Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: New perspectives

Laura meeting Spirit
It is always a joy to bring new people along on our trips as they offer us fresh perspectives on both our work and our partners. They take in everything for the first time, and their impressions are often poignant. Today we share those impressions with you, first from Laura, a supporter and horse-lover from Ohio. Then, we'll hear from our President, Kathy, as she shares the changes she's observed over the years.

Laura Ramsey :: I am a full-time in-home clinical social worker for children and families. I have had the privilege of working in many settings from hospice to foster care during my career. Never in my professional life have I seen anything quite like McKenna Farms; I was truly in awe as I took it all in. 

We arrived to a see white picket-fenced farm, the parking lot full of cars, the entire area buzzing with children and therapists. McKenna Farms has an ease and a feeling of home coupled with the murmur of evidence-based therapy and change. 

McKenna Farms seamlessly joins physical therapy, occupational therapy, therapeutic riding, and hippotherapy, all in one place. The staff, licensed professionals, talented horse handlers, and dedicated volunteers work together seamlessly to create an environment in which therapy is delivered to 350 kids per week. 
At McKenna Farms, I see and hear passion everywhere. I see it in the faces of both clients and parents. I hear it in the voices of those who talk about their experience and those who are delivering therapy. 
Jessie, founder and director, has dedicated her professional career to creating a unique farm that has managed to overcome the financial barriers that stand in the way of those who wish to join multi-disciplines together. Jessie’s passion spills over when she speaks of the future, which includes a pool where water therapy can be delivered on site. 

My visit to McKenna farms made me clearly understand why The Red Thread Promise has chosen to support the children there. The Farm is forward thinking and capitalizes on the talents of many to impact the lives of children at a crucial moment in time. McKenna Farms is truly a one-of-a-kind agency that I look forward to returning to in the future.

Kathy enjoying one of the therapy horses

Kathy Korge Albergate :: Our September, 2014 visit to McKenna Farms was my first in three years and it’s obvious that I’d been away too long. Way too long. So much has happened in that time. Laura, a friend of The Red Thread Promise, and Sonya, Vice-President of The Red Thread Promise, joined me on this trip.

Though Sonya has made the trip several times in those three years, and her last visit was less than four months ago, she was astounded to see the changes made over the summer.  

The outdoor riding arena has been rotated 90 degrees and moved closer to the fence bordering the pony corral. The remaining space where the area used to be has been readied for a future pool in which the children will take water therapy.

The entrance to the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail is now a pleasantly curved trail. The stations have been revitalized and a new one completed. In some areas the woods have been cleared and the trail extended toward the creek on the property.  

Only passion for these kids and their ability to grow and become more independent could fuel the constant improvements Jessie and her team continue to make at McKenna Farms. And only her complete professionalism and eagerness to employ every therapy avenue that will help these children could bring those improvements to fruition.

As a Jacob’s Fund partner, McKenna Farms embodies the spirit of The Red Thread Promise, enabling children to live the richest, fullest, most independent lives possible.

Vice President, Sonya Yencer

Saturday, September 6, 2014

HAITI :: Hunger - the single gravest threat for St. Vincent's

In 2014, no one should go hungry. Especially kids.

One of our best friends grew up in a poor family in the Appalachian Mountains. He is able to laugh now as he recalls his mom cooking white beans on Monday, pinto beans on Tuesday, and on Wednesday combining the two for their evening meal. Cereal at breakfast and bologna sandwiches for lunch rounded out their days.

The majority of Americans haven’t known that level of poverty. But for the children at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Haiti, three meals a day of any kind is a luxury that is out of reach.

Beans are a staple at St. Vincent’s just as it was for our friend’s family. Rice stretches the protein to fill the children’s stomachs. Yet today, this simple meal is served “infrequently,” and when it is available, Father Sadoni tells us there just isn’t enough. In desperation, he has resorted to sending every child who has a family back home because he is unable to feed them regularly. Only the orphans remain.

Living with hunger.

It’s difficult to fall asleep when hunger haunts your mind and gnaws at your stomach. Until, of course, your body is weakened from lack of food over a long period of time. Hunger is painful; malnutrition causes our eyes to fail, our skin to develop lesions, our muscles to weaken and shrink, our bones to stop growing, our immune system to fail.

Lack of adequate food destroys the cognitive processes, resulting in reduced intelligence and learning, stunting not only the body but the mind of a child.*

Meeting their needs TOGETHER. 

Love and care: Fr. Sadoni and the staff at St. Vincent’s provide this in abundance on a daily basis. Their very presence in these children’s lives provides emotional nourishment and assuages the thirst for meaningful human contact.

