When I signed up to be a Bellrunner, I was told by more than one person that it would be a rewarding experience. They didn’t lead me astray. This past Wednesday, I went to the Bell Center to meet the child whom I’m going to be running for next weekend in the Mercedes Half-Marathon. So what is the Bell Center and what does it do?
“The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs has provided quality early intervention services in a center-based program in Birmingham. Here, infants and toddlers at risk for developmental delay receive services from transdisciplinary teams which include a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist and an early childhood special education teacher as each child works on specific individual developmental goals.”
I arrived a little bit early so that I could see the end of a class at the center. I was greeted by River’s mom, April. She introduced herself and then we started talking about her son. River was born July 14, 2011. From the beginning, there were problems and River spent the first 8 weeks of his life in NICU units. At 8 months old, he was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. This type of Cerebral Palsy causes all four of his limbs to experience muscle tightness which makes it very difficult to walk. I talked to her about my story and the problems my family faced when I was young. I even emailed her a link to my first post on this blog. She emailed me a link to her blog if you want to find out more about River as well as her journey.
After talking for a bit, she led me into a hallway where I could observe the end of a class. What I saw was amazing. There was a roomful of children …and every one of them had at least one adult working one-on-one with them. Some of them were in wheelchairs, others in walkers, and some without anything. It was a very busy classroom as there were more adults than children. I watched as the kids and their helpers were huddled around a leader for the end of the class and they all sang a goodbye song.
After class ended, I went into the classroom with April to meet her child. River was in a wheelchair being attended to by a Physical Therapist. The Physical Therapist had been working with him during class time on using a device attached to the wheel chair to help him communicate. Progress had been slow that particular day.
If there was one thing I took away from the brief amount of time I got to spend with River that day is that he has the most precious smile. He was pretty much smiling the whole time I was in the room with him. I’ve heard rumors that he likes to sing, but he was a little quiet on this day. When it came time to leave for the day, River seemed genuinely excited to be out of the wheel chair and in his momma’s arms. I hope he enjoys this next week at Disney World with his family!
One of the most remarkable parts of this story is that the Bell Center provides all these services at a significantly low cost to families when compared to the multitude of services offered. (Families tution and fees cover roughly 12-15% of the costs per child to run the Bell Center) They do this without the aid of state and federal funding. The Mercedes Marathon Weekend is the Bell Center’s biggest fundraiser and I’m participating in it this year as a Bellrunner for River Thomas. I need your help to reach my goal of $1310 (That’s a hundred dollars for every mile I run). Please click on this link (http://www.imathlete.com/donate/JeffreyPurvis) and give what you can… every dollar will make a difference. I wish the Bell Center had existed when I was a child as I believe I would have been referred there for the multitude of issues I faced. Luckily for me, I had a mother who wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept searching for answers and help. But I know a place like the Bell Center would have helped and given her the support and direction that she often had to find on her own. Thank you once again for your support!