Thursday, December 29, 2011

Camp Jake care packages

Only 4 days until the Red Thread team rolls out the first annual Camp Jake for students at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in Haiti! Amazing how time flies. Seems like only yesterday that Tom and Jake had the idea for the camp and now it is almost here.

Bags are being packed and re-packed to fill every nook and cranny with supplies for the camp. Then each is weighed and items are shuffled from suitcase to suitcase to ensure compliance with the strict airline codes. Two 50 lb bags per person, 1 carryon and 1 personal items - no exceptions!

Today's project was organizing stacks and stacks of personal hygiene products. In Ohio, a make-shift assembly line was set up and four friends turned those piles into personal hygiene kits. Each of the 33 campers will receive a full kit and be taught how to use the items.

Organizing the supplies

The assembly line

Each kit contains:
  • vibrating toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • dental floss
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • body wash
  • face wash
  • sunblock
  • nail clippers
  • nail file
  • bag of Qtips
  • deodorant
The packages for the older kids also have:
  • razor
  • can of shaving lotion
Completed kits

Many thanks to the women of Peace United Methodist Church for donating all of the supplies needed to fill the packages!

As we get closer to our departure date, please keep the Red Thread team in your thoughts and prayers for a successful camp. Also keep in mind the many campers who will enjoy new experiences, taste new foods and go to new places. We so look forward to working with these kids!

As always, we will post to the blog and Facebook frequently during the week of the camp. Electricity and internet connections are often shaky in Haiti, but we'll keep you in the loop as much as possible during camp and the weeks that follow.

Thank you for your continued support!

Raffle winners

Congratulations to the following folks who won the raffle items from our hearing aid fundraiser:

Raffle 1: Betty from Metairie, LA
Raffle 2: Brittany from Luling, LA
Raffle 3: Jeanne from New Orleans, LA
Raffle 4: Mary from New Orleans, LA
Raffle 5: Amber from New Orleans, LA

Thank you to everyone who purchased raffle tickets to support hearing impaired children in Haiti! Due to your generosity, we are able to purchase new digital hearing aids for children at St. Vincent's.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Orleans youth takes fundraiser for the hearing impaired to new heights

Marigny and Kathy, Red Thread President,
preparing for the fundraiser

Remember Marigny, the high school senior from Louisiana who took on a large philanthropic project for The Red Thread Promise as part of her requirement for graduation? Well, we wanted to share her success and offer the opportunity to continue supporting her efforts of bringing new digital hearing aids to the children of St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children.

On December 2nd, 2011, Marigny teamed with Modern Market, a lifestyle boutique in New Orleans, to host a fundraiser benefitting hearing impaired children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Raffle tickets were sold for five dynamic prizes and, on the day of the event, Modern Market donated 10% of all sales to the project.

On the street, directing people inside

Marigny (left) and friends who helped throughout the evening

Her original goal was $2,500, quite an undertaking for a single high school student. Following the fundraiser and sales at Modern Market, donations reached $3,700. Rather than simply basking in the satisfaction of a successful fundraiser, this ambitious teen increased her goal and kept right on going!

As of this post, Marigny has doubled her original goal, bringing in over $5,000! And still she keeps going with a passion, our little red Energizer bunny, extending the timeframe for fundraising to January 10, 2012 and increasing her goal yet again.

Marigny has done an incredible job and we couldn’t be more proud of her. The Red Thread team LOVES getting youth involved in philanthropy! We are equally excited to be able to purchase 16 brand new digital hearing aids for the children at St. Vincent’s due to the efforts of a single high school student. Imagine what we could do if we were each so passionate!

Marigny has jump-started this fundraising campaign and we invite you to be a part of it. Many more hearing aids are needed to provide for all of St. Vincent’s children. The goal of the campaign is to purchase 75 hearing aids by February 2012 and a whopping 500 aids by the end of December 2012. Each hearing aid costs $300, a small price to pay to make a huge improvement in the life of a hearing-impaired child.

A note from Marigny: As an American teenager, this project has made me realize that life is not about the materialistic possessions we may have or wish to have, but about the people who are a part of our lives. In the midst of everything, we need to consider those who are less fortunate. This project has certainly made me look at my own life in a completely different way. In the future, I plan to travel to Haiti with The Red Thread Promise to see the children who will benefit from your generosity. This is a perfect way for me to become a global citizen and help those who do not have the means to help themselves. By coming together as a community of caring individuals, we are able to make a tremendous impact on the lives of the deaf orphans of St. Vincent's. We did this together!

