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  • Writer's pictureTyisha Blade

Spreading Gratitude Through East Cleveland: Susan Myrick Shares Her Story

“I laugh because I really do feel grateful. I think that’s the most important thing to leave as a legacy: To live with an attitude of gratitude.”

Courtesy Photos: Ryan Eisenhuth

Myrick and Caregiver

Written By: Ryan Eisenhuth

Susan Myrick was born and raised right here in East Cleveland. As a graduate of Shaw High School who went on to attend Cleveland State University, Myrick’s life has been pretty typical for an East Cleveland native – except for the fact that she was born without arms.

As a child, Myrick had to learn to do the basic tasks of life using her feet. By the time she was a teenager, she learned to clean the house, cook food and even sew clothing using only her feet. “I also learned how to drive with my feet when I was 16, which I think is one of my biggest accomplishments,” Myrick proudly explained. Despite her physical disability, she maintained a cheerful outlook on life. “My mother always told me that God made me just the way He wanted me to be, so I never thought much of it.” In time, Myrick grew a burning desire to share this message with other disabled people, so she trained to become a teacher’s assistant for special education classrooms.

For the next decade of her life, Myrick worked in the East Cleveland City School District, helping elementary-aged children with intellectual disabilities learn how to read and do math. “I also taught them the most important lesson I have ever learned: that it’s okay to be different.” As Myrick got older, she was injured and her health declined at a faster rate than most of the other people her age. Unable to keep up with the children she taught, she had to retire early. But Myrick was not ready to stop making a great difference in her community.

Myrick and Friends

Instead, she thought back to her days at Camp Cheerful, a summer camp designed for children with physical and intellectual disabilities in Strongsville. “First of all, I remember seeing children who were born without arms and legs. It was made clear to me that things could always be worse, so I learned to live with an attitude of gratitude.” Myrick also remembers seeing children who were left behind by their parents because they were unable to support a disabled child. “Thinking back to them, I made up my mind to become a foster parent.”

Over the next 20 years, Myrick served as a foster parent for 10 teenage girls, including a few who were teenage mothers. It is obvious that Myrick has made a great difference in East Cleveland simply by showing love to those who are often overlooked. Though she no longer serves in this capacity, Myrick still strives to make East Cleveland a better place through sharing her story with others. She proudly lives in the McGregor Independent Living Community located on Private Drive in East Cleveland. As she reflects on her life, Myrick’s spirit of gratitude radiates. “I often look around and am grateful; when I count my blessings, there is never a shortage. This is the legacy I want to leave.”

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