The organization, Girls Overcoming Obstacles Daily (GOOD), will focus on students facing health and resource disparities in South Central Los Angeles.
BY JAMIE WETHERBE MA ’04
June 22, 2020
AS A PHYSICAL THERAPIST WORKING IN A SCHOOL-BASED SETTING, Ashley Sinclair DPT ’10 has a lot on her plate. For seven years, she’s worked at a swath of L.A.-area schools where she treats students — a large percentage of whom are in special education and are diagnosed with a range of intellectual and physical disabilities.
“There’s a wide scope of who I’m able to see,” she says of her students, who can range in age from 3 to 21. “I treat children who might just have difficulty with balance to others who can’t walk, talk or move at all on their own.”
While Sinclair deals with difficult cases, working with these children is her calling.
“It feeds my soul,” she says. “I connect with their resilience, innocence and commitment — their journey and strength inspire me. They’re a joy to work with.”
In 2016, she had the idea to start a nonprofit with the mission to empower children with disabilities and encourage inclusion.
“Every day at work, I see the need for an organization to help these students feel included and appreciated — a way to help them participate in society to the best of their abilities,” she explains.
Sinclair decided on the name G.O.O.D. (Girls Overcoming Obstacles Daily), and, as the organization started to take shape, Sinclair chose to focus on girls living in South-Central Los Angeles, a region where she’s lived, attended and worked in schools with several health and resource disparities.
“I really want to uplift this population and create opportunities for access,” she says. “I decided to focus on girls because of my experiences and struggles growing up as a typical girl, then further analyzing what challenges girls deal with that might be different from boys.”
Getting G.O.O.D. Off the Ground
Although Sinclair was committed to seeing her idea come to life, events in her own life interfered.
“In 2016, my grandmother passed away, and we were very close,” she says. “I couldn’t focus, so I took a breather.”
Nearly a year later, Sinclair experienced some financial hardships, and at the time, didn’t feel comfortable asking for help with funding.
“I thought I could do it all myself,” she says. “I’m the type who wants to give my all, especially with something that means so much to me. Even though I had to put this on the back burner, it’s always in the front of my mind.”
Recently, Sinclair put her passionate project back on track, including partnering with key people to get G.O.O.D. off the ground.
“It’s such a great cause, and there are so many people willing to offer support,” she says. “As long as I’m able to release some control, accept help and delegate roles, it won’t be as hard as it seems.”
While G.O.O.D.’s nonprofit status and offerings are still a work in progress, planned programs include inclusive field trips and playdates, workshops for parents, and mentorships between girls of similar ages living with similar disabilities.
To foster compassion and empathy, Sinclair plans to pair girls with disabilities with typically developing girls, so they can learn about each other’s experiences and support each other.
G.O.O.D. will also have a wellness component with workshops for yoga, nutrition and mindfulness, coupled with PT activities for girls and their caregivers.
“It’s something I didn’t initially think about, but since I’ve had time to rework things, I’m adding that element,” Sinclair says. “If we’re going to work on self-esteem and empowering girls, wellness is a huge aspect of that.”
While Covid has forced Sinclair to shift launch plans, she hopes to hold G.O.O.D.’s first event by August, which could include a small-scale clothing drive and virtual workshops or forums.
Eventually, she’d like to see G.O.O.D. become a community staple that represents “black and brown girls with disabilities,” she says. “I live in this community; I work in some of the same schools I went to. As much as I want [the organization] to grow, I want it to grow within our community.”
Still, she hopes the message of inclusion goes nationwide and beyond. “I hope it inspires others to do similar work and develop similar organizations in their own communities,” she says.
A Pathway to Pediatrics
Sinclair realized she wanted to go into pediatrics right from the start. “I was blessed to know what I wanted to do from an early age,” she says. “So I was better able to focus my time and energy while at USC.”
At USC, she honed in on that aspect of her studies and gravitated toward faculty with backgrounds in pediatrics. She also traveled to Mexico with Sharon DeMuth MSPT ’95, DPT ’97, who, at the time, was an adjunct assistant professor of clinical physical therapy, and other students to volunteer at a pro bono pediatric clinic in Mexico.
During her clinical rotations at USC, she encountered a handful of organizations focused on inclusion. “That was my first introduction,” she says. “USC exposed me to a lot, and after graduation, I continued to think about how I could impact my students outside of clinical physical therapy.”
The journey of getting G.O.O.D. going reminds Sinclair of the resilient children she works with and their ability to restart.
“I worked with a student who has a genetic condition, and he really wanted to walk,” she recalls.
When the two met, the 3-year-old preschooler got around the classroom by scooting on his bottom. “We worked really hard,” she says. “He had days he didn’t want to practice, or it was extremely difficult for him.”
Sinclair gave his teacher strategies and PT exercises to use while he was at school. The family also worked on them while he was at home, focusing on them more during extended winter break. When he returned to school, he was taking a few steps on his own.
“Now he’s 6, and he walks and runs,” she says. “It’s not perfect, but it’s very symbolic of the journey we go through in life. There are setbacks, peaks and valleys, but if it’s something we really value, we find a way to eventually make it work.”