If you are interested in joining The Red Thread Promise to give the gift of hearing to these precious children, please contact Donations can be made by PayPal (link at top right) or by sending a check to the address at top right.

Marigny (far right) and the Modern Market team

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Camp Jake packing

Suitcase after suitcase is being packed full of supplies for Camp Jake. Games, clothes, personal hygiene products... you name it, we've probably got it in one of the (20) 50 lb. suitcases ready to board that plane to Port-au-Prince. Only 13 days till we hit the ground running in Haiti. Please keep the team in your thoughts and prayers.

12 Angels - Day 8

Angel #8
A sideways glance from this girl will melt your heart!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Angels - Day 7

Angel #7
This hearing impaired young lady
has a personality as beautiful as her smile!

12 Angels - Day 6

Angel #6
Meet Elion, one of the spunky teenagers at St. Vincent's

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Angels - Day 4

Angel #4
If that isn't the face of joyful learning,
we don't know what is!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Angels - Day 2

Angel #2
This beautiful child shares the Haitian knack for looking somber for the photo,
but smiling widely as soon as the camera turns away!

12 Angels - Day 1

In the spirit of the holidays, we'd like to introduce you to some
of the angels we've met at St. Vincent's in 2011.

Angel #1
This handsome young man is hearing impaired
but such a HAM in front of the camera!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A gift to unwrap now

'Tis the season of love, hope and miracles.
Here's a gift that has them all.

Help us unwrap our very special gift from Be Productions,
then please share it with your friends, family and colleagues.

Monday, December 5, 2011

JACOB'S FUND :: Occupy McKenna Farms (part 2)

Bernie and Glenna, Jacob Beachy's grandparents

(front, left to right) Yiwen, Jaden, Wilma, Glenna, Elyse, Margie, Hana
(back row) Sonya, Doug, Bernie, Ted

Now we know what that old southern phrase, wouldn’t trade you for a farm in Georgia, is all about. What a gorgeous area—a place where one savors every moment.

From the crack of dawn, our senses became alive on our second day at the farm:

  • Seeing the sunshine igniting brilliant fall colors in the trees.
  • Hearing the occasional whinny of a horse.
  • Smelling the rich aroma of fresh-brewed coffee.
  • Tasting a variety of decadent fresh doughnuts.
  • Feeling the bitter chill in the air that November morning.
The five senses were the focus of our energies that entire day as the team mobilized to work on the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail, a critical therapy area of the farm. Spanning a 5 acre area, the wide trail winds around a circle of 9 stations, each designed to increase sensory awareness. The trail then meanders through the woods to a cool, clear stream and back to the sensory stations.

Before our work began, we visited the barn to greet the horses, helping to feed and brush them. Like children, each horse is unique, not only in color and size, but in personality as well: Hershey (a Appaloosa) may nip you; Tank (a percheron) is a gentle giant; and Major (a Arabian) has the even temperment of the ideal hippotherapy horse. Each horse is specially trained to accommodate the young, often unstable riders. We found it difficult to tear ourselves away from these huge animals with whom the children of McKenna Farms form a bond of trust and confidence however socializing with the horses was not our weekend task (although it certainly was a perk!).

Brushing STAR

Learning the details of feeding horses

As soon as the horses were fed and ready to be released into the pasture, we walked down the lane to the sensory trail and surveyed the work that needed to be done. Tall grass lined the trail and
late-summer weeds had grown up around the stations. The unstained wood appeared dull and lackluster. A wooden bridge had been overturned and was in dire need of repair. Planters were full of dead annuals. Plastic buckets and containers used for therapy were worn and cracked due to exposure to the elements. And so our work began!

Our workplace for the weekend

Doug and Jaden tackled the open areas with a mower and weed whacker while the rest of the team pulled weeds in the more inaccessible nooks and crannies. When the dust settled, the messy fun began. Armed with rollers, brushes, and 5 gallon drums of stain, we tackled the uprights, roofs and any other exposed wood of the sensory stations as well as the planters, birdhouses and bird feeders scattered along the trail. And so the transformation of the area continued as we traveled—station to station—cleaning, staining, and repairing.

