FECTS Director Message
- Written by Colleen Gallant
Welcome to springtime in Florida. It is indeed a beautiful day here in Umatilla at the Florida Elks Youth Camp, the greatest youth camp in the world.
We have certainly had a busy few months in Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services.
First, I want to thank all the lodges that had Christmas parties and events for our therapy children. We are so grateful for your continued support. This helps us with families who might not be able to provide their children with Christmas presents.
Recently, I was able to do a ride-along with two of our therapists. We all know that the therapists do an amazing job. I was able to spend two days going to each appointment with a therapist; what an eye opener this was! Both days I watched in total amazement as our therapists worked with their patients. I sat there with tears in my eyes as the therapists sang to their little patients to take their little minds off their therapy. A mother with five children, three older and two younger, one of whom has severe sensory issues, thanked me for the treatment that Yvette has been providing to her daughter. She said that as a result of the treatment, she has her family back and is so grateful for Yvette for working through her daughter’s sensory issues. It allows them to eat meals together as a family without tantrums because of the texture of the food she is eating or the clothes touching her skin.
A 19-year-old mother’s twins were born prematurely with torticollis but she had no idea there was a problem until her own mother called her friend Heidi who is one of our therapists. Heidi knew immediately what the problem was, and we were able to get applications in and approved so that the treatment could begin immediately. When she started working with the twins, they would lie in their cribs looking at each other, not moving at all. After four weeks of working with them, they are moving their arms and legs and starting to roll over. Because of the quick treatment, they are now progressing more like they should for their age. Each one of you should be proud of the work our therapists are doing in our communities. Please remember that it is your support of the major projects that enables us to continue treating these children.
Each year the therapists come to the Florida Elks Youth Camp for our annual therapy conference. We kicked our meeting off on a Monday evening when PSP Brian and Mary Kay Burns along with Nancy and Alfred Higginbotham made the most amazing barbecue dinner. Thank you, all, very much for taking such great care of the therapists on their first evening at the youth camp. Over the years, this has been a highlight of the conference.
The therapists were all thrilled with their speakers and we had a lot of time for fellowship. What a wonderful group we have as our therapists. While they were here, we nominated a deserving family to spend a week at the time-share owned by Florida Elks Properties. This year, a family of six – mom and dad along with four children – will be staying at the condo. When our patient was 11, she was hospitalized with pneumonia. Through a series of medical complications, she suffered from blood clots which caused a stroke that affects her entire right side as well as amputation of her lower left leg. Once her lifetime caps for therapy services were exhausted, we began treating her. Since the stroke, she has made slow but steady progress but continues with significant difficulties with walking and independent living skills. Unfortunately, her father battled cancer and it has left him disabled. To make matters even worse, her older brother and sister were at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting. While neither was injured, they were certainly traumatized. Our therapists unanimously chose this family to go to the time-share unit in June to hopefully have a week of fun.
Last year, we introduced Leo as our representative (poster child) at the state convention. At our meeting in February, we changed the name of our program from poster child to FECTS CHAMP of the Year – Child Having Achieved Magnificent Progress. This year’s CHAMP of the Year is Jackson Barth. We introduced Jackson at the East Central District State President’s visit in Merritt Island. Jackson was an instant hit, our members loved him and he was so comfortable around our members. Jackson will be nine years old in July and was born with spina bifida, a condition where a developing baby’s spine doesn’t close correctly, often leaving the spinal cord exposed and damaged. He has had a total of nine surgeries, the first of which was within hours of his birth. Occupational therapy gives Jackson the tools, knowledge and support he needs to meet goals that he helps set himself. Learning the skills required for an independent lifestyle has boosted his confidence and his determination to spend his lifetime helpings others. He is happy, energetic and determined. He loves helping people and wants to be a fireman when he grows up.
Please join us Saturday, May 26, at the state convention for the Florida Elks awards celebration luncheon and major projects meeting and meet our FECTS CHAMP of the Year for 2018-2019. I know that Jackson is really looking forward to meeting as many of our Florida Elks as he can.
Remember, if you would like a therapist at an event at your lodge, go to floridaelks.org and complete the therapist participant form and we will do our best to have a therapist at your event.
Thank you, all, for your continued support of our major projects. Remember, without you, we cannot continue to treat the precious children of Florida.
Colleen Gallant, Director
Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services
Pictured with Jackson at the East Central District visitation are therapist Nikki McAnary and her son, Chase, and Jackson’s mother, Katie.