‘A little closer to the finish line’
Group offers ‘HOPE’ for children with challenges
Six years ago, after a day of fun at Kings Dominion, Connor Smith suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident just outside the park that injured and killed other passengers in the car.
Then seven years old, Connor was in a coma for months, then spent another several months emerging from the coma and painstakingly trying to re-learn speech and movement.
When he was finally discharged from the hospital, it took a huge van just to transport the equipment and supplies Connor needed for a mere overnight trip.
But today, says his mother, “Connor can pack a bag, his forearm crutch and his wheelchair and [be] on his way.”
While he still struggles with balance, coordination, speech, processing, memory and retrieval, Cheryl Smