A football team, a bathroom and a shed – the makings of a busy mission experience!
Our job this weekend is to clear out brush that has grown along the fence between the corral and the trail, plant shrubs and flowers, replace two of the stations, paint and make repairs, and weed and mulch.
It’s a tall order, but we’re about to get some major reinforcement. Nearby Harrison High School has just delivered a busload of students who are pouring onto the parking lot, eager to start work. They are divided into work teams and quickly dispatched to locations around the barn, farmhouse, and the riding arenas.
Soon more than a dozen young men from the football team join us and begin removing small trees and brush from along the fence line and some larger trees that have fallen along the trail to the creek. The speed and efficiency with which they do this is astounding.
Now the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail is thrumming with activity. As the young men of Harrison High haul brush and trees away, two members of our team remove old whiteboard and chalkboard, making way for the new, weather-resistant Plexiglas boards. Two more are busily wielding cans of spray paint, applying a fresh coat of primary colors to the shape sorter and hanging tubes and even a bit to themselves. And still a surprising number of us are hunched over, attacking weeds with unusual vigor. Even Jacob’s baby sister and brother get into the act, helping position the posthole digger and planting flowers.
The sun climbs higher and it’s hot! We’ve been working for more than three hours. It’s time for the high school students to depart, and they quickly assemble and board the bus, then disappear around the bend in the road.
The trail is quieter now, with only the occasional metallic thud of the posthole digger, the regular buzz of carpenter bees and the thwacking and sucking sound of Jacob’s younger siblings’ shoes in the mud hole they’ve discovered. An old saying pops into our heads: many hands make light work. With the help of the high school students, we’ve accomplished much of our work on the trail.
After lunch, we’re ready for more chores. Sonya, The Red Thread Promise’s Vice-President, tackles painting one of the bathrooms. She’ll have to do this alone, since there’s no space for another person inside the bathroom once she gets the ladder up.
The rest of us head to the tool shed. This is more than a clearing out and reorganizing mission. You may recall that Jessie Moore, Director of McKenna Farms, lost Will, her husband and father of her two young sons, to a massive heart attack in December 2012.
Will and McKenna Farms were inextricably entwined. So much of the daily life of the farm depended on Will, and Will’s toolshed has remained pretty much untouched since his death.
We gently consult Jessie as to what should be done with each item. Sarah, Jacob’s mom, is known for her organizing skills, so once the piles are sorted, she directs us in reorganizing the shed.
We head back to the farmhouse for a cool drink of water, and to admire Sonya’s handiwork. The bland off-white has been replaced with a first coat in an inviting shade of green.
Sweat trickles down our backs and faces. We are dirty and red-faced and we smile, thinking of the children who will be back to ride the trail Monday morning, breathing in the scent of sage and rosemary, tossing frogs into squares and circles and stars, playing the chimes, and talking about the pink and purple and yellow blossoms.
They’ll notice the freshly painted bathroom – kids love color. And although they won’t peer into the toolshed, the new farm manager will, and his job will be a little easier.
In our mind’s eye we see the faces of those children, and our thoughts return to the conversations we’ve had with them and their families.
Exciting things are happening, and we’ll share those with you soon.
Do thoughts of the children you’re helping support bring a smile to your face? We hope so. You’re an important part of what we do, and thoughts of you, too, makes us smile.
Would you like to join us on our next trip to McKenna Farms in Dallas, GA, or visit our other partnering therapy center, Hilltop Equestrian Center in West Alexandria, Ohio? If so, please let us know. Email Glenna@redthreadpromise.org or call 513-423-0108.
Over the past weeks, The Red Thread team has gotten an unexpected crash course in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), due to a precious Chinese girl named Laila. The silken red thread of destiny recently connected us to this feisty 3-year-old and her American forever family and we’d like to share that story with you.
MisdiagnosisWhen Joslynn and Jason began fostering 18-month-old Laila in China, they were told she had cerebral palsy. Only three short months ago, after returning to the States, they found themselves faced with a new diagnosis for Laila: SMA, the second most common fatal genetic disorder in young children.
Children with SMA have problems with movement of any kind to varying degrees, even breathing and swallowing. SMA is an inherited disease that damages motor neurons in the brain and prevents important messages telling muscles “how” to move from reaching the muscles. When the muscles don't get direction on how to move, they become inactive, get smaller, and begin to waste away (a condition known as atrophy).
This degenerative disease limits the ability to complete simple tasks of life, like combing their hair. To date there is no cure, but many kids learn to live as independently as possible with therapy and treatment for the disease’s most troubling symptoms (kidshealth.org).
Moving forwardAs soon as her parents knew her true condition, they began researching the disease and looking for support. Joslynn attended her first Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Conference in Washington D.C. to learn everything she could to help their young daughter. During the conference, Joslynn’s eyes were opened to a real need for Laila: a micro-wheelchair.
A mother’s perspectiveFrom Joslynn: “When I called my husband, frantic and emotional, begging him to agree to put an unplanned $4000 purchase on our credit card—to buy our daughter a micro-sized, 6-pound wheelchair—he asked me to consider it for 24 hours before making a decision. I don’t fault my husband at all for his rationality because we both knew it was an out-of-reach purchase for us. However, it wasn’t until my time at a Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Conference that I truly understood the worth of this tiny wheelchair and what it would mean for our daughter.
