In today’s political and economic climate, where we hear about system failures and people in need without resources, it has been remarkable to witness a successful partnership develop between Jack’s Helping Hand, a local nonprofit corporation, and our county’s California Children’s Services program.
What started as a desire to provide assistance for a few children has become a relationship that gives many families with disabled or ill children the extra help they need to stay as healthy and happy as possible.
Six years ago, a little boy with brain cancer came to the California Children’s Services program for treatment. He attended sessions at our therapy unit that was then located in a small room at Chris Jesperson School.
When little Jack Ready died before his fourth birthday, his parents wanted to do something in their son’s honor. So they turned their unimaginable loss into a way to help other parents and honor their son’s memory. They formed the nonprofit, Jack’s Helping Hand, an agency that offers the parents of children with special needs assistance with expenses that typical resources and some insurances do not cover.
The California Children’s Service program receives referrals from pediatricians and provides medical resources and coordination of care to qualifying children with chronic medical conditions, from diabetes to battling childhood leukemia or to surgery, treatment and therapy for a brain tumor like Jack had.
Once qualified, children and families are able to utilize a locally-developed network of specialty medical services from designated medical centers located throughout California, matched to the child’s diagnosis and individualized plan of care.
The local California Children’s Services program also administers the Medical Therapy Program consisting of four therapy units across the county where children receive occupational and physical therapy services. The medical therapy team also provides assistive devices and specialized equipment for the children to incorporate into use.
In many cases, children need more than the prescribed medical and therapy treatments. This is where Jack’s Helping Hand has stepped in to provide additional support for California Children’s Services clients. One of the first things they did was obtain space for a new, larger and better equipped therapy center for California Children’s Services.
Since forging the partnership with California Children’s Services, Jack’s Helping Hand has provided help to dozens of children with needs including specialized equipment (such as touch-screen computers, motorized chairs or adaptive strollers) and the often daunting transportation costs associated with frequent trips to specialists at Lucille Packard or Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles.
Jack’s Helping Hand has also started yoga and swim classes for children with special needs and they have opened two adaptive toy lending libraries. These libraries offer a continually changing array of wonderful toys for kids of all ages who have difficulty playing with regular toys because of a physical or mental condition.
It has been enormously rewarding to watch children and their families get the help they need to attend medical appointments, receive specialized medical equipment or simply enjoy themselves through books and specialized activities.
Jack’s Helping Hand has been a wonderful resource and referral for our families as we strive always to give our California Children’s Services clients the best opportunity to manage their disease, recover from injury and strengthen muscles to button a shirt, hold a spoon, learn to walk or use a wheelchair to be independently mobile.
We thought it important to showcase a community collaboration that really works. The giving spirit of our special partner, Jack’s Helping Hand, helped many California Children’s Services children when the presented need was beyond what California Children’s Services of San Luis Obispo County could provide alone.
Mary Gallegos is the administrator for California Children’s Services. She has been a public health nurse for 30 years and a supervising public health nurse for the past four years in San Luis Obispo County, managing the Children’s Medical Services programs in the Family Health Services Division of the Public Health Department.