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.”

 

READY OR NOT

GOING VIRAL: You’re an Overcomer!

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If you’ve ever visited the Little Light House you know that we have 64 children who are very special. They aren’t special simply because of their physical or mental handicaps, their diagnosis’, or their their developmental delays, but rather because they are overcomers. On any given day as you walk down our hallways, you will find a certain four year old in a wheelchair, flashing his shy smile as he races his teacher down to the gym. You will find a spunky little red-head who loves to show off her outfit of the day for everyone to Carson_overcomercompliment. You will find two best friends, holding hands as they travel from one classroom activity to another. Yes, the children above may have been diagnosed with Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome or have heart defects, but you won’t see that defining them. The moment you see the joy that is so often glued to their faces, it’s hard to even see their disability. Instead, you will see the truth behind each and every of one their successes; you will see that they are overcomers.
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It’s no secret that Mandisa, the former American Idol contestant and Christian Music Star, is a favorite at the Little Light House. Our kids love singing and dancing to her hit song, “Good Morning“, each and every morning. And so, it should come as no surprise that this week’s viral video pick comes from Mandisa herself. We’ve chosen her music video “Overcomer” as the video to watch this week. Just like each of our special children overcome obstacles each and every day, so do so many others out there. No matter the circumstance you’re going through, you are an overcomer! Keep your head high, your fight alive, and your faith in the one who created you, and you will soon see your victory! Grab some tissues, sit back and watch our video pick of the week!

GOING VIRAL: The Kickoff

 

In a world where over 600 million people have laughed through “Charlie Bit My Finger,” and nearly 25% of the planet have danced to “Gangnam Style,” there is no discrediting the fact that great stories are easy to be found. Though far too often we find ourselves surrounded by messages or war, death and heartache, the world still has so much good to give. We are privileged to see it in the lives of 64 students each and every day.

“At the Little Light House we believe in hope!”

We love to laugh, sing, dance and share our joy. We know that though our students may be different than most, they have quite the story to tell. In fact, there are special people all around the world who have stories that need to be shared; and we want to invite you to be the audience.

We invite you to join with us every week as we seek out the most inspirational stories from across the globe and share them with you! Every Friday afternoon you can see the videos that left us in tears, laughing, and hopeful for the future. You deserve to hear a good message every now and then, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Get ready for the tears everyone, here is our video of the week!

 

 

Though Rachel may have won Homecoming Queen back in 2010, her story still inspires us today. Every year we hear of more and more boys and girls with special needs being honored by their classmates. We hope when our special little ones are old enough, they’ll be honored just the same.

We’ll see you here next Friday, friends!

A Time for Thanksgiving

The grocery store clerk.

Your high school teacher.

Your favorite aunt.

The color yellow.

There are so many wonderful things to be thankful for. 

Logging on to social media feeds during the month of November should always leave you feeling encouraged. It’s nearly impossible to scroll through your Facebook timeline without someone posting what they are thankful for each day and celebrating the month with so much gratitude. Often in the fast-paced world we live in, we forget to give thanks for the big things in our lives, much less the things that may seem miniscule. We are surrounded with news stories highlighting school lockdowns, unfortunate shootings or never ending debates between party politics. But, November…November is different. It seems when November rolls around people begin to see through different lenses. Mankind begins to see how God intended us to, out of gratitude.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

At the Little Light House we operate completely by faith. Each and every day we pray that God would show up in our lives, in the lives of every student, family member and volunteer. For 41 years He has met the needs of this place, and made allowance for so many miracles to happen here. It’s only by His grace and the love of our community that we are able to serve so many precious children. Because God has been so good to us, and continues to do so, we want to make sure we are giving Him the thanks He so readily deserves. So every day during the month of November we will be joining in with the rest of the country to show our gratitude, and we’d love for you to come alongside us.

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You can join in the fun by using the hashtag #llhgivesthanks and sharing what you are thankful for! Follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds for all of our fun updates! If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for each day, remember it doesn’t have to be hard; “in everything give thanks.”

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For the Postman.

For the Policeman.

For the Fireman.

For every man.

Staff Spotlight: Linda Steed

“It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God.”- C.S. Lewis

 

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It is truly a blessing to have staff who have dedicated so many years of their life to the mission of the Little Light House. They have poured hours upon hours of persistence into seeing each child who walks through our doors succeed. They have seen miracles happen, and know that often these successes take time. For seventeen years, Linda Steed has been dedicating exactly that to this organization, her time.

In 1974, Linda Steed completed her studies at the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy. For nearly 40 years, she has used her education is this field to serve as a licensed physical therapist in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After spending six months in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan consulting with families with children with developmental delays and ministering as a physical therapists in three countries, her journey at the Little Light House began. Since 1996, Linda has served in several different roles at the Little Light House both in Children’s Services and in Administration giving her a unique understanding of the ministry as a whole.

LindaSteedLinda has provided hands on physical therapy to the children of the LLH for 14 of her 17 years, often simultaneous to her various other responsibilities. She currently functions as a physical therapist and serves as the Director of Global Outreach. As a physical therapists Linda seeks innovative ways for the students participate in the appropriate developmental activities and feels that in order to motivate the kids to “do their therapy” it should be fun. “Most of our kids will need physical therapy all of their lives,” said Linda. “When they hit a growth spurt and more intense therapy is needed, I do not want them to resist because, as a 10 year old girl told me once, ‘I don’t want to go to therapy. I have had therapy all of my life and I am tired of it!’ and she was right, she had had therapy all of her life. I don’t want our students to feel that way when they are 10 or 14 years old.”

