Miss Star City Gives Back to Developmental Play Group

A princess for a night, complete with a tiara, magic wand and dresses.

It's Miss Star City's way of giving back and inspiring young girls in Lincoln.

Three-year-old Olivia and five-year-old Alexis, both princesses and traumatic brain injury survivors.

Tiffany Verzal is Alexis' mother. She says, "She was a victim of shaken baby syndrome."

Michelle Grieser is Olivia's mom. She says, "She suffered respiratory distress and then cardiac arrest twice, which was ultimately caused by the para-influenza."

Miss Star City Katrina Poppert threw the princess party for the 6-month to five-year-old developmental play group, which is for kids with needs ranging from ADHD, autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and visual impairments. The group meets almost every week throughout the year to give kids and families a place to have fun, get support in a safe, interactive environment.

Katrina understands what many of these kids are going through, she's a traumatic brain injury survivor herself. Poppert tells 10/11 the injury happened her senior year of high school when she was competing in diving.

She says, "Two weeks before the state competition, I slipped and fell on the locker room floor at Devany, hit my head on a wooden bench and then the concrete floor and blacked out. I lost a lot of memory, I did a lot of speech therapy, as well as balance, so I was at Madonna for about six months doing outpatient work."

On top of that, Katrina had eight back surgeries for injuries from gymnastics.

Parents say having the girls and other kids see Katrina's success means they can do it too.

Tiffany Verzal says, "To come out and show these kids you can overcome disabilities, you can be a part of the community and that you can give back. I just love being able to see Alexis interact with her and be able to say here's a great role model to you, this is someone you can grow up to be like."

Michelle Grieser adds, "What's inspiring to me is not just her story, but the young woman she's become and so I can look at Kati and say, bad things can happen to absolutely wonderful people and they can be survivors and their lives can turn out to be fantastic beyond our imagination."

Katrina just wants to give these kids a chance to shine.

"I really want to celebrate the things they have overcome, some of them might still have a long road ahead of them, or some might be near the end of their recovery period, but it's really important for them to know that they're special, they're unique, and it makes them who they are."

For more information about the Developmental Play Program which is offered through the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, you can click on the link to the left.

There are also other programs available for elementary age kids and teenagers.

You can also call (402) 441-7901 or email the Therapeutic Recreation Team at agertr@lincoln.ne.gov.