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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Excitement mounts for Camp Jake!

Tom (left), Shawn (right) and Jake (center), namesake for Camp Jake

Trying to find the right words to describe last week's Camp Jake reception in New Orleans has proven to be considerably more difficult than anticipated! The event was more than a great evening, more than camaraderie, more than fun.

It was an emotional high!

Tom—Camp Jake director and Red Thread board member—and Shawn graciously hosted the event in their loft, a beautiful space that more than accommodated the 50+ people who came to show their support of The Red Thread Promise. Every detail was meticulously ironed out, from the tabletop clean-burning fireplace to the sea salt organic dark chocolate truffles to the rooftop space overlooking the brilliantly lit Superdome. A continuous loop of photographs from Haiti and St. Vincent's played in the media room while people mingled, ate and laughed. The vibe was a refreshing blend of sophistication and Southern hospitality with a modern twist.

While wonderful, all of these things aren't what made the evening so memorable. It was the people, gathered to meet our guest of honor, 14-year-old Jake Richard.

Even with the serious health challenges that his muscular dystrophy continually poses, his parents, René and Stephanie, drove him from Houston to New Orleans to spend the evening with us. What a dynamic and inspiring young man!

As Jake maneuvered his motorized wheelchair from the elevator into the loft, he certainly made a brilliant first impression. Having been apprised of his love for all things orange, he boldly sported the brightest orange sneakers in current history and an orange checkered button down shirt atop the first Camp Jake t-shirt with his name ablaze in—you guessed it—orange.

With impeccable manners, he greeted each new face, graciously answered everyone's questions and spent as much time as necessary with each guest. As we spoke with him, his positive outlook on life was apparent. He posed for photos for anyone wielding a camera and we were able to capture his signature smile time and time again with different guests.

After enjoying hors 'devours and mingling, Tom shared the brief story about the inspiration for Camp Jake. While attending a summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy with Jake years ago, Tom felt his heart begin to change. The experience was so profound that he embraced that change and, on New Year's Eve of the same year, decided to stop just writing checks to charities. He made a promise to himself to take a hands on approach to his philanthropy and never looked back. He and Jake shared a dream to provide a similar experience to other children with disabilities, specifically those who would not otherwise have the opportunity.

Following several mission trips to Haiti with The Red Thread, the students at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children emerged as the perfect fit for the concept. Soon after, the idea had a name and a face: Camp Jake.

René, Jake's father, also shared a few words on his son's behalf. He told how, at a young age, Jake had been able to do nearly everything that his two older brothers could do: run, play, and all things "boy". As he grew, they knew that something wasn't right and Jake was eventually diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare and progressive disease that involves rapid degeneration of the muscles with a life expectancy in the late teens.

Tom, Stephanie (Jake's mother) and Jake

Jake's wish has always been to make a difference in the lives of other people who may have lost hope due to a disability. He has taken his wish to heart by working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association as a Goodwill Ambassador, attending fundraisers and media events, and being featured on the national MDA Telethon. He and his mother run 5k, 10k and half marathons together, evoking the spirit of their motto “Always look on the bright side of life.”

It is with this tenacious spirit that seven volunteer counselors will join 35 disabled orphans at St. Vincent's in January 2012, providing each child with an opportunity to wholly experience the motto that the camp's namesake, Jake Richard, lives by each day of his life.

This beautiful and inspirational evening will remain in our memory for years to come.