Volunteer Spotlight- Nicole Flippo

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Nicole Flippo is a dedicated classroom volunteer that loves and inspires the blue class each week. We sat down with her to find out what drew her to the Little Light House and what she loves about volunteering. Learn more of her story below:

  1. How long have you been volunteering at LLH?
    1. About a year and a half.  I started in January of 2013 and have been volunteering off and on since then.
  2. Why did you start volunteering at LLH?
    1. Every January, Cascia Hall, my high school, allows juniors and seniors to go off campus for volunteer work.  I signed up to go to LLH and immediately fell in love.
  3. Favorite part?
    1. Praise & Worship, probably.  I love watching all the kids get up and dance!
  4. Biggest challenge?
    1. I was really self-conscious at the beginning.  It took awhile for me to get outside my box and allow myself to be silly.
  5. Has volunteering here changed your outlook on anything?  If so, what/how?
    1. Before coming to LLH, I never really thought volunteering was for me.  Once I got here, though, I realized that volunteering is easy when you’re working with an organization you believe in.  Now I can’t help but think the best way to make an impact is to just focus on your passions.
  6. Would you recommend LLH to others in the community?  If so, who and why?
    1. I would recommend LLH to anyone looking for a way to give back, but I think teenagers who maybe aren’t quite ready to give up playtime (like me) would really connect with the students.

Thanks for everything you do, Nicole! You are a gem and the Little Light House is blessed to have you!

From the Heart of a Parent: Michael’s Story

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By: Kristina Marriott

John von Goethe said it best, “In all things it is better to hope than to despair,“ but Goethe did not have a special needs child to care for. In today’s modern world it is so easy to lose hope, no matter who you are. As a family with a special needs child, we hear the words “limitations” and “cannot” by doctors, science, and our social culture on a daily basis.  However, there is a place that provides strength when families are weak, peace when overwhelmed, and hope when all seems lost. A guiding light in the darkest storms, a place one can call home, a place called The Little Light House.

Our oldest child and only son, Michael, was born on a rainy Thursday morning, October 18 of 2007. He was a hefty 9lbs 10oz, but considered very healthy. Naturally due to his size, he was slow to hit a few developmental milestones. However, he crawled, cruised, bounced, and at one time even talked. However, he soon lost all those abilities. So our journey begins. Medical test after medical test, tear after tear, question after question, Michael was finally diagnosed with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS) also known as 22q13 deletion, at the age of 2.  Somewhere between doctors’ visits, hospital visits, and therapy, we put Michael on the waiting list for the Little Light House.

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We were excited that such a place existed for our son, but we had our doubts of even getting in; the waiting list was just so long.  I remember getting his waiting list letter, and through two major house moves that piece of paper stayed on our fridge for 1 year, 10 months, and 16 days.  One day, when checking the mail, an envelope caught my attention immediately. The envelope was white written in black ink and in cursive, addressed to The Marriott Family. The envelope was damp and practically pealed open. I pulled out the letter, unfolded it, and read the first three lines. I collapsed on the floor in tears. I couldn’t even finish reading the letter. Hysterically, I pulled myself off the floor, walked towards our fridge, removed the magnet holding the waiting list letter, and held the two papers in my hand. I quickly compared the dates and while still in tears, happily threw away the waiting list letter. It was finally Michael’s turn!

The transition to the Little Light House was a bit rough on us. We thought we knew what was best for him. He was completely dependent upon us and our extensive schedule centered on him.  The first year was rocky, but he made progress towards interacting with others, self-feeding, and becoming more independent.  The entire staff knew exactly how to push Michael in the right ways and helped us understand that Michael is capable of so much more than what science labels him as.

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The second and third year has been nothing short of amazing.  Every morning Michael starts his day out at the Little Light House with visiting the gym and bouncing on the trampoline. He then walks assisted to the slide and gradually climbs up, with minor help, to slide down. From there he walks to his class room with minor assistance to start his day.  He really is like any other active little boy, he just wants to have fun and explore life. If you would ask any teacher who the biggest child is, Michael’s name is sure to come up, but he is not just large in size, but in personality.  Each day he grows a little more; each day he gains a new friend. His smile grows a little bit bigger and his ambitions a little larger. As of last week, Michael has been walking UNASSISTED from his class room, through the hallway, and outside to our car. Nothing short of a miracle in my eyes and it is hard to believe this is his last year.