Every boy's dream - operating a lawn mower!

Each sensory station is carefully designed to focus on and develop one or more of the senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. The materials look like giant's toys—oversized objects that allow children whose fine motor skills are underdeveloped and who cannot manipulate small typical shape and color toys—to work with both while on foot or on the back of a horse.

These colorful bars with over-sized shaped cutouts develop the child’s sense of sight and touch and aid them in the development of visual discrimination. Since many of us had never experienced this type of therapy, a lesson was in order!

Jessie shared that a child typically rides up to the station on their horse. Then, based on the child's individual needs and ability, the therapist guides them in an activity. For a child who may be lacking core strength or doesn't know where their body is in space, the therapist may request that he or she, while holding the reins in one hand, reach across their body with their free hand to receive a stuffed toy from the therapist. The child would then take the toy and locate the particular colored bar and shape specified by the therapist and put the toy through the hole. A seemingly simple activity such as this engages different parts of the mind and muscles in the body simultaneously, involves motor planning and cognitive abilities, which creates many opportunities for development and refinement of skills.

As the child progresses, the level of complexity of the activities increase. The therapist may offer an entire bucket full of toys, directing the child to find a particular one in the mix, adding another level of difficulty to the exercise. The child must now bend over and reach into the bucket to locate the correct toy all while controlling both their body and the horse. Then, depending on which colored bar is required, reach up, over, out, or down to place the toy in the correct opening. The therapist names colors, shapes, and other pertinent words and has the child repeat them during the exercise, increasing their vocabulary during the session.

We were amazed to see and hear how a very complex therapy session could be tailored for each child through these outwardly basic activities. Jessie shared similar therapy strategies were shared as we worked our way along the trail, learning about the stations and their purpose as we went.

We were puzzled to find a few team members chewing leaves from a planter. As we approached, it became clear – they had discovered the herb garden. The air was scented with rosemary and mint at a station where a therapist guides a child in exercises to help them develop their sense of smell.

Staining the chimes structure

The entire team couldn’t resist the chimes! Using large drumsticks, we ran the sticks across the chimes repeatedly, listening to the different tones made by each size chime. As each person passed at varying heights, different tunes were created. Suddenly, we were aware of how much we delight in these sounds and how critical our sense of hearing is in life.

Flipping the wooden bridge

Following a lunch break and with renewed energy, Doug, Ted and Jessie's husband Will began the plans to reposition and repair a large wooden bridge that had been part of the entrance to the trail. The bridge, which had previously been moved and flipped on its back to allow access to the rear of the barn, needed to be turned right-side-up and placed in its original position at the entrance of the sensory trail. The men repaired and replaced loose wooden planks before they tackled the much larger job of turning it over. With clever planning, teamwork and just the right touch with the front end-loader, the job was successfully completed in a few hours.

Glad that the staining is almost finished!

Then we all went back to staining the wood, which took us through the end of a very long, but extremely productive day at the farm. The team was exhausted but satisfied with our accomplishments. Only a few details remained for the next morning before we each went our separate ways, tired and sore, but with huge smiles on our faces.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gifts that change a life

2011 - Red & Blue Candycane - 16 available

There is a fantastic artist in historic Lancaster, Pennsylvania who has been making limited edition hand-blown glass ornaments for The Red Thread Promise for the past 8 years. Every year, Despina—owner of Kalargyros Gallery and glass artist—creates a new design just for us. Since these beauties are hand-blown, no two ornaments are alike.

Many of you may already have one of these treasures in your collection. For those who don't, now is your chance. This is the first year that we have offered these ornaments online. They make great gifts for the holidays or a treat for yourself. If you are like Kathy, TRTP president, you hang them in front of a bright window for year round enjoyment!

Each one is $32 (+ $10 shipping) and comes in a gift box, ready for delivery to someone special. Each measures approximately 2 - 3" in diameter. Quantities are limited. Please email if you would like to place an order. Please specify which style you would like in your email.

Proceeds from the sale will be used toward our various medical programs, benefitting children in China, Haiti and the United States. What better way to honor a loved one this holiday season?

