Sabrina Lu Ekanayake
Sabrina and Sameera met due to their mutual love for gymnastics. Sabrina was coaching at the East Whittier YMCA and decided to attend the Open Gym at Eric Will Gymnastics with some fellow coaches. Sameera became the head coach of the Men’s Team at Eric Will after coming here to train for the World Championships in 2003. Sameera was born and raised in Sri Lanka and was the National Gymnastics Champion of Sri Lanka 8 times. Soon after they met, Sabrina and Sameera got hooked on hot yoga and they became regulars at Purple Yoga in Downtown Fullerton. Sabrina and Sameera have a great desire to help ALL kids reach their potential. They have seen first hand how movement builds confidence and coordination while being a whole lot of fun.
Sabrina had initially intended to be a high school math teacher and somehow ended up in computer science engineering for 3 years at UCLA. After being part of the UCLA Peer Helpline and tutoring at-risk youth she decided to get her degree in Psychology. She interned in the Developmental Psychology Department and worked in Childcare for the SportsClub/LA during her college years. She had no idea how applicable these experiences would be to her own family life.
Sabrina discovered her love for dance when the gymnastics program was cut from her high school and she went on to compete with the Dance/Drill Team for three years. She loves teaching tap, ballet, jazz and hip hop and has taught movement and music private lessons with special needs children at the Y as well as starting a special needs gymnastics class there.
Sabrina discovered her love for singing and musical theatre during her years at UCLA while working on songs and skits with her sorority Alpha Phi. After college she did summer theatre in Cape Cod and was bitten by the acting bug. She has helped to musical direct and choreograph over 15 productions for children over the years. She now enjoys singing weekly with the Saint Bruno Church Music Ministry.
When her first child was born and had seizures her first day of life, Sabrina prayed that her daughter would make it and be able to come home. She filled an entire photo album just from that first week not knowing what the future would hold. After a week in the NICU the doctors released Quinn and a few months later she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. There was a lot of physical and occupational therapy sessions ahead. Sabrina is so proud of the beautiful and talented young woman that Quinn has become. Quinn faces any and all challenges head on and is truly one of the most determined and capable people you will ever meet.
Next came Veronica who came along to all the therapy appointments and sometimes was allowed to play and sometimes wasn’t. Sabrina would always try to find something Veronica could do while her sister received therapy but always wished she could just play along side her sister. Veronica enjoys lots of sports (gymnastics, basketball, soccer and cross country). Veronica is also a wonderful pianist and has an infectious wit.
A few years later Christian was born and brought all that great boy energy with him. Christian did competitive gymnastics for 3 years and now enjoys water polo. He is already loving computer programming and hopes to create video games and apps.
In 2007, Evan James (EJ) was born and was just pure joy. Like his brother he was very active. Before 2 he was writing and saying every letter in the alphabet. Soon after 2 he stopped speaking and his eye contact with others became rare. He was diagnosed with autism and Sabrina vividly remembers the psychologist saying, “He has autism but someday he may be able to do a job”. How could this woman know from watching him play for 20 minutes that he would never be independent?
While sitting in the 1 hour a week of occupational therapy that EJ qualified for Sabrina said to herself, “He could live here”. He’s able to do his homework better here and is willing to do some of the less fun academic stuff because he gets to swing and jump in between tasks. His OT was even able to get him to practice writing with the promise of the trapeze swing.
So when faced with needing to find another job, Sabrina went online and searched for “special needs gym”. She wanted somewhere that ALL her children would be not only be welcome but would thrive and grow together. From the moment she started researching and visiting We Rock The Spectrum locations she knew this was IT. She felt an immediate bond with Dina and the other owners even before meeting in person.
The kids’ father, Larry O’Connor, is a Radio Talk Show host with WMAL in Washington DC and after checking out We Rock The Spectrum online he said to Sabrina, “It looks fantastic. I think you would attack that business with passion and dedication…Great idea!!!!”
The idea of ALL kids being welcomed and able to play side by side in a healthy and constructive environment is so exciting. Sabrina, Sameera and the kids are honored to bring We Rock The Spectrum to Whittier and look forward to providing a wonderful place of support where we can help each other thru the challenges and celebrate many victories!