It is funny that what the Little Light House does not tell you, is that although they work with our children daily, in the end they really help your family as a whole. They have taught us so much, they have provided us with resources we did not even know existed, and they have continued to support us as a family. We are so sad, and yet so happy, that Michael will be graduating in just a few short weeks. The Little Light House has provided us a community, a system of close friends, that is forever with us. We are transitioning to Broken Arrow Public schools and although we are not sure what the future holds, we will face it head on.  If you gain anything from this article may it be the message and reminder of hope. Not every day is good, not every day is easy, but we are blessed that tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to try again. The best words I can share with you are Promoveo Promovi Promotum, which translates to push forward, move ahead, and advance.

Volunteer Spotlight: Tou Chang

Mr. Tou has been volunteering in the Yellow Class at the Little Light House since 2011. He faithfully comes every Monday and Thursday afternoon to serve some of our youngest kiddos. To say that Tou is dedicated to the work of the yellow class is an understatement. He consistently is there to support both the students and teachers alike, however they need.  He works late

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hours at his personal job, yet still manages to come each week, always making the LLH a priority. Even when we know he must be exhausted, it never shows in his appearance or performance. He is always ready to help with any additional projects or tasks, whatever they may be. He routinely helps with our staff kids involved in the SKIP program which requires him to come on Fridays as well. Each student that has the opportunity to work with him enjoys that time immensely.

Volunteering is just one of the roles Tou plays at our school- he also serves as an ambassador. He is continually recruiting others in the community to get involved with our school. The youth group he mentors has taken projects home over school breaks, and now his brother is volunteering weekly, too! He also gets involved with some of our annual fundraisers, such as Laps for Little Ones. Tou collects money for our school and encourages others to get involved raising funds and awareness.

Aside from giving his time, Tou often brings supplies and snacks for the class. He even provided a microwave for Yellow Class when they were in need. For all of his amazing work, Tou was awarded with the Children’s Services Volunteer of the Year award in 2013 at our annual awards banquet, but we truly cannot thank him enough.

The Little Light House is so blessed to have Tou, and others like him, who help serve our children and carry out our Mission. We could not do what we do without the dedicated hearts of passionate volunteers.

Links for Little Ones 2014

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In less than a month the Little Light House will be hosting its 27th annual Links for Little Ones at Golf Club of Oklahoma on June 16, 2014. As one of the best golf tournaments in Tulsa, Links for Little Ones provides businesses and individuals the opportunity to support children with special needs by playing a relaxing round of golf at the beautiful Golf Club of Oklahoma.

We are so thankful for our ever faithful Premier Sponsor, Paradigm Realty Advisors, who year after years continues to support our golf tournament. This year, McAlister’s Deli is sponsoring a Sweet Tea booth out on Hole #1 for our golfers to receive complimentary sweet tea while golfing. No better way to spend a Monday in June than playing golf on a beautiful course, competing and winning prizes!Links at Golf Club of OK

It’s not to late to register for this fantastic event! There are still a few spots open! If you would like to inquire about sponsoring or playing at this event, please email our Events Coordinator, Erin Gebhard, at egebhard@littlelighthouse.org or call us at (918) 664-6746.

As always, we have SO MANY amazing people to thank here at the Little Light House! Every week, our community reaches out to us in countless ways. We are blessed with all sorts of items including paper goods, coffee and snacks for our volunteers, toys, and even scrapbooking materials to be used for classroom art projects. We literally could not function without these donations, and we are so incredibly grateful for every single one. We would like to shine a light on 2 groups that have blessed us so far this month!

Blog_emilyNathanielTwo of our incredibly faithful classroom volunteers, Emily and Nathaniel, blew us away when they presented us with this colorful sensory wall for our students to enjoy. Our kiddos are having an absolute blast exploring it, and our staff has enjoyed using it as a teaching tool. As if their efforts on the sensory wall weren’t enough, they also presented us with a check from the remainder of the funds they raised for the project. Emily and Nathaniel continue to go above and beyond here at the Little Light House every week. We are so fortunate to have them working alongside us!