2010 - Scarlet Orbs - SOLD OUT

2009 - Scarlet Fields Forever - 23 available

2008 - Scarlet Swirls - 3 available

2007 - Scarlet & White Drops - 25 available
(the blue is a reflection - spots are clear!)

2006 - Scarlet & Gold Flair - SOLD OUT

2005 - Scarlet Spiral - SOLD OUT

2004 - Scarlet & Green Wind - SOLD OUT

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Orleans youth takes philanthropy to heart

Fr. Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent's, and Marigny, Hahnville High School senior

We trust by now you all know how much The Red Thread Promise values youth participation in our programs. One of our goals is to get young people involved in our work on a daily basis: youth helping youth, learning to value the lives of others as much as their own. In New Orleans, Marigny, a 12th grade student at Hahnville High School, has really taken this to heart.

As part of her requirement for graduation, Marigny must complete a senior project on a topic of her choice. Given her intent to make philanthropy a major part of her adult life, Marigny selected a philanthropic project that would benefit others in need. She chose to support The Red Thread Promise because she has seen its accomplishments firsthand. Her brother, Tom, is an active board member of The Red Thread and Camp Jake Director who has traveled to Haiti on missions trips several times over the past two years.

On December 2, 2011, Marigny is partnering with Modern Market* to co-host a fundraising event on behalf of hearing impaired children at St. Vincent’s in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. All funds raised will be used to purchase digital hearing aids for the children. The event will be held at Modern Market's location in the heart of the Lower Garden District from 6-9 PM.

As part of the celebration for its one-year anniversary, Modern Market will donate 10% of each sale on that day to The Red Thread Promise. Participants will enjoy wine and cookies as they shop and will view the raffle prizes in person.
  • $10 raffle tickets will be sold for 2 pieces of art by JoJo, the talented artist that we introduced you to back in February.
  • $5 raffle tickets will also be available for 4 unique pieces of Jewelry by Nelson + Little, a New Orleans based Jewelry collective that merges architecture & couture into one-of-a kind pieces.
  • The drawings will be held at 8:30 pm on December 2. Need not be present to win.
  • For those who would like to offer their support but are unable to be there in person, raffle tickets can be purchased in advance at both Modern Market and Tiger Town Gifts in New Orleans or through our PayPal option (top right of the blog). If purchasing through PayPal, please clearly state which raffle number(s) in the memo line (i.e. Raffle 1).
RAFFLE 1 ~ value $325
Vintage chain, labradorite stone with black crystal rhinestone chain by Nelson + Little
$5 per raffle ticket

RAFFLE 2 ~ value $275
Vintage black matte glass beads on oxidized chain of varying lengths by Nelson + Little
$5 per raffle ticket

RAFFLE 3 ~ value $250
Sliced agate pendant with asymmetrical jade bead by Nelson + Little
$5 per raffle ticket

RAFFLE 4 ~ value $175
Sterling silver roll chair with charms by Nelson + Little
$5 per raffle ticket

RAFFLE 5 ~ value $400
Original painting of Haiti's earthquake by JoJo (vertical)
$10 per raffle ticket

We are so excited to see this 18 year old enthusiastically supporting the hearing impaired children at St. Vincent's. For any local folks reading this blog, we encourage you to join us at Modern Market for this fun evening.

*Modern Market is a lifestyle boutique in the heart of the Lower Garden District that supports emerging product designers at affordable prices. Modern Market is located at 3138 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy McKenna Farms (part 1)

Eleven volunteers from Cincinnati and Columbus Ohio converged on McKenna Farms for a working weekend at the therapy center The Red Thread has supported through Jacob's Fund over the past several years. What a remarkable experience!

Within minutes of arrival, the team took a tour of the original residence that now houses the administrative offices, waiting room and multiple clinical therapy rooms. In the yard outside the waiting room is a playground and homey seating area against a beautiful wooded backdrop, a space enjoyed by siblings and parents as they wait for their child’s therapy to be complete.

The original farmhouse now used as office and therapy space

Outdoor waiting area and playground

McKenna Farms director, Jessie

While we toured, Jessie, the director, shared some interesting facts about the farm and gave us a rather indepth lesson on hippotherapy, therapeutic riding and how these forms of treatment greatly benefit people with disabilities. Several hours was devoted to these discussions so we’ll do our best to summarize what we learned.