We can show this same love and care to St. Vincent’s children by providing the basics—food and water—during this vulnerable time in their lives. Most of us reading this post have an adequate supply of both. Even our Appalachian friend’s mother was able to fill these needs for her sons. Our poverty is richness when compared to the plight of these children.

Join us in giving the life-sustaining gift of food. With your help, The Red Thread Promise is committing to supplying three months of food for the kids at St. Vincent’s. $2.25 feeds each child for a full day. That’s $6,090 per month, $18,270 total. This is a real, attainable goal. The need is urgent. Children are going hungry every day. These kids’ deprivation compels us to have funds available for the first month’s food in the next ten days -- by September 16.   

We can do it with your help.

Genesis 12:2 tells us: 
“I will bless you . . . 
and you will be a blessing to others.” 

YOU are that blessing for these children, and so are your family, friends, civic groups and churches. It takes a village.... Please share the story of St. Vincent’s kids and their current dire need in your circles. Let’s reach our goal quickly. 

Donations can be made via PayPal through our website or via check. 

Checks may be sent to:
The Red Thread Promise
249 N Belfield Ave
Havertown, PA 19083
Attn: Kathy Korge Albergate


Monday, September 1, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: McKenna Farms Mission Experience, Late Spring 2014 part 2 - Many hands make light work

A football team, a bathroom and a shed – the makings of a busy mission experience!

Our job this weekend is to clear out brush that has grown along the fence between the corral and the trail, plant shrubs and flowers, replace two of the stations, paint and make repairs, and weed and mulch.

Football players removing a huge tree

It’s a tall order, but we’re about to get some major reinforcement. Nearby Harrison High School has just delivered a busload of students who are pouring onto the parking lot, eager to start work. They are divided into work teams and quickly dispatched to locations around the barn, farmhouse, and the riding arenas.

Soon more than a dozen young men from the football team join us and begin removing small trees and brush from along the fence line and some larger trees that have fallen along the trail to the creek. The speed and efficiency with which they do this is astounding.

Members of Christ United Methodist working on the Sensory Trail
Now the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail is thrumming with activity. As the young men of Harrison High haul brush and trees away, two members of our team remove old whiteboard and chalkboard, making way for the new, weather-resistant Plexiglas boards. Two more are busily wielding cans of spray paint, applying a fresh coat of primary colors to the shape sorter and hanging tubes and even a bit to themselves. And still a surprising number of us are hunched over, attacking weeds with unusual vigor. Even Jacob’s baby sister and brother get into the act, helping position the posthole digger and planting flowers.

Jacob's sister Elyse (left) & friend repainting the shape sorter

The sun climbs higher and it’s hot! We’ve been working for more than three hours. It’s time for the high school students to depart, and they quickly assemble and board the bus, then disappear around the bend in the road.

The trail is quieter now, with only the occasional metallic thud of the posthole digger, the regular buzz of carpenter bees and the thwacking and sucking sound of Jacob’s younger siblings’ shoes in the mud hole they’ve discovered. 
An old saying pops into our heads: many hands make light work. With the help of the high school students, we’ve accomplished much of our work on the trail.

Jacob's brother Max helping out

After lunch, we’re ready for more chores. Sonya, The Red Thread Promise’s Vice-President, tackles painting one of the bathrooms. She’ll have to do this alone, since there’s no space for another person inside the bathroom once she gets the ladder up.

The rest of us head to the tool shed. This is more than a clearing out and reorganizing mission. You may recall that Jessie Moore, Director of McKenna Farms, lost Will, her husband and father of her two young sons, to a massive heart attack in December 2012.

Will and McKenna Farms were inextricably entwined. So much of the daily life of the farm depended on Will, and Will’s toolshed has remained pretty much untouched since his death.

We gently consult Jessie as to what should be done with each item. Sarah, Jacob’s mom, is known for her organizing skills, so once the piles are sorted, she directs us in reorganizing the shed.

Before and after - beautiful!

We head back to the farmhouse for a cool drink of water, and to admire Sonya’s handiwork. The bland off-white has been replaced with a first coat in an inviting shade of green.

Sweat trickles down our backs and faces. We are dirty and red-faced and we smile, thinking of the children who will be back to ride the trail Monday morning, breathing in the scent of sage and rosemary, tossing frogs into squares and circles and stars, playing the chimes, and talking about the pink and purple and yellow blossoms.

They’ll notice the freshly painted bathroom – kids love color. And although they won’t peer into the toolshed, the new farm manager will, and his job will be a little easier. In our mind’s eye we see the faces of those children, and our thoughts return to the conversations we’ve had with them and their families.

Exciting things are happening, and we’ll share those with you soon.

Looking for fresh faces for an upcoming trip!