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Every year, we have the opportunity to host Monte Cassino students for a tour of our school and music time with our students. Our kiddos love interacting with them! It’s definitely a day that we all look forward to. This year, they surprised us with coin boxes that they worked diligently to fill in support of our special students. Here, you see them proudly presenting us with their coin boxes. We can’t wait to host them again next year!

We are beyond blessed at LLH!

 

Kid Corner: Eli Luper

“Eli Syndrome: By Will Luper”

 

Eli Gideon Luper… where to start? Eli is a pretty special little guy and just about anyone who meets him falls in love with his infectious enthusiasm and loving nature. He was born on March 15, 2008 and weighed a healthy 7 lbs 7oz. Due to the nature of most c-sections, Eli had some immediate breathing complications. After a week or two in NICU monitoring his breathing progression and helping him feed naturally, Eli was released and we happily rushed him home.

It was apparent immediately after birth that there was something going on with Eli. He had some cranial structure abnormalities, seemed to be a bit delayed in areas and had some posture problems. Along with some physical roadblocks, Eli seemed to be noticeably “distant” and didn’t have much interest in physical bonding.  These minor, but all together problematic, issues were a glimpse of what Eli would be facing now and in the future.

Now for the fun part. Specialists, geneticists,  therapists, pediatricians, and on, and on, and on. We worked hard to make absolutely sure that he was getting all the help he needed to meet milestones. His first couple of years were jam-packed with genetic tests, swallow studies, MRIs, X-rays, and allergy testing. You name it, and most likely his mother and I were studying it—finding a way to get him evaluated, tested, and treated.

Our motto was to take everything one day at a time, champion the little victories, and to keep looking for clues. It took me a while to grasp the idea that there was “nothing wrong” with Eli. It was difficult to watch Eli struggle and lag behind. BUT… as his mother, Karen, kept telling me, Eli is perfect just the way he is. God doesn’t make mistakes and Eli is just Eli. We often joked when people asked us what his diagnosis was, that he has Eli Syndrome.

Eli’s broad range of little setbacks made it difficult to pin down a diagnosis. All of his genetic tests came back negative. He progressed well in therapies. He was, for the most part, always happy to just be Eli. At 4 years of age Eli was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Phew!! Now we could call it something. Although Autism Spectrum Disorder is probably one of the most broad and all-encompassing diagnoses, it is at least something. One more step towards unlocking “Eli Syndrome”. So, here we are today.

For the most part our day-to-day life isn’t too different from yours. We just stay a little extra busy and get to have a bit more fun than you do! We and Eli have had the privilege of being part of the LLH family for three years. After being on the waiting list for a year and a half, now that he is in the program, Eli is able to have the consistency that we hadn’t been able to provide on our own. The progress we’ve seen in these three years has been nothing less than monumental. He is absolutely the most intelligent and loving child that I’ve had the joy to meet—and we get to call him son.

We have been so blessed by having this little guy as a part of our journey, and those blessings have only been amplified by everything the LLH stands for. We won’t be missing everyone when Eli heads on to “big boy school”—because we aren’t going anywhere! The LLH is our family now, and all who have grown to love Eli can expect to get lots of hugs for a long time to come. We truly love this place for how it has blessed our family, and now the responsibility falls on us to make sure that the mission grows. Here’s to a fantastic year for Eli and the Little Light House!

Lessons from a Kindergartener

Monday morning, as I was sitting in my office, I received a page over the intercom that would alter the course of my day. I could hear our receptionist, Sharon, saying, “Ciera, please come to the front of the building, and be sure to bring your camera!” My immediate thought was “Someone must have brought in the final amount of money we need to break ground!” I nearly ran the five yards it took for me to get from my office to the front. Only, upon getting to the front desk it was not a huge check I saw. There were no businessmen or women waiting to have their picture taken with our Executive Director, and I didn’t see the entire staff out there celebrating with tears in their eyes. Little did I know what I was about to find was equally as rewarding.

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As I approached the front of the building, Tessa, a little blonde haired Kindergarten girl, awaited me with a big smile on her face, glowing with excitement. She had come straight from school to deliver a special gift for the Little Light House students. Our volunteer coordinator, Erin asked Tessa to share with me her amazing story. Tessa responded in her sweet voice said, “I opened up a store, and made 23 whole dollars!” Tessa had visited the LLH the previous year as a K4 student, and wanted to have her very own fundraiser for our students. So, this sweet little Kindergartener used her weekend to open up her very own storefront at her grandparent’s home to raise money for the LLH. With her family as her most loyal customers, Tessa sold her things and raised a whole $23 for our students.