McKenna Farms is a 150-year-old historic site northwest of Atlanta in Paulding County near the famous Pickett's Run battlefield. The original farmhouse was used as a Civil War hospital and later restored back to a residence. Jessie was able to purchase the property in 2006—naming it after her beloved horse, McKenna—and began the lengthy process of converting it into a therapy farm that has been growing steadily ever since.

Currently, the facility serves approximately 200 clients, aged birth through 21, with varying neurological and physical disabilities (including Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Autism, PDD, and various genetic disorders that cause developmental delays). Three occupational therapists, two physical therapists, one COTA (certified occupational therapist assistant), eight speech pathologists and 30 to 40 horse handlers provide hippotherapy, therapeutic riding and clinical therapy five days a week.

McKenna Farms has twelve full size therapy and four mini horses who occupy 15 acres. Many of their animals are rescues or have been acquired from people looking for a good home for a horse. All horses are hand selected by professionals since their work requires strong healthy animals that are able to carry unbalanced weight.

Some of the therapy horses

A 2,000 lb percheron appropriately named, TANK

Glenna getting up close and personal with STAR

One of the mini horses

This year, the farm was able to add an 80 x 120' indoor riding arena so children can continue their treatment with the horses year-round. The converted farmhouse includes multiple indoor therapy rooms with a variety of traditional therapy implements.

The new indoor riding arena

So exactly what is hippotherapy?
Derived from the Greek "hippos"—horse—hippotherapy literally means treatment or therapy with the aid of a horse. Not to be confused with riding lessons or therapeutic riding, hippotherapy is the process of administering physical, speech and occupational therapy to the patient by a trained therapist, utilizing the movements of a horse to directly influence the rider. Hippotherapy is best known to improve neurological function and sensory processing.

McKenna Farms patient during a therapeutic riding session

How does hippotherapy differ from therapeutic riding?
Therapeutic riding is often the next step when patients “graduate” from hippotherapy. It is a more independent style of riding that includes various therapeutic exercises and activities, allowing the rider more advanced physical, psychological and social development.

Therapeutic riding teaches riding skills to people with disabilities. Riders must learn to balance in the saddle, equally distribute their weight in each stirrup in order to sit properly during the horses' different gaits, and to use rein and leg aids correctly to communicate with the horse. Strength and endurance is gained by increasing the length of riding time and through the effective use of aides, i.e. hands, voice, legs and seat.

Therapeutic riding's greatest benefit is the gift of freedom. Riding is a freedom often taken for granted by able-bodied riders. To a person with a disability, it takes them from the confines of assorted assistive devices, such as walkers and wheelchairs. Riders become aware they can be mobile and independent of other people and mechanical aids: they are able to show their skills and abilities, leaving behind many of their personal limitations. This type of riding improves attention span and listening skills, enhancing the person's ability to integrate socially. A sense of pride can develop as horse skills increase, leading to greater self-esteem and self-confidence.

Now the more pressing question:
Why are these forms of treatment so effective?
Here are a few key factors that will help answer this question:
  • When a person sits on the back of a moving horse, human pelvic movements are duplicated naturally, without effort on the rider's part, a great benefit for a person who cannot walk. As riders adjust to the changes in the horse’s gait and stride (as well as the uneven ground), these distinct movements help the rider improve his or her strength, balance, coordination and muscle control, while improving posture, range of motion, and stimulating the vestibular nervous and circulatory systems. In addition, the patient improves their sensory integration and organization as well.
  • Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding are very efficient because all systems of the patient’s body can be engaged and "worked" simultaneously. For instance, all of the following activities are happening concurrently in a child’s body during a typical therapy session: the body is stabilizing itself on the horse; the ears are listening to the instructions from the therapist; the brain is processing, organizing and correctly recalling all instructions; the brain sends messages to the body to fulfill these instructions; the mouth forms the words necessary to guide the horse throughout the activity; and so on.
  • Unlike more traditional forms of therapy in a clinical setting, children don't realize how hard their muscles and senses are working during the therapy because they are enjoying their time on the horse. They often experience reduced levels of anxiety when coming to the farm as opposed to a therapist’s office.
After the team got up to speed on McKenna Farms' therapy services, we got down to work.

Sources: American Hippotherapy Association,The Saddle Delight Center, HATS Niagara