As a therapy support aide at the Gillette Burnsville Clinic, Krista Horning keeps the rehabilitation therapy areas safe and clean for patients. But she does much more than that.
“I hope that I’m inspiration to Gillette children,” says Horning, who has worked at Gillette for nine years. “I pray that they look at me and see that they, too, can have independence and enjoyment in life.”
Horning has Apert syndrome, a genetic condition that results in fused skull bones, fingers and toes, and craniofacial issues. She’s been a Gillette patient since childhood—and says the care she received inspired her to give back to the organization.
“I started volunteering after I graduated from high school. One day, the Burnsville Clinic supervisor called and offered me a job,” says Horning. “I was so excited to work for an organization that not only serves people who have disabilities but also hires them!”
Horning spends her days cleaning the toys, mats, and equipment that patients use for therapy. She enjoys saying “hi” to the patients and families she encounters in the hallways. Shy as a child, today Horning has, in her words, “come a long way!” She credits her Gillette speech therapist, Heather Bracken, for helping her become more outgoing.
“Heather suggested I do a project that would help me become more comfortable talking with people in the community,” explains Horning. “We came up with the idea to do a book drive for the Burnsville Clinic. I asked neighbors, friends, and even some of my doctors to contribute to the cause. I was able to buy several books that are still in the lobby today. Every time I see a child reading one of those books, I smile.”
Books are something close to Horning’s heart for another reason, too. In 2010, she and her mom wrote a book highlighting the beauty in children who have special needs. “I saw a need for something to help kids who have disabilities feel accepted,” she says, “and to help kids without disabilities understand what it’s like to have a complex condition.”
Horning also speaks publicly to groups about disability awareness.
In addition to helping patients, Horning says she also loves working at Gillette because of her colleagues. “They’re encouraging and supportive. They’re patient and understanding of my limitations and my gifts.”