Walking Tall

Leila’s journey knows no limits

By Dwain Hebda

Leila Correa

Leila Correa is a star. Everywhere she goes she meets new people and makes new friends, exuding a joy for life that can barely be contained by her 5-year-old frame. She's also one of the most recognized kids in her native Siloam Springs, appearing as she does in articles, commercials and even on her own billboard promoting the good work of Friendship Community Care there. 

She's a living reminder about what's possible when you put your mind to it, even at a young age or under special circumstances. 

"Leila's our little social butterfly," said her mother, Deidre. "Throughout all of the obstacles that she's had, she always had a smile on her face no matter what. She's very outgoing, she never meets a stranger, she's all about having new friends. Not just one, but many people have referred to her as being just like a little angel." 

Deidre and her husband Valentin are Leila's biggest fans, of course. After all, it's her family who've had front-row seats to the remarkable strides she's made—quite literally in fact. The little girl started outpatient therapies with Friendship at just eight weeks old to help address issues related to De Morsier Syndrome, a congenital condition that typically includes an underdevelopment of the optic nerve, pituitary gland dysfunction and absence of the septum pellucidum. 

By the time Leila started the organization's full-time daycare program just shy of her second birthday, her mother had a clear-cut objective in mind. 

"Leila came to Friendship to learn how to walk," Deidre said. "When we were doing outpatient therapy, I was doing everything in my might to get her to start walking. I was putting her in a stander for 30 minutes; once she could bear weight, we went to a walker. She was in that walker for a good three to four months." 

Leila and Deidre Correa

Leila and Deidre Correa

"She was our first child, so it was a really hard for us to make the decision to put her into daycare. But once we decided, OK we'll go ahead and put her in, within two months she left the walker and started walking by herself." 

The Correas' leap of faith paid off thanks to Friendship's unique brand of therapy that dealt with Leila's issues in a manner that was caring without being coddling. 

"The therapists there are incredible," Deidre said. "They always encouraged her and set goals so high for her. They encouraged her to keep going and going, and I truly believe that’s why we are where we are right now." 

Today, Leila is enjoying her Kindergarten activities and while she's experienced some developmental delays, she's already demonstrated that she's not about to let anything get her down for long. 

"She wasn’t quite sure what was going on (in school) in the beginning, but now she's kinda wrapped her head around it," Deidre said. "Change is super hard for her but she's done very well thus far. We're still behind in some things where we'd like to be a little bit farther along, but the one thing that we are excited about is, she's making a progression. It's slower than what we expected, but she's getting there."