As Director of Global Outreach Linda has planned, led and taught in 10 of the 11 international training trips the Little Light House has taken since 1999. These trips have involved six different countries. Through the International Intern program, Linda has supervised 23 international interns representing eight nations. Since 1998, she has helped the LLH to host over 40 international delegates from 30 nations through the International Visitors program

We are honored to have Linda on our LLH team. Here experience, education and passion for helping children with special needs all across the world contribute greatly to the success of our students and organization.

Mini-Laps 2013: A Day to Celebrate!

At 11:16 am Saturday, September 21, it would’ve been hard to find a single dry eye at the Little Light House. At that exact moment time a very special child was approaching her last leg around a mini-track located in the back of the school building; though, this track was not so mini to her. Having Spina Bifida doesn’t make life easy for Kadence. The developmental congenital disorder makes it difficult for her to develop the muscle tone needed to walk or stand. However, Kadence is a happy, smart and talkative four year-old, she just happens to have spent the majority of her small life getting around via a wheelchair. As far as everyone knew, September 21 would be no exception.

Kadence went around the track with a float built around her wheelchair. She was a cotton candy vender.

Kadence went around the track with a float built around her wheelchair. She was a cotton candy vendor.

 

This Saturday was different than most for LLH families and staff members. Instead of sleeping in, watching morning cartoons or making a big breakfast, parents spent the morning getting their children dressed in their carnival costumes and ready for their big debut, and staff arrived at property to set up for the most exciting event of the year, Mini-Laps. On this day all 64 LLH children are invited to take one lap around the mini-track as the Tulsa community celebrates them. No one looks at their disability, no one focuses on what they’ve been told they couldn’t do, instead everyone joins together cheering, clapping and celebrating each and every child for exactly who we know them to be, children full of potential. On the 21st of September, over 250 people celebrated each child who made their way around the mini-track. The cheers were to celebrate milestones in their lives, learning to crawl, walk, communicate and gain independence.

 

Each child dressed in costume for the big event. From strong men, to balloon venders and clowns, we had it all!

Each child dressed in costume for the big event. From strong men, to balloon vendors and clowns, we had it all!

During the last few feet of her lap around the LLH mini-track, Kadence decided it was time to show everyone how much she has grown. Last year, Kadence took her lap in her wheelchair. This year started off exactly the same. However, as our emcees, Marcia Mitchell and Scott Burnett, began to tell the crowd of Kadence’s family’s desire to see her walk, Kadence stopped her wheelchair. Having worked with her therapists for quite some time, she was ready to show everyone what she could do. Kadence stepped out of her wheelchair, grabbed hold of her walker, and took a step. For the next 60 seconds, the crowd roared as Kadence walked ten feet to the finish line. She, along with the other 63 beautiful children at the LLH proved one very important thing, that they are overcomes.

Kadence walked her final 10 feet to the finish line!

Kadence walked her final 10 feet to the finish line!

Mini-Laps is more than just a fundraiser. It is a day unlike any other. For many of the children and families who come through the LLH, Mini-Laps is the one day of the year that their child is the most celebrated. It is the day where every accomplishment that the rest of the world may view as small, is recognized as a milestone. It is a day where families can come together as a community of believers; believers in hope, in joy, and ultimately, believers in the potential that each and every child with special needs will flourish.

Our kiddos loved the cheers from the audience as they made their way around the track.

Our kiddos loved the cheers from the audience as they made their way around the track.

We at the LLH want to send a big thank you to all of the supporters of Mini-Laps. Your prayers, financial contributions and encouragement are what keep our organization going strong and allow us to meet the needs of so many of the world’s most special children.

Click here to find out more on the success of Mini-Laps 2014! 

 

 

Staff Spotlight: Lindsey Kirk

At the Little Light House we often highlight the successess that our students are having in the classroom and the teachers, associates and therapists that help to get them there. However, without members of the administration and development team, the LLH would have a hard time keeping its doors open. Lindsey Kirk, the Director of Operations plays a key role in the daily functions of the LLH.

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With a background in special education, Lindsey brings a great deal of field knowledge to the administrative team at the LLH. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma with her Bachelor of Science in Special Education, Lindsey began working in Edmond, Oklahoma doing private Autism therapy. She later moved to Tulsa where she began teaching special education in the public school system. After feeling called by God, Lindsey joined our team at the Little Light House just two years ago.

Since her time here, Lindsey has made a tremendous impact, and serving as the Director of Operations requires her to wear many hats. Lindsey assists the Executive Director and oversees the day-to-day functions of the facility, policies and procedures. Along with that, Lindsey serves as the coordinator of the college and university program, which involves over 1,000 students each year.

“I can’t imagine working anywhere else,” Lindsey said. “Watching our children reach milestones to miracles every day is truly amazing…the students teach us more than we will ever teach them.” Lindsey is excited for what the new school year holds for the students and families of everyone at the Little Light House, and we are excited to have her passion and expertise on our team.