IT CAN take a lifetime to truly touch people's hearts but William Zaknic has done just that at only two years of age.
William was born with a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes severe muscle atrophy and joint contractures in his arms and legs.
Mother Celia Knight says William's zest for life, despite his disability, has profoundly inspired his family, their wide circle of friends and MontroseAccess, a charity that supports children with disabilities.
"In his two years of living, William has touched the hearts of more people than most do in their whole life," Celia says.
"He is completely dependent. He cannot feed himself, walk, grip, pick up things or crawl.
"But William and other children with disabilities wake up every morning with a huge smile on their face saying 'what's next?', defying all odds and showing people everywhere that their abilities are endless."
Celia's "amazing" little boy is about to earn more fans as the family prepares for the Sunshine Coast's second annual Walk With Me charity event on Saturday, September 15.
The fundraiser for MontroseAccess will see staff from several local IGA stores join families, friends and residents as they walk beside and on behalf of children with disabilities.
William is one of five brave ambassadors who, despite relying on walking aids or wheelchairs, will lead the crowd from Maroochydore's Pierce Park to Alex Surf Club.
Celia says it's the least she and William's stepfather Josh Brady can do.
MontroseAccess has been helping William since he left hospital at 10 days old after receiving the diagnosis of Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita with Amnioplasia.
"The team at MontroseAccess are great," Celia said.
"The girls come to our house and provide support fortnightly; they also go to William's day care and help with ideas to ensure he is learning and being included."
Other assistance includes a range of physical therapy and countless aids and toys to suit William's abilities.
"But they are so much more than just physios and occupational therapists," Celia says.
"They have been a shoulder to cry on with the countless tears, someone to laugh with when there is nothing else to do."
Celia and Josh encourage all Gympie residents to join the walk, which she calls "an amazing day with an amazing message".
"As a parent of a child with a disability, there is nothing more comforting and amazing than watching William interact with and be included by other people," she says.
"It brings a tear to our eyes to see that there are compassionate people out there, willing to come out and walk in the sunshine showing that they care."
MontroseAccess CEO Darrel Bourke echoes Celia's sentiments.
"It's such a special opportunity to raise money for local children, break down social barriers, and nurture greater community spirit," he says.
"Last year's inaugural Walk on the Sunshine Coast was a huge success and no doubt this year will be the same."
MontroseAccess is partnering with the national body Ability First Australia for the event, which will start at 9am at Pierce Park. It will be followed by a family-friendly party at the park.
To register to walk or sponsor one of the 2012 ambassadors, visit walkwithme.org.au.
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