EDITOR’S NOTE — Other than to wish the best to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, I didn’t have a whole lot to add with a column while our Rangely correspondent, Heather Zadra, had a much more important message to get out to many parents in Rio Blanco County who may need help.
Therefore, my window has the shade down while a personal window has been opened.
We’d heard something about the help the non-profit group offers adults with disabilities, from residential support to vocational assistance. We’d read occasional news articles about people who, thanks to Horizons, could live full, independent lives with support.
But until we learned that the limited repertoire of words our toddler son used was on par with a child half his age, we didn’t understand how Horizons engaged with families, providing critical services to children from birth to age three and helping families pay for expenses associated with a child’s developmental delays or disabilities.
It’s easy to support a cause once you see your own need for it.
Until we realized Drew would benefit from speech therapy — we rushed to enroll him, realizing it was our best chance to narrow the gap between where he was and where he should have been — Horizons was just another organization we liked the idea of but didn’t feel especially compelled to support.
Sometimes it takes a connection to someone whose story grips us or whose life has been changed to be moved to action.
Sometimes, as in the case of our family, it takes being a part of that story ourselves.
We are one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of families whose lives have never looked quite the same since they discovered Horizons, and I will tell our story to anyone who will listen.
How speech therapist Natosha Clatterbaugh worked with us every week for the better part of a year, teaching Drew to imitate sounds and me to spend intentional time with him developing those skills.
How, after a few months, she realized his garbled reiterations weren’t translating to progress.
And how, thanks to that insight, a simple surgery opened Drew’s ears to sounds that, until then, he’d only heard as though he was under water.
After the procedure, his progress under Clatterbaugh’s care was so rapid that he vaulted off the eligibility list for continued speech services through the local Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).
It’s a story with similar threads, I suspect, as other families could tell about children meeting milestones that once seemed miles away, about having the support of people who finally understand and can help, and about how heavy financial burdens lighten with a little help.
Each story has its nuances, its differences.
But together, our individual stories speak to something more. They speak to a community’s need to acknowledge that our children’s problems are all of our problems and that their solutions are everyone’s victories.
They speak to the need to celebrate and embrace a family’s request for help while rejecting the stigmas that still cling to labels like “developmentally delayed” or “disabled.”
These stories, while anecdotal, speak in harmony with data proving that early intervention services are critical to the continued, improved health not only of individuals but of a community as a whole.
All of this is why, after struggling for days to write a fact-based piece about Horizons’ Little Points of Light fundraising campaign, I finally gave up and wrote an editorial instead.
When I told Herald Times Editor Sean McMahon that the piece hadn’t come together as planned, that it was a column instead, he told me he still wanted the news piece and to be wary of mixing personal involvement with fact-telling in the news story.
“Keep the personal out of it as much as possible,” he wrote regarding the story. (Which, in all honesty, was fair enough. It was sage advice, beside the fact that I’d given him hardly any notice of the change.)
Half an hour later, Sean called and suggested running the news story and the original column in the same edition. I’m so glad he did.
Because, when it comes to the work Horizons does — for every individual, every family, and every community — it’s always personal. It’s what they do best.