Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Crusade for Children

The WHAS Crusade for Children, the largest local telethon in the country, has raised almost $150 Million for children with special needs in our area. 100% of the money raised is used to fund grants. It is a charity near and dear to my heart and I encourage your support.  Last year, over $5 million was donated.

It's the "Crusade for Children" weekend.  If you live in Kentucky or southern Indiana, you've undoubtedly seen the firefighters at the roadblocks collecting money the past few weeks.  I hope you've given generously each time you're stopped. 50% of the money raised for the Crusade is done so by the Fire Departments across the state. They have events throughout the year as well as having volunteers go door-to-door and stand at roadblocks collecting money. 

Other money is raised by community groups, churches, and individuals, as well as donations during the yearly telethon. Throughout the year, there are fish frys, mini-marathons, auctions of homemade quilts, bake sales, and jars for donating your change at stores and restaurants. It's a grassroots effort to help our kids with special needs. Money raised is earmarked for that area and grants are distributed to all areas of the state of Kentucky as well as some of southern Indiana.

My Personal Connection
My first exposure to the Crusade for Children was in 1983 when I was pregnant with Andrew. We'd moved to Kentucky the year before, but after that year's Crusade. While I saw people collecting, I really didn't understand why. I certainly didn't realize the impact of the donations. 

But a month later, Andrew was born prematurely and spent time in the NICU. As I sat in the rocking chair holding him during the night, I noticed little stickers on much of the specialized equipment designated that it'd been provided with Crusade for Children funds. When I took him for follow-up appointments at the neo-natologist, I noticed more equipment, such as the MRI machines with the same labels.

When Andrew was a few months old, I had an opportunity to go back to school to get my Master's Degree in Special Education. When I talked to the people at U of L, I was encouraged to apply for a Crusade Grant. Again, there was that name - I admit, I was getting quite curious. The Crusade for Children offered several scholarships each year to deserving teachers willing to teach special education. I applied and was given a full scholarship. Without it, I couldn't have afforded to go back to school.

My concentration was on teaching the Visually Impaired, but I took classes in many areas of special needs. The classes often included working in the field which gave me hands-on experience with the wonderful things done by the Crusade for Children grants such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy..When I went to the DePaul School, I saw students with cerebral palsy using specialized equipment to help them get around and toys and electronics with adapted dials. I saw a boy learn to ride a special bicycle for the first time in his life and it was priceless. While it was fun for him, it was a part of specialized therapy and training for his muscles.

Another semester, I did some volunteer work with preschoolers with Downs Syndrome. Again, I saw things with the Crusade for Children stickers. At the Churchill Park School, I worked with teens with such severe needs that they were working on feeding themselves, learning to walk, or learning their names. I saw a student using a computer by nodding his head, the only part of his body he could control. The headband he wore allowed him to type sentences, one painstaking letter at a time. They had therapy needs as well as educational needs. Many of these needs were met by the Crusade.

When I started teaching at the Kentucky School for the Blind, I found out that some of the vans used to transport students to our school from all across the state were a result of Crusade grants. The districts were able to provide computers with speech that allowed blind users to use a computer just as their sighted peers did. There were grants used at our school as well.

While still a student, I was offered a position as Braille Transcriber for the Jefferson County Public Schools.  My salary and equipment were funded by a Crusade grant. If it proved successful, the district would then take over funding in future years. New software programs and a braille printer made it possible to produce braille materials more quickly in a practical way for classroom use for individual students. This allowed the visually impaired students in public schools access to the same materials their sighted peers had, whether it be a textbook, student study guides, or tests. Again, I saw the funds from the Crusade for Children directly benefiting the students with special needs.

What is the Money Used For?
As you've noticed, the donated money goes to provide Crusade grants. Currently, there are more needs than funding allows. The grants aren't easy to get and they must document exactly how they benefit the children. The grants are one-time grants for that year only and must be applied for annually. Approximately a third of the requests are funded each year. The hope is that some day, there will be enough money to meet all of the requests. 

ALL of the money donated for the Crusade goes for these grants. Any administrative costs are either volunteer hours or paid for by an endowed trust for that purpose. Materials such as posters, shirts, and office supplies are donated by local businesses. The food used to feed the volunteers collecting money is donated by local restaurants.  The promotion and air time for the yearly telethon is also donated.

How Can I Donate?
I'm glad you asked. When you see a Crusade volunteer at a roadblock, please give generously. Perhaps you'd like to sponsor something during the year to raise money for next year's Crusade. Having a yard sale not only clears out your clutter, but you could donate the proceeds. Please remember the Crusade for Children in your charitable giving.

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