We’re thrilled to announce that Jacob’s Fund has begun supporting three new children at McKenna Farms. This is an outstanding opportunity and challenge for our small organization. We’d like you to meet each one—Brandon, Cameron and Landon—to better understand why your help is so critical in their young lives.
Brandon, 17, found his forever family just two years ago. Dan and Tracey had started fostering children and were asked to take Brandon, then 15, for a single weekend. This polite and gentle boy impressed the family, including the couple’s two biological sons, who later signed up to be Brandon’s Secret Santa. The thank-you note they received was gracious, but ended with Brandon’s heart-breaking wish: “what I really want is a family.”
Within a few weeks, Brandon became eligible for adoption and their younger son said, “Well, let’s go get him.” The family proceeded with the adoption to make what they already felt legal and binding by law: Brandon would become their third son.
Early in life, Brandon had been diagnosed with speech problems following which he received help with speech at school. Although the help faded away, Brandon’s needs didn’t.
Once adopted, his new family began searching for help for him. Thankfully, the Paulding County Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) suggested McKenna Farms. Brandon began speech therapy in the summer of 2011, working in one of the therapy rooms at McKenna Farms’ Civil-War era farmhouse.
Early in the summer of 2012, farm management asked Brandon if he’d like to volunteer on the farm. Working in the barn with the horses was a pivotal turning point for this young man. Now his speech therapist comes to the barn for therapy sessions where Brandon is happiest and does his best. He has been so successful as a volunteer that other children ask for him to be the helper during their therapy sessions.
Brandon is proud of his progress as well as his volunteerism and rightfully so. He has learned that he can contribute something valuable to the farm and other patients. He helps others without asking anything in return and relishes in his new-found confidence.
With your help, Brandon will begin therapeutic riding sessions immediately. Brandon is glad to help others at the farm. Now Jacob’s Fund can let him know that others want to help him, too.
Cameron and Landon, age three, are identical twins. When they were 18 months old, their mom, Melissa, noticed that Landon began to exhibit some unusual behavior. Following checkups, enduring multiple lengthy waiting lists for appointments (up to six months!), denials from their insurance company, waiting another agonizing six months for an appointment—all the while saving money to pay for the consultation—Landon was finally able to see a specialist. Two days before Christmas, the family received the diagnosis: Landon was autistic. A few months later, Cameron was diagnosed with the same disorder.
The following summer, the family attended a barbecue. While speaking to a friend, Melissa heard about McKenna Farms and proceeded to contact the farm director in search of therapy solutions for her sons. Thankfully, McKenna Farms is able to provide the occupational and speech services her young sons need.
Before beginning therapy, Landon had a vocabulary of five words. After only five months of work with McKenna Farms’ therapists, he now proudly owns over 100 words! The boys have now progressed from the therapy rooms to hippotherapy on the backs of the farm’s gentle horses. Cameron loves his sessions on Sassy, a beautiful quarter horse, and, as of this report, Landon is looking forward to his second session.
The twins are making great strides. They can better communicate with their family and will be more prepared to tackle pre-school in the coming months. Doctors and therapists concur that both boys need to spend a total of 40 hours a week with therapy or involvement with other children in a normal setting so being prepared for pre-school is a must for these little guys.
Melissa is thrilled that the boys are achieving their short-term goals with the help of the specialists at McKenna Farms and the financial support of Jacob’s Fund. Her long-term goal is for each boy to gain the necessary life skills to live independently as an adult. In order to do so, the boys require therapy three times a week. While the family’s health insurance covers 80 per cent of the cost of occupational therapy, it does not cover speech therapy, as autism is not covered at all on their policy. The cost of these sessions for a single-wage-earner home is staggering. While McKenna Farms is a non-profit facility, the cost for maintaining regular, consistent therapy is significant.
We have an outstanding opportunity to help these children. Jacob’s Fund and The Red Thread Promise are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to their lives. With the help of Global Giving donors we will be able to meet their needs. We thank you for your contribution to change lives like these.