During the conference, I was overwhelmed with sadness at Laila’s lack of independence. Even though we were in a place where almost EVERY child was physically immobile, they were all “running around”, playing, squealing, and chasing each other with the aid of their wheelchairs. Meanwhile my daughter sat motionless and bored, waiting for me to push her.
Until that point, my husband and I had been satisfied to carry Laila from room-to-room inside our home and push her in a stroller in public. Together we decided that nurturing our daughter’s independence was critical to her development. We took a leap of faith and bought the wheelchair, not knowing how we would pay the balance.
It only took a single day at home in her chair for my husband to join in my exhilaration over Laila’s newfound freedom. Her little face always beams with a smile while she’s in her chair. She loves to come into the room where I am and say, “Hi Mom.” And I say, “Hi Baby.” And then she says, “Laila go find Daddy,” and she wheels away. Only moments later she has usually circled around again, “Hi Mom!” We have set up little stations around our living areas where she can “play kitchen” or roll under her own little table to color or do stickers. She also loves to chase the cat or bump the front of her wheelchair into her big brother’s door in the morning to knock and say, “Wake up!”
Our greatest surprise was how the addition of a wheelchair impacted the rest of the family. As a mother, I found myself relieved of many requests from my immobile girl: “Mom, I fell over; Mom, I want to see you; Mom, where’s the cat.” I didn’t realize how many times I moved Laila around and fulfilled her requests until then. And then there are the benefits to our youngest child, Charlet. Because of Laila’s condition she had to be carried everywhere, leaving Charlet constantly jealous when I made her walk while carrying her “big” sister. Now that Laila is able to move around by herself, Charlet is also more willing to be independent and walk. Big brother is so proud to push Laila in her chair and loves to play chase with her. And Daddy can now safely take Laila outside to the garage so she can “help Daddy do work,” which she absolutely loves.
There are no words to express the gratitude we feel to The Red Thread Promise. Little did we know that we were already connected to them—they had sponsored Charlet in her foster home in China for TWO years prior to her coming home to us! And now, they have connected with our family again through sweet Laila. By paying the balance of the cost for Laila’s manual chair, my family is free to enjoy the perfect blessing of independence and mobility for our precious girl.”
Helping LailaWe are so thankful for that red thread of destiny connecting us to this beautiful family not once, but TWICE. And YOU are the reason we were able to bring much needed mobility to little Laila. It is through your tax-deductible gifts to our programs that we help children with disabilities lead the fullest lives possible. Please consider giving today and, as always, thank you for your continued support.
Food. Water. Shelter. The three most basic human necessities.
EVERYONE needs them: every country, every race, every gender, every economic position, every social status. These are the foundations for sustaining human life.
Included in that collective everyone are the children at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children who are near and dear to our hearts. While this project focuses on two of these items -- food and water -- the kids at St. Vincent’s are in crisis and need all three.
Only a few short months ago, the Haitian government informed Fr. Sadoni, St. Vincent’s Director, that they were taking the Center’s property as well as all of the properties on the entire block for use in re-building governmental agencies destroyed in the earthquake. (Note: in Haiti, the government has eminent domain and this is not an uncommon occurance.)
By summer's end, St. Vincent’s would need to re-locate the dormitory for 90 residential students and staff (including the orphans who call St. Vincent’s home), school (serving 250 children), and clinic (serving all of the students and the community). An exhaustive search was launched for a new space. Staying downtown as close to the current location as possible is critical because there are over 150 students who travel to St. Vincent’s school daily from far across Port-au-Prince and beyond. Moving the facility even a few miles in any direction would directly impact many student’s ability to get to school, prohibiting many from attending at all.
In addition, property prices in the city are very high, out of the range of the only school for handicapped children in Haiti. Most of the good properties have been bought by NGOs and others who can afford the exorbitant prices. The search has left Fr. Sadoni breathless with very few affordable choices.
On either side of St. Vincent’s property, buildings have been knocked down until only the Center’s walls and buildings remain, unnerving the children and elevating everyone’s stress levels. In the midst of packing all items that aren’t nailed down and securing them at another less vulnerable location, the Center’s water cistern was stolen off the roof of the water purification center we helped fund a few years ago. Their drinking water supply has been shut off and they are forced to purchase water for the children at a high cost. In desperation, Fr. Sadoni has resorted to sending every child back to their family as he is unable to feed them. Only the orphans and staff remain.
The food frequency varies depending on funding. It costs $6,060 to feed everyone for a month, only $202 per day. Meals consist of an oatmeal porridge or bread in the morning with rice and beans in the afternoon. Nothing more.
There is so much uncertainty in these children’s lives right now. Let’s give them something constant - food and clean water. Through these gifts they will remember that someone cared about them, a gift that will last far beyond any single meal.
We encourage you to share St. Vincent’s plight with your family, friends, employers, civic groups and churches. It takes a village…