The Adventures of "Super Baby"
Each week when 2-year-old Gracie Collins arrives at Children,s Village for physical therapy she excitedly swaps her walker (called a Pacer) for an imaginary super-hero cape where for one hour she becomes, "Super Baby"... More>>
For The Love of Dance - Amelia Kloepfer
Watching six-year-old Amelia Kloepfer proudly twirl and prance on stage during her first ballet recital was a momentous experience for the entire family. Dressed in a sweet pink tutu and hair pulled back into a tight bun, Amelia's smile radiated throughout the entire auditorium.
Through the One2One Mentoring Program at Children's Village, Amelia attended dance class at The Yakima School of Ballet. With the help of specially-trained teenage mentors, children with special needs have the opportunity to do a variety of activities they might not get to do otherwise. At the end of the six-week session, the children perform in two recitals, which are a part of the larger recitals hosted by the School of Ballet.
"She just loved her ballet class," Amelia's mom Stacey said. "And I can't speak highly enough of the mentors who helped out. They were patient, kind and enthusiastic."
Amelia was born with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic syndrome that causes physical disabilities and developmental delays. Diagnosed at 8-months-old, Amelia's early years were filled with doctor's appointments and therapy sessions.
Becoming very familiar with the inside of Children's Village, parents Ryan and Stacey wanted to find a way to connect with other local families.
"We were so busy with therapies in the beginning, that it was a bit of a whirlwind," Stacey said. "But I really wanted to connect with other families, so I decided to do the Holland support group through Parent to Parent. From there, we just kind of jumped in and never looked back."
Stacey will co-lead a Holland support group this fall and Ryan sits on the Parent to Parent advisory board.
"We have been so blessed by Children's Village," Stacey said. "And if we can give back in a small way like reaching out to other families or sitting on a committee, then we are happy to do it."
The Kloepfer's have watched their daughter grow and develop into a happy, healthy little girl; one who loves all things dance and princesses. The ballet recital was a milestone celebration to witness the joy and happiness their daughter exuded as she glided across the stage.
"We are already looking forward to next year," Stacey said.
Amy Berkheimer and her son Eli
"We were also connected with a family resource coordinator who would be a lifeline to services and information we would need for Eli," Amy said.
The family resource coordinator was able to arrange for the family to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle as well as cover the fee when Eli was airlifted to Seattle Children's Hospital soon after birth.
After several months in Seattle, Eli was discharged and returned home to Yakima. Eli began receiving services through Children's Village when he was about 4-months-old. The Early Intervention program, which works with children and families from age birth to 3-years-old, was a wonderful service and therapists would come to the house to work with Eli.
"It made our crazy life of appointments a little more bearable when we could stay in the comfort of our own home," Amy said.
Around the same time, the family also began regularly attending the Valley Parents support group. Through connections at Children's Village, Amy was connected with two other moms who had tube-fed kids.
"Not too long into our journey, I decided I needed to offer support to other parents on their journey. I went through the helping parent training, and started being matched with moms just starting their journey of raising a child with special needs," she said. "I also decided to become a Memorial Hospital Volunteer, because the people in the NICU were so great to me when we were there. Not only do they take care of your medically fragile baby, they also take care of the emotionally fragile moms and dads."
As the years have gone by, Amy and her family continue to be involved in and around Children's Village. "We started attending the different social events that the Village had to offer. It has been invaluable to me, as I was able to get to know other families and their children on a deeper level...and make them a part of my special family and community," Amy said.
As of October 2011, Amy now works in the Parent to Parent office.
"I've come full circle through the Village. All the people who helped me on my journey...I now get to assist in helping those who come behind me," she said.
Michael Swindell & Jack
Jack was diagnosed when he was 2-years-old by the Autism Spectrum Diagnostic Team at Children's Village, a team of professionals who specialize in evaluating and diagnosing Autism. Michael and wife Jennifer, jumped in feet first to not only get the therapeutic services their son needed but also into the family support programs through Parent to Parent.
"We were incredibly impressed by the people at Children's Village," Michael said. "And we've received such great support for Jack and our entire family that we want to give back."
Michael currently serves as the co-chair for the Parent to Parent Board and is involved with the Fathers Network, a support system for father's with children with special needs.
Whether it's a basketball program through SlugBugs, a fun event with Sib Shops for their older daughter or serving on the committees and organizing activities with fellow Parent to Parent families, the Swindells feel like they receive so much more than they give. "Children's Village does so much more than provide physical or speech therapy," Michael said. "They reach out to the entire family structure and provide opportunities that go beyond basic services. For our son, the social opportunities are the best kind of therapy and he gets to do it in a safe, fun, accepting environment."