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Sunflowers Invest in Kids begins fourth campaign for children with delays
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McKinley Phillips, Sunflower Early Education Center teacher, helps Orion Edwards, 2, with his communication skills. Donations to Sunflowers Invest in Kids Club are used to directly help children with developmental delays. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

            When Orion Edwards first started attending the Sunflower Diversified Services Early Education Center (EEC) in September last year, he wasn’t using any words. He was just turning 2.

          Orion was frustrated that he couldn’t let anyone know what he needed or wanted, and would sometimes strike out.

          What a difference a few months makes.

          “Our early intervention specialists started working with Orion on signs and one-word utterances,” said Cathy Estes, Sunflower children’s services coordinator. “These specialists are reporting that he is now using two-word phrases to communicate with his family. The next step is three-word phrases.

          “His frustration level is way down and he is learning to express emotions without becoming physical,” Estes added. “Orion is not the same little boy we first met last year.”

          This is the type of success story that results from donations to Sunflower’s Invest in Kids Club. This year’s fundraising campaign for the club officially began at the recent Sunflower Charity Gala, with a $60,000 goal.

          “This is our fourth campaign and we trust local and area residents will continue to be generous,” said Jim Johnson, Sunflower executive director. “Tax dollars simply cannot keep pace with our growing needs, and private contributions make it possible to ensure opportunities will always be available to children such as Orion.”

          All Invest in Kids donations go directly to the EEC and Sunflower’s Incredible Years Preschool.

          In 2013, nearly 200 referrals were made to Sunflower for children’s evaluations and services.

          “Clearly, these services are extremely important to families in our area,” Johnson said. “Parents have the right to expect our professional staff will be here for them.

          “A child with a developmental delay also has a right to the services we provide,” Johnson continued. “We can help eliminate, or at the very least, alleviate that delay. This generous community has supported children at Sunflower for 48 years and we know we can count on them in the future.”

          The Invest in Kids Club began in 2011 when Barton County Commissioners cut Sunflower’s funding, Johnson said. During that first year, the goal was $60,000 to replace what was lost; proceeds came to $61,413.16.

          The next year the goal was $50,000 and the total raised came to $50,934.30; last year the goal was $50,000 and the total raised was $54,264.50.

          “It is so gratifying that our local and area residents understand how important these early education services are,” Johnson commented. “We appreciate every single contribution and donors can be assured their money is being used directly for children in our service area.

          “Many donors also understand that because of Sunflower’s services, tax dollars will be saved in the future,” Johnson noted. “When we can eliminate or alleviate delays, in many cases the children will not need expensive special education when they start school.”

          Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.

          For more information about Invest in Kids, contact Chairwoman Julie Spray by calling 620-793-5533.