Stories of Inclusion
The Benners Family - Dallas, TX
We were at an emotional breaking point by the time we went to our first rEcess night. Autism was the new word in our home, meltdowns were frequent, communication with our son was a challenge, and navigating a rigorous therapy schedule was exhausting. It was our new normal, and it was overwhelming and eating us alive.
Our church family introduced us to rEcess, and we were shocked that someone WANTED to take on all 3 of our children, including our son who wasn’t the easiest one to handle. When we arrived every single one of our children had a special buddy assigned to them. To see the joy on their faces knowing that someone was excited to see them and play with them gave us such peace.
My husband and I were able to go share a meal together, uninterrupted. That time for us became a glimmer of hope in the midst of absolute chaos. It was a time where we could connect, look into each other’s eyes and remind each other that “we will get through this.” Sometimes we would go watch a movie (and fall asleep!)….and other times we were able to process the unique needs of our son and how that impacted our family and encourage each other through that.
rEcess has been a place where ALL of my children feel special. It is a safe place where my girls can connect with others and realize that other families are on similar journeys. They have learned compassion and how to be a friend. My children choose rEcess over birthday parties and weekends at Grandma’s because they love it so much!
It’s incredible to have a place to go where my children feel so loved and cared for and walk away encouraged. They are loved for who they are, and they are reminded that God’s love knows no bounds. We are so grateful for the rEcess ministry!
The Benners Family – Dallas, TX
Stories of Education
Ashley Kahila - Haiti
Frantz is 4 years old and first came to Respire to receive therapy services. It was learned that his mom had to quit her job when Frantz was born due to the fact that she did not have any one to watch him during the day. Since he has Down Syndrome most people will not provide childcare for him.
Through the programs at Respire Haiti, Frantz and his family now have more access to food, water, and other needed supplies. He is also able to receive an education that most children with disabilities or special needs do not have that opportunity in Haiti.
-Ashley Kahila, Haiti Global Partner
Stories of Respite
Tara Rainey - Dallas, TX
rEcess has been such a blessing to our whole family! When we had twins with a birth diagnosis of Down Syndrome for one of them, a friend informed me of rEcess, and shortly after, we signed our boys up. It was such a blessing that first night because my husband and I got a night out. We have been at almost every rEcess event since.
Our boys absolutely love going to “buddy church” as we lovingly call it at our house. They look forward to going all month long, asking almost every weekend if its time for buddy church. The people that greet us know our family by name, and every single volunteer with our kids has been amazing! They are so friendly, and the kids always leave talking about how much fun they had. We have the same “buddies” every month for some of our kids, and the relationship that has formed has been so sweet…
There have been weeks where my husband and I were stressed out over caring for our kids at home, and honestly, not exactly wanting to plan a night out together. Because we have rEcess on our calendar every month, it gets us out together, even after a stressful week. This has done so much good for our marriage.
We are so incredibly thankful for all the people involved in rEcess, and the impact it has had on our family.
Tara Rainey – Dallas, TX
Stories of Advocacy
Cassidy Walsh - Uganda
I joined a team of behavioral therapists, a special education teacher, and artist in serving Ekisa Ministries. On the trip I was up for anything and helped anyone that I could. I mostly helped the artist paint a mural for the main room in the residential building at Ekisa, help the children paint wooden boards for decor in Ekisa, and help the special education teacher with some school activities.
One of the first moments there, we were able to give a young boy a wheelchair and the first thing he did was push himself in his new wheelchair and yell “I am running”. It was such a heartwarming feeling knowing that due to the support we were given on this trip we were able to supply that child with a wheelchair, allowing him to move around without assistance and gain personal independence. It was also incredible to see the overflowing hope and joy in these children. It was truly contagious, I could not spend a moment around them without a huge smile on my face.
-Cassidy Walsh, Uganda Global Trip
Stories of Inclusion
Josh Fohner - Springdale, Arkansas
In 2019 we received a grant to help improve the lives of families experiencing disability in Northwest Arkansas. Local partners were asked to submit applications for families in need of assistance. Through the grant, 99 Balloons helped provide families with speech devices, bathroom remodels, wheelchairs, a week of camp, and in one instance, a quadracycle.
Pictured above is Josh who was in a bike crash few years ago. During the crash, he was critically injured and his life was changed in an instant. He uses a wheelchair full-time and had just begun to use a device to communicate. He has made immense progress over the past few years.
The quad has brought Josh a new form of therapy as well as returned his sense of adventure. He and his dad are training to ride from Arkansas to Colorado in the summer of 2020. The quad has enabled him to, once again, be included in the adventure community he loves.
Stories of Education
Jared Scheppmann - Uganda
One of our students has been showing some great progress in their creative thinking and reasoning. In our most advanced class, this student has been responding to questions more than usual, and has really grown in confidence in this area!
Originally, when posed with a tricky school question, she would go silent, preferring to wait for a classmate to respond rather than voice her own opinion. She was very shy, and perhaps struggled to process her own responses to difficult questions. However, her teachers persisted with asking questions, and challenging her to respond with her own ideas no matter how long it might take. Recently, and excitingly, this student has begun to take the initiative, and is now answering more questions than ever.
An exciting moment in class this week was when she correctly answered a question during a class word game! During the game, students have to choose the correct word based on some verbal cues provided by the teacher. This is quite challenging as the student has to use higher level reasoning to decide which word is the correct answer. This week, the correct word was ‘play’. This student was able to use the clue ‘You like to _ football’ to come up with the answer and share it with the whole class. There was a long pause as she took her time to think through the options, but eventually she shouted out ‘play!’, and the entire class burst into applause!
It was brilliant to see this student answering a complex question without any help, and doing so with confidence. It was also brilliant to see how happy our local teaching assistants were as they cheered her success! To our teachers it was a great reminder that patience, hard work and continual encouragement can make a huge difference to our students.
We are grateful to see progress like this in our students, and continue to celebrate all the little accomplishments they make!
Jared Scheppmann – Uganda Partner
Stories of Respite
99 Balloons rEcess Family - Fayetteville, AR
We have been so blessed by rEcess. My kids look forward to it every month, and my husband and I know it is our chance for a much-needed time to reconnect and focus on each other. One of the things I love best about rEcess is the way it impacts the mindset of the community toward inclusiveness. Because so many volunteers are being exposed to the world of disability and having their outlook changed, I know that the future looks so positive for my daughter!