For the second time in 2012, The Red Thread Promise offered a camp specifically designed for disabled children in Haiti. Our team took 44 campers -- with conditions ranging from blind to deaf to non-ambulatory -- to Camp Jake for a life-changing 7 day experience. A diverse group of 14 counselors from VA, TX, OH, LA, and GA brought a variety of talents to the table, providing campers with many opportunities for exercise, nutrition, physical therapy, personal growth, music and art therapy intertwined with a load of fun!
Multiple languages were spoken to ensure that everyone could participate in all activities according to their abilities: English, French, Kreyol, American Sign Language (ASL) and even a bit of Spanish! Each counselor was paired with a small group of campers, building strong bonds and trust throughout the week.
Campers were given a choice of foods during three nutritious meals every day to energize them for hours spent swimming in the pool and ocean, playing games of soccer, frisbee and beach ball, jumping rope, and shooting hoops.
A certified physical therapist worked with multiple campers throughout the week, teaching exercises to reduce pain, strengthen muscles, increase mobility and develop independence. An art therapist worked with campers of all abilities creating 3D masks of their own faces, creating cards and learning the art of Zentangle to refine fine motor skills and develop relaxation techniques.
But perhaps the most profound therapy was experienced by every camper and counselor, regardless of age, gender or ability: an activity that transcends the language and socio-economic barriers that separate us: music. Regardless of ability, everyone was able to participate, from singing, playing percussion and guitar, clapping, and humming. Non-ambulatory children found the strength to pull themselves out of their wheelchairs to dance; the blind jumped, clapped and sang; even the deaf joined in on percussion, music they could feel down to their core.
Cultural exchanges were made as we translated European folktales into Kreyol for the blind and baked fresh chocolate chip cookies, an American favorite.
It was a transformative week, not only for campers but also the counselors. No eye was dry when we said our goodbyes. Our team is counting the days until the next session of Camp Jake.
2012 has brought 2 adorable children to our doorstep. Meet JH and Baby XX.
JH came to Swallows Nest (our partner foster home in the Henan Province) in May of 2011 with Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome. TSCS, a condition closely linked to spina bifida, is a neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column*. Thankfully, our partners in China are turning JH's once dim future into a bright one. He has already received his surgery, a great blessing, and the prognosis is good!
Lili, JH's caregiver, says that he is a shy boy and is beginning to crawl and stand alone. He gets along with the other children and is a good eater. (And might we add that he is adorable?!)
The Red Thread Promise is sponsoring JH's care until he is matched with his forever family. His file is currently being prepared for adoption. $175 per month will cover his nanny and foster care, clothing, food and some medical care. Please join us in supporting JH during his time in China. (If you would like more information about his adoption, please contact email@example.com. While we are not an adoption agency, we do love putting prospective parents in touch with children in need of loving permanent homes.)
In December 2011, another bundle of joy joined us on this earth, a baby girl named Baby XX. A moment that should have brought great wonder, brought a dim future for this little one—she was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid inside the skull, leading to brain swelling. The name literally means "water on the brain." This buildup of fluid puts pressure on the brain, pushing the brain up against the skull and damaging or destroying brain tissues. Hydrocephalus may start while the baby is growing in the womb. It is commonly present with myelomeningocele (aka spina bifida), a birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spinal column.**
Thankfully, Baby XX has already received her initial surgery and a follow-up CT scan, great steps toward a healthy future. Since then, she has been cuddled, loved and cared for by the specially trained nannies at Swallows Nest and is doing well. Her road to recovery is long—it holds numerous post operative medical appointments as well as a follow-up CT scan—but we have great hope for this little one. Thanks to Swallows Nest, she will be in the arms of people who love her and are trained in the care of children with such conditions until she is available for adoption.
The Red Thread Promise is committed to supporting Baby XX’s post surgical care until she is matched with her forever family. It is estimated that she may be in foster care for two or more years due to the severity of her special needs. For $175 per month, together we can provide for her nanny as well as her medical needs, food and clothing.
Once again, this is a perfect example of how your generous hearts are helping special needs children in China.
* National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
** Excerpts from the U.S. National Library of Medicine