron Children’s began years earlier as a patient.
“My parents took me to this hospital as a kid,” she said. “When I went to school, they had me in speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.”
Chryse has cerebral palsy (CP), a congenital disorder that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, as well as hearing loss in both ears.
Born in Greece in 1957, she says both her CP and hearing loss were caused by birth injuries.
“My mom and my dad were expecting me, and I was an 11.5-pound baby,” she said. “They did not do cesareans then, so they had me naturally. My mom and my dad told me when the doctors saw I had [a disability] they wanted me to be in an institution, where my parents could visit. That’s why my parents came here [to the U.S.]. They moved six months after I was born.”
As she volunteers, Chryse uses a walker to help with her mobility, and she wears two hearing aids. Over the years, she’s learned some sign language, and she’s become quite skilled at reading lips.
She says she returned to Akron Children’s because she felt connected to the mission and likes to stay active.
“I love helping out with children, and I get too bored staying home,” she said. “My husband supports me a whole lot. He tries to encourage me.”
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of workers of all abilities. Prior to joining Akron Children’s as a volunteer, Chryse held multiple positions at United Cerebral Palsy and the Akron Public Library. She says at different points throughout her career, people made assumptions about her abilities.
“My life isn’t easy,” she said. “When I was done at the library, people thought I would never be able to do another job. I felt kind of bad, because they were treating me like I’m slow. I may be slow at things, but it doesn’t make any difference in what I do. My job still means a lot me.”
Chryse says when she encounters negativity, she always stays positive. She says creating an inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities starts with patience and acceptance.
“Tell people to be patient,” she said. “I know how much it means for someone to be patient.
“Please don’t judge people with a disability for what they can’t do. Appreciate them for what they can do for their communities and the world.”