She was met by Jean Winfrey our Executive Director, who confidently shared with Tessa what a difference she makes in the lives of our students, and how her $23 donation helps the LLH to be able to continue to do so many wonderful things. We snapped a quick picture of sweet Tessa alongside Jean, and bid her farewell, but I couldn’t help but continue to play her story in my mind throughout the remainder of my day. I was challenged, and hope you will be too.

You see, Tessa gave more than just $23 dollars that day; she gave of her possessions, she gave of her time, and she gave of her gentle and kind spirit. She, only a year older than the very students we serve, gave everything she had to help them. I was instantly reminded of the story of the widow in Luke, chapter two: “Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “… poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

The truth is, it really is the kindness and generosity of each and every volunteer, donor and community member that keep the Little Light House’s doors open and our services thriving. I’d like to take a moment to speak on behalf of each and every staff member and parent of our sweet students in saying “thank you.” No matter how big or small your gift has been, whether it has been through supporting us financially, volunteering your time, or serving us through your prayers, you are appreciated. Daily we are reminded of the goodness of our great God by the wonderful things each of you do for our beautiful students. May you be blessed in all of your endeavors and met with His grace every step of your way. Please never forget that you are valued. You are appreciated. You truly make a difference.

DEFINING PROGRESS

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Progress. It’s a word we often hear but rarely truly are able to acknowledge. It’s hard to see progress when it isn’t immediate. We live in a world where time is of the essence, and often patience isn’t something we practice. Why should we? Anything we need, we can typically get in an instant. If we need to get in touch with a family member, we pick a phone. If we need to find the answer to a question, we talk with our trusty friend, Google. However, with our children, especially our special children, answers don’t always come immediately; in fact they rarely do.

You may spend hours upon hours repeating the same activity over and over again with your special child, and it appears nothing is happening. Be encouraged. You may have been told time and time again that the work that you’re doing won’t see many benefits. Be encouraged. You may question if it’s worth all of the heartache and hard work if your child isn’t responding to what you’re doing. Be encouraged. The Bible tell us in Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Be encouraged. Jesus instructs us to be patient, because He, the very one who gave his life as a ransom for our own, knows that things take time.

Keep yourself encouraged. You must remember that your child has been created with purpose. Your child has a destiny. The Israelites walked around the walls of Jericho 13 times, before they saw their progress. For seven days, they marched. When you feel like giving up, remember you may just be approaching your “seventh day”.

As you’re waiting to see progress and practicing patience remember this, some quit due to slow progress, never grasping the fact that slow progress is still progress. Don’t give up. Be encouraged.

 

 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Molly Smith

 

 ”The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

MollySmith_Pic_1While still in college at the University of Oklahoma, Molly started working at the Little Light House in 2006 as an associate teacher in the Orange Class. Upon completion of her Bachelor of Science in Multi-Disciplinary Studies, she decided that the Little Light House would be home to her career and has since served as the Waiting List Coordinator, Community Relations and Events Coordinator. In May of 2011, she took over her current role as the Director of Development.

In her role, Molly oversees the Department of Development, which includes: fundraising, all LLH events, grant writing, community relations, and donor appreciation.  Through the work done in her department the word is getting out about the LLH and the doors are able to stay open through the generosity of our community.

“I never thought I would work in fundraising. I always viewed it as a difficult job that would require a lot of stress and worry, but fundraising at the Little Light House is so different than I expected it to be,” said Molly. “I’ve found that God provides for the children through generous people who truly want to give. When I simply trust in God to bring in the funds they are always there, so I can work without worrying where our funds will come from.”

As a member of the Social Media Team for the Association for Fundraising Professionals, and having served on the board for the Christian Leadership Alliance, Molly has played a role in the success of the non-profit community in Tulsa. “It’s so rewarding to have a career that directly impacts the families of children with special needs and their ability to receive services that they need,” said Molly. “I feel like what I do enables our teachers and therapists to continue what they do best, which helps every child reach those goals.”

 

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