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Still time to donate to this years Invest in Kids Club membership drive
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Chelsea Alexander, Sunflower Early Education Center early childhood special education teacher, interacts with Joey Cregger. After receiving early intervention services, the youngster no longer needs special education. The non-profit agencys Invest in Kids Club helps finance services. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

             Shortly after Joey Cregger’s first birthday, his doctor referred him to Sunflower Diversified’s Early Education Center.  By age 3, he had met developmental milestones and no longer needs special education services.

          Joey’s situation is one of many examples of what early intervention can do and why Sunflower’s Invest in Kids Club is so crucial to a child’s success, said Cathy Estes, children’s services coordinator.

          This year’s fundraising campaign is coming to a close and the next will start at the first of the year. Sunflower is still about $10,000 shy of this year’s $60,000 goal.

          “Joey had significant respiratory medical concerns and wasn’t able to grow, which caused delays in multiple areas. But the referral was made soon enough to make a huge difference in his development,” Estes said. “Joey’s early intervention team, which included his mother, developed outcomes and followed a plan for progress.

          “His mom has said she ‘had no idea Joey was going to thrive like this,’” Estes continued. “She can hardly believe he no longer needs special education services. Our staff can believe it, though; Joey is just one example of how important early intervention can be.”

          The youngster’s Sunflower team included Chelsea Alexander, early childhood special education teacher; Liana Colson, physical therapist; and Heather Hoffman, speech pathologist.

          “This professional team’s efforts are enhanced directly because of Invest in Kids,” Estes emphasized. “Without the generosity of individuals and businesses, it would be even more of a financial struggle to keep up with increasing demands.

          “The young brain is as pliable as a ball of clay and 85 percent of brain development occurs by age 3,” Estes elaborated. “Our intervention activities are woven into the family’s routine, and are designed to fit the family and child in their home environment. Joey, and others like him, make tremendous progress in this setting.”

          State and federal funds are available for these expensive therapies and special education but revenues have been substantially reduced.

          Despite the expense, however, all EEC services are free. This is why Invest in Kids donations are critical, Estes said.

          “Anyone can refer a child to us and there is no waiting list. Every child eligible for services will have professionals designing the best plan for the family,” Estes said. “The demands keep growing.”

          The EEC currently serves more than 70 children, age birth to 3.

          Jim Johnson, Sunflower executive director, echoed many of Estes’ comments and noted there is still time to become an Invest in Kids Club member this year.

          “We certainly want to come closer to our goal,” Johnson said. “But we will begin again at the first of the year. Joey and the 300 children and their families that we serve each year are the reasons we cannot relax our fundraising efforts.

          “When we make a significant difference in a child’s life, and give a family the help and hope they need, we have improved lives forever,” Johnson added. “You can’t put a value on that and Invest in Kids members are an integral part of this effort.”

          The EEC is one of 36 tiny-k networks in Kansas; all its services are free in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.