Do thoughts of the children you’re helping support bring a smile to your face? We hope so. You’re an important part of what we do, and thoughts of you, too, makes us smile.

Would you like to join us on our next trip to McKenna Farms in Dallas, GA, or visit our other partnering therapy center, Hilltop Equestrian Center in West Alexandria, Ohio? If so, please let us know. Email Glenna or call 513-423-0108.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

HAITI :: A week of surgeries

Dr. Bheki performing an evaluation on a previous trip
Dr. Bheki and his team from West Tennessee Haiti Partnership arrived safely in Port-au-Prince yesterday. He and Dr. Beauvoir, a Haitian surgeon, will begin seeing children at St. Vincent's tomorrow morning, including little Wes (who you heard about earlier this week on FB) as well as Jonathan, another little boy that the silken red thread of destiny connected us to. 

Please keep Dr. Bheki in your thoughts and prayers as they provide love and care to many children throughout the week. 

So thankful for our wonderful partnerships! We can't do this work alone.

Having some fun mixing smelly scabies ointment!

CHINA :: 2-years-old and ready to take on the world with your help!

Meet our newest little friend from China! 

WXR is an adorable 2-year-old with a sweet personality - she's a charmer for sure with that smile! Thankfully, she has already received surgery for spina bifida and serial casting of her club foot and is doing well in the hands of our partners at Swallows Nest! Sadly, it appears that she may be incontinent as she came back from Shanghai with a horrible irritated bottom. The Red Thread has sent funding for her medicine as well as her follow up care. 

Please help us support WXR by making a donation in her honor to our China program (click on the PayPal button - donations are accepted via PayPal but you don't need a PayPal account). We hope and pray that she finds her forever home quickly. 

Who wouldn't want to hug on this baby for years and years?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

CHINA :: A micro-wheelchair for Laila

3-year-old Laila, all smiles!
Over the past weeks, The Red Thread team has gotten an unexpected crash course in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), due to a precious Chinese girl named Laila. The silken red thread of destiny recently connected us to this feisty 3-year-old and her American forever family and we’d like to share that story with you.

When Joslynn and Jason began fostering 18-month-old Laila in China, they were told she had cerebral palsy. Only three short months ago, after returning to the States, they found themselves faced with a new diagnosis for Laila: SMA, the second most common fatal genetic disorder in young children.

Children with SMA have problems with movement of any kind to varying degrees, even breathing and swallowing. SMA is an inherited disease that damages motor neurons in the brain and prevents important messages telling muscles “how” to move from reaching the muscles. When the muscles don't get direction on how to move, they become inactive, get smaller, and begin to waste away (a condition known as atrophy).

This degenerative disease limits the ability to complete simple tasks of life, like combing their hair. To date there is no cure, but many kids learn to live as independently as possible with therapy and treatment for the disease’s most troubling symptoms (

Moving forward
As soon as her parents knew her true condition, they began researching the disease and looking for support. Joslynn attended her first Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Conference in Washington D.C. to learn everything she could to help their young daughter. During the conference, Joslynn’s eyes were open to a real need for Laila: a micro-wheelchair.

A mother’s perspective
From Joslynn: “When I called my husband, frantic and emotional, begging him to agree to put an unplanned $4000 purchase on our credit card—to buy our daughter a micro-sized, 6-pound wheelchair—he asked me to consider it for 24 hours before making a decision. I don’t fault my husband at all for his rationality because we both knew it was an out-of-reach purchase for us. However, it wasn’t until my time at a Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Conference that I truly understood the worth of this tiny wheelchair and what it would mean for our daughter.

During the conference, I was overwhelmed with sadness at Laila’s lack of independence. Even though we were in a place where almost EVERY child was physically immobile, they were all “running around”, playing, squealing, and chasing each other with the aid of their wheelchairs. Meanwhile my daughter sat motionless and bored, waiting for me to push her. 

Until that point, my husband and I had been satisfied to carry Laila from room-to-room inside our home and push her in a stroller in public. Together we decided that nurturing our daughter’s independence was critical to her development. We took a leap of faith and bought the wheelchair, not knowing how we would pay the balance.

It only took a single day at home in her chair for my husband to join in my exhilaration over Laila’s newfound freedom. Her little face always beams with a smile while she’s in her chair. She loves to come into the room where I am and say, “Hi Mom.” And I say, “Hi Baby.” And then she says, “Laila go find Daddy,” and she wheels away. Only moments later she has usually circled around again, “Hi Mom!” We have set up little stations around our living areas where she can “play kitchen” or roll under her own little table to color or do stickers. She also loves to chase the cat or bump the front of her wheelchair into her big brother’s door in the morning to knock and say, “Wake up!”

