Hope Blooms

by Jennifer Miller on September 29, 2009

in Communication, Personal Effectiveness

Update: The Family Hope Foundation completed its first fiscal year this month. In their first year of operation they distributed grants to twenty-two children and hosted a community event that drew over 300 people. They now have a website: http://www.thefamilyhopefoundation.org/

FHF logoFor my consistent readers, you know that this blog focuses primarily on work-related topics—leadership, communication, team effectiveness, social media and its impact on the “people equation.” Today’s blog post is more personal in nature and represents a request I’m making on behalf of a nascent foundation.  If that’s not your thing, then now’s the time to bail out!

I first met my good friend Lara over a decade ago when she was a staff member with the Junior Achievement organization and I was on the JA board of directors.  Lara is an incredibly vibrant and organized woman who gets things done.  Our eldest children are nearly the same age; my son Jack just turned nine and her daughter Taylor will be nine next spring. But even though we live in the same city and our families have many things in common, Jack and Taylor live very different lives.

Taylor has ataxic cerebral palsy and autism.  It’s an extremely cruel combination of conditions that affects every single aspect of how Taylor interacts emotionally, physically, and cognitively with her world.  Lara wants for Taylor what all mothers do—the chance to be her absolute best self, in whatever form “best” happens to be.  That means providing extensive therapies that are time-consuming.  But it’s paying off— after connecting last year with a fantastic occupational therapist, Taylor has blossomed. Of course, this comes at a cost and Lara’s family has had to pay for the therapies out of pocket, because they’re not covered by insurance.

So being the action-oriented woman that she is, Lara has helped to organize a foundation called the Family Hope Foundation.  Its mission is to help families become aware of and secure therapy funding for children with special needs.  Here’s how Lara describes the vision for the Family Hope Foundation:

Our primary focus for the short term is to build a grant program.  The grants will be specifically for therapies not covered by insurance…there are so many valuable therapies that can change the lives of these kids, yet PT, OT & speech (if you’re lucky) are the only ones covered by insurance – but not if you have autism, then you get no coverage!!  Look at how Molly [occupational therapist] has changed Taylor’s life – she is a completely different kid than she was 2 years ago. . .

Once the Foundation gets established, we will then be an information and referral resource. As a parent, it is SO overwhelming to identify all the different types of therapy available and which ones are legitimate, useful, etc.  Future programs will include a support system for families, offering things like attending IEP school meetings to help families advocate for their child’s needs.  We will also offer workshops/seminars by experts in the field to help educate parents.

The Foundation is in its creation stage, defining its mission and securing board members.  Which brings me to the point of this blog—Lara is seeking board members.  She’s looking for people who are passionate about helping kids with special needs.  You don’t need to be a parent of a special-needs child but you do need to be willing to attend a monthly board meeting and work on a sub-committee.  At this point, Lara is recruiting board members from the West Michigan area, but I’m encouraging her to think more broadly—with email and Skype—a board member could truly reside anywhere and still contribute.

If you’d like to know more, please contact Lara at lara.kitts@comcast.net.

One of the fantastic things about social media is its ability to quickly connect people who have a common interest.  If this opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone for whom it might be, please pass this information along.

Thanks for reading and for helping out.

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