(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Although there will be various types of entertainment at the 28th annual Kenny Rogers Children's Center Telethon this weekend, the real stars -- and winners -- are the children it benefits.
And what better way to put a face to the cause than using the faces of some of the children the Center serves on posters promoting the event.
"It just reminds us that these kids are right here in our communities," said Michelle Fayette, executive director of the Center. "Everybody wants to help a child."
There are six poster children this year, displayed on the signs placed around the 10 counties served by the KRCC to remind people of the event. And it's no simple task to choose the children.
"Every year, it's so hard to pick the kids -- we just want to pick them all," said Fayette. "We try to pick kids that represent a good population of the counties we serve, and we also try to pick kids that represent a good population of the kinds of diagnoses that we treat."
This year's poster children include Matthew Bullinger, Makayla Birdwell, Chandler House, siblings Ben Parden and Abigail Parden, and Alex Rendon Jr.
Matthew Bullinger is the 14-year-old son of Rita Friedrich and Mike Bullinger of Chaffee. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth.
Matthew has spastic diplegia, which causes the muscles in his legs to be stiff. As a result, motor skills like standing and walking are more difficult for him. Matthew uses a walker to get around his school, home and community, but he would like to able to use forearm crutches instead. Many attempts have been made in the past to teach Matthew to use the crutches, but with little success.
Matthew was one of the first participants when the Center started its Suit Therapy Program in 2006. He has completed two sessions, each one involving three hours of therapy per day, five days per week, for three weeks. He is now able to use forearm crutches for short distances with minimal help, and he is hoping that with another Suit Therapy session, he will only become more efficient and independent with the crutches, said his therapist.
The 23-month-old daughter of Amber Pruitt of New Madrid, Makayla Birdwell is diagnosed with developmental delay and cerebral palsy.
When she was first referred to the center, Makayla's family was worried that she was not developing at the same rate as her twin sister, Malia, said her therapist. Her family had also been told by doctors that she may not walk without braces or some kind of walker.
When first evaluated at the Center, Makayla was able to sit and scoot around the floor on her bottom, but did not crawl and refused to stand on her feet. "It took some time for Makayla to get used to therapy, but she is quite determined," said her therapist.
After just 7 months of therapy, Makayla is standing and walking by herself without the use of any assistive device. She is now able to play and keep up with her twin sister.
Ben Parden, 11, is the son of Christie and David Parden of Sikeston. He has a diagnosis of dyspraxia and receives speech and occupational therapy at Kenny Rogers Children's Center.
"Speech therapy focuses on a number of skills including auditory processing skills, such as understanding information that is presented verbally, as well as spelling words and language skills," said Ben's therapist. Occupational therapy focuses on motor planning skills in the areas of gross and fine motor movements and word generation.
Ben also works on visual and auditory memory skills to allow him to complete classroom and home assignments more efficiently. According to the Center, he has made great progress and continues to show improvements in his spelling, language, and motor skills.
Chandler House is the 5-year-old son of Jennifer and Tim House of Malden and has a diagnosis of Lissencephaly.
He receives physical, speech, and occupational therapy at KRCC. Speech therapy focuses on increasing his oral motor skills to assist with both feeding and speech. He also has a communication device that he uses in therapy, at home, and at school which helps him talk. He is able to push buttons that will "speak" his desired wants/needs to others.
"Chandler is learning to stand and walk using a new device called the TAOS Walker," said his therapist. "This device is unique because it provides Chandler support without having to use his arms to help hold himself up."
Chandler's head control and ability to take steps by himself have improved since receiving the TAOS walker, according to the Center.
Six-year-old Abigail Parden is the daughter of Christie and David Parden of Sikeston. She is diagnosed with speech and language disorder.
Abigail was referred to the Center because her parents were concerned about her communication skills and academic progress. Her speech therapy sessions focus on memory and articulation skills.
"Improvement in articulation will allow others to better understand Abigail and improve her ability to communicate with her friends at school," said her therapist. "Memory skills are important for Abigail to be successful with activities at school such as reading, math and spelling."
Since beginning therapy at the Center recently, Abigail's parents have noted an increase in the number of words in her vocabulary.
The final poster child is Alex Rendon Jr., 2, the son of Ashley Matthews and Alex Rendon Sr of East Prairie. He is diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Because of his diagnosis, Alex has trouble moving his legs the way that he wants. This causes him to have trouble crawling, pulling to stand and walking. When Alex started coming to the Center for therapy, his family wanted Alex to be up and walking, said his therapist.
Alex recently received a walker with a suspension system that he uses at home to help him walk. The suspension system helps support Alex's body weight so he does not have to work so hard when walking.
His family says the first thing he asks for when he wakes up is to get in his walker and walk. Alex also plans to participate in the Center's Suit Therapy program in April. His ultimate goal is to be able to walk without any assistance.