Big brother, Laila, and little sister, Charlet
Our greatest surprise was how the addition of a wheelchair impacted the rest of the family. As a mother, I found myself relieved of many requests from my immobile girl: “Mom, I fell over; Mom, I want to see you; Mom, where’s the cat.” I didn’t realize how many times I moved Laila around and fulfilled her requests until then. And then there are the benefits to our youngest child, Charlet. Because of Laila’s condition she had to be carried everywhere, leaving Charlet constantly jealous when I made her walk while carrying her “big” sister. Now that Laila is able to move around by herself, Charlet is also more willing to be independent and walk.  Big brother is so proud to push Laila in her chair and loves to play chase with her. And Daddy can now safely take Laila outside to the garage so she can “help Daddy do work,” which she absolutely loves.   

There are no words to express the gratitude we feel to The Red Thread Promise. Little did we know that we were already connected to them—they had sponsored Charlet in her foster home for TWO years prior to her coming home to us! And now, they have connected with our family again through sweet Laila. By paying the balance of the cost for Laila’s manual chair, my family is free to enjoy the perfect blessing of independence and mobility for our precious girl.”

Helping Laila
We are so thankful for that red thread of destiny connecting us to this beautiful family not once, but TWICE. And YOU are the reason we were able to bring much needed mobility to little Laila. It is through your tax-deductible gifts to our programs that we help children with disabilities lead the fullest lives possible. Please consider giving today via PayPal or check made out to The Red Thread Promise, 249 N Belfield Ave, Havertown, PA 19083. 

Thank you everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

HAITI :: Christina's first miraculous steps

Christina after 2 successful surgeries
(photo courtesy of West Tennessee Haiti Partnership)
Remember beautiful Christina from St. Vincent’s? She is one of the many children we have connected with in Haiti over the years. Her story is nothing short of miraculous and, by supporting The Red Thread’s work in Haiti, YOU have been an integral part of her success. 

During a Red Thread outing in 2012
An otherwise completely healthy infant, Christina was born with a birth defect that caused severe clubbing in both of her feet. Over the years she endured multiple unsuccessful surgeries and castings to correct her condition, after which she was no closer to walking than she was the day she was born.

In 2013, the tides began to change for Christina. No longer would she be resigned to life in a wheelchair, but rather to a newfound hope of planting both feet on the ground (something her condition never allowed her to do) and even walking independently!
Following her first successful surgery
Through our partnership with West Tennessee Haiti Partnership (WTHP), Dr. Bheki Khumalo (clubfoot specialist / Memphis, TN) and Dr. Georges Beauvoir (surgeon / Port-au-Prince, Haiti), Christina's first successful surgery was completed in August 2013. The skilled surgical team performed a tendon release, bone and soft tissue correction, and finally a foot rotation on her right.

After her foot healed, Christina's second surgery was completed in February 2014 on her left. When the stitches were removed, she was able to wear a boot and worked with a physical therapist to strengthen her legs.

Gazing at two corrected feet
(photo courtesy West Tennessee Haiti Partnership)
In April came Christina’s miracle! Our partners from WTHP were conducting a clinic at Christina’s home, St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. Dr. Jenn and Tiffany (visiting physical therapist and nurse respectively) began stretching Christina's legs and ankles, encouraging her to begin putting weight on her feet. Then it was time for Christina to stand up. With support of each arm, Christina put one foot in front of the other and took THE FIRST STEPS OF HER LIFE!

After 16 years of thinking walking was something unachievable, she was able to take her first steps and one of our partners from WTHP was able to capture it on video! The footage is raw but heartwarming. You can see the tender care given to her by Dr. Jenn when she gently wipes her face right before she walks.

Christina is a bright, energetic girl who is well on her way to leading a more normal life now that both feet are corrected. She will continue to work with therapists to walk and become increasingly independent.

Christina may never have taken these steps without your support for which we are eternally grateful. Your donations made it possible to rent a sterile surgical suite, purchase medications, schedule after-care and physical therapy, and cover all associated expenses for this beautiful young lady's care. We are forever grateful for Dr. Bheki, Dr. Beauvoir and Dr. Jenn for their countless hours working with her. 

We invite you to continue to be a part of this life-transforming process, helping kids like Christina, kids whose biggest obstacle in life was being born into poverty where adequate medical care isn't an option as their families struggle to put food on the table.

The cost of both surgeries - $3600!
The long-term effects - priceless.

There are many more success stories like Christina’s shared on our Facebook, website and this blog. Our team is available via phone or email to answer any questions you may have about how we serve impoverished children with disabilities. We invite you to join us in making a difference in these children’s lives. Financial support can be sent via our website or PayPal link at left or by check. Thank you for caring.