Hayward woman overcomes challenges with art, attitude - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Hayward woman overcomes challenges with art, attitude

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On this Thanksgiving holiday, we all count our blessings a little differently. Some of us are grateful for family and friends. For others, it might be our hobbies or our careers.

But for one Hayward woman, it's not about what she has, but instead, how she's overcome what she doesn't have that has her feeling truly thankful this holiday.

Annika Thompson has been an artist most of her life, but things haven't always come easy for her.

"I had a brain tumor the size of an egg located on my optic nerve," Thompson said. "Doctors were doing surgery on me, and I had a stroke on the operating table when I was 6 years old."

That was 28 years ago. Now, Thompson is paralyzed on her right side, leaving use of most of her arm and leg on that side inoperable. 

"I had to relearn how to do everything over again. Eat, walk, talk, do everything over again," she said.

Thompson said she's determined to take that hardship, and paint a different picture.

"It challenges me, but now I don't realize that it challenges me," Thompson said.

Thompson has spent the last several years working with Sara Balbin, an art therapist in Hayward. She says it's helped with her independence. 

"My philosophy really is integration and socialization," Balbin said. 

Through art, Balbin helps people facing challenges like Thompson's turn their attention away from their disabilities, and instead, toward finding independence, something Balbin says Thompson has done a great job reaching.

"(Thompson) goes to the printer by herself. She order cards. She has developed her own card business and I am so proud of her, her independence, her motivation," Balbin said.

Thomspon sells her art through a non-profit called See My Art, commonly known as SMART. Balbin founded the organization back in 2012 to help inspire and empower people with disabilities.

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