Friday, April 17, 2009

Why We Love the Central Park Challenge

Today's post is by Katie and Doug Harter.

After our son Jack was born with a disability, our loving and supportive family and friends wanted to do something to help. First, we held a fundraiser for Blythedale Children's Hospital, where Jack was born. It was a huge success and a way for us to "move on" from hospital life to our new life at home.

For our next fundraising effort, we wanted to give back to YAI. LifeStart, a YAI early intervention program, provided us with wonderful therapists who came into our home every day from the very first day we brought Jack home when he was four months old. We couldn't believe that all of this was free of charge and we will forever be grateful for our therapists' patience, hard work and love. They would never be able to "fix" Jack's disability, but they treated him as someone with great potential and who can learn to do things at his own pace in his own way. Giving back to the YAI/NIPD Network's LifeStart through the Central Park Challenge was our way to thank the therapists and we wanted them to join Jack's Team so that our family and friends could get to know them.

This year, Jack's Team will be walking and running for Roosevelt Children's Center, Jack's new preschool at the YAI/NIPD Network. At a certain point last year, it became evident that he was ready for a change and a new challenge. He loves socializing and the structure of school. He has thrived at Roosevelt, thanks to the care and dedication of his special education teachers and therapists. They have made him feel comfortable in his new surroundings while pushing him to experience new things. We could not be more grateful that Jack is in school and that there is a place like Roosevelt Children's Center for him. Also, we are proud of the fact that Jack's two new baby sisters, Meghan and Caroline, will be with us at the event, co-hosting!

We love that the Central Park Challenge is something families can do together, as opposed to a cocktail party, and that children with special needs can participate alongside typically developing kids. We love that our family and friends see how many people come out to support YAI and how important the organization is to so many people. Seeing everyone stream into the meeting spot on the day of the race, watching the team literally come to life as more and more people show up, is one of our favorite aspects of the day. We proudly handed out stickers which said, "I'm on Jack's Team" and loved seeing our team members wear them and embody all that the statement means to us. Watching the runners from the curb run by with their "Jack's Team" stickers and cheering extra loudly for them was a highlight as well as getting the whole team, walkers and runners, together at the end for a group photo.

We don't like asking our friends to donate huge sums of money and we are so happy that the Central Park Challenge only asks people to donate a small amount for the registration fees. Then it's completely up the donors as to whether or not they'd like to donate more. This has really worked well for us and has taken any pressure off our family and friends, while providing a great cause for those who do want to make a big donation in Jack's name. We support YAI because it's what really matters to Jack now and makes a difference in the quality of his life.

One additional thought: YAI staff have been so helpful in getting the team page online up and running for us and making us feel like we're the only ones they're helping out even though we know they're doing so much to prepare for the event. Nicole always responds so quickly to my questions and suggestions and has implemented our suggestions, too. It really goes a long way to let us know how much they value our support and to make the fundraising efforts that much easier. They are a pleasure to work with and so grateful for what we're doing without ever being pushy.

Inspired by the Harters' story? Support Jack's Team.

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1 comment:

Rebecca Wilson said...

What an amazing family

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