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John Allen Atkins (right, foreground) helps Dr. Alexander (left, foreground) to start this year's 5K race.
Even a broken arm from a recent scooter accident won’t stop fifth grader John Allen Atkins, a child with spina bifida, from walking in a road race. After all, it didn’t keep him from handing out fliers at his school and around his neighborhood to publicize the race.
John Allen, along with his parents Kathy and Tom Atkins, and his younger brothers Luke and Joshua, joined over 500 participants in the 2nd Annual Run Walk & Roll at Crowder District Park in Apex.
The Run Walk & Roll included a 5k run and one mile walk or roll to benefit children with disabilities, their families and providers. This year's event was held on Saturday, May 1st.
As it did last year, the Wake County LICC partnered to offer an interactive Resource Fair to help families and participants learn more about local early intervention and special needs resources. The day included food, prizes, children’s activities and a medal for each participating child.
As of April, the “Johnny’s Angels” team had 15 members, with more people expected to register or donate to the Run Walk & Roll. “People are inspired by John Allen’s great attitude,” said his mother, Kathy Atkins. Even though her son has spina bifida, a birth defect that can weaken the legs, John Allen enjoys playing basketball and golf, and is an outgoing 5th grader at Swift Creek Elementary in Cary, where he continues to motivate his peers.
A huge Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan, John Allen was particularly excited about a rumor that Stormy, the team’s mascot, would attend the Run Walk & Roll. The event not only included fun, but raised awareness for programs such as TelAbility, which help children such as John Allen.
“Since its inception in 1998, the TelAbility telehealth program has endeavored to help parents and professionals find credible, reliable information, connect with each other to share resources and support, and increase their access to specialized clinical and educational services,” said Joshua Alexander, MD, TelAbility’s founding director.
The Run Walk & Roll is an important event that publicizes the good work done through TelAbility and hopefully serves to attract future partners and supporters who will continue its mission of keeping families and providers connected.
“Funding from the John Rex Endowment has allowed us to build a thriving collaborative called WATCH, which is booming thanks to support from parents and providers all across Wake County,” said Juliellen Simpson-Vos, project director for TelAbility. “Parents and providers alike use this network to share their successes, challenges and resources. They are building a community and leveraging each other as resources during these hard economic times when an already strained and under-resourced system is feeling even more pressure.”
Simpson-Vos reported that the program saved families and providers $48,000 and more than 1500 hours of car travel from July 1, 2009 to March 5, 2010 through the use of telemedicine videoclinics and multipoint educational videoconferences. However, money from the John Rex Endowment is drawing to a close.
“With the recent fiscal crisis in NC, we have not been able to receive any funding from our state's Early Intervention system or the Department of Health and Human Services to support our many worthwhile programs,” Dr. Alexander noted. “While we hope that this changes in the future, for the present time, TelAbility's fate—and the fate of many of its partner programs—depends upon the financial support of donors who recognize the importance of helping us continue our mission to enhance the lives of children with disabilities.”
“TelAbility saves families and providers thousands of dollars every year by subsidizing educational opportunities for parents and providers, by supporting therapists who participate in telemedicine consults, and by providing free, accessible and reliable information through our website and online resource directories,” Simpson-Vos added. “If we fail to find sufficient funds to continue this program, our parents, children and service providers will lose one of the life preservers that is keeping them afloat during uncertain and unstable times.”
Providers who use the service praise its ability to connect those in need.
Linda King-Thomas, MS, OTR-L, director of Developmental Therapy Associates, Inc., said the information exchanged in WATCH between parents and professionals has helped her keep information in one place. “For example, I saved a list for therapeutic horseback riding since I sometimes recommend this,” King-Thomas said.
“TelAbility has allowed us as therapists to complete the circle in patient care,” said T.R. Goins, MPT, co-owner of Abilitations Children's Therapy & Wellness Center and the Carolina Center for Music Therapy. “So many times families and clinicians feel disjointed from each other. TelAbility has provided a means for us to connect the dots to form this circle of ongoing communication through sharing information, ideas and support. As clinicians we feel this has helped with continuity of care and improving outcomes.”
“There was a news article many years ago about Dr. Alexander wanting to launch a means of connecting the special needs community across the state through videoconferencing,” Goins continued. “He kept pushing that vision forward to where we are today. His vision and dedication to the special needs community continues to shine through. Juliellen Simpson-Vos is the needle that threads the bigger picture, allowing us all to benefit from this amazing program. Thanks to both of them we are better clinicians.”
This continuum reaches each child with special needs.
“Dr. Alexander is very positive and focused on the children,” Kathy Atkins observed. “He immediately talks with the children, not just the parents in the room, to help him assess how the child is responding and thriving. We are happy to support Dr. Alexander and his programs, which help many other children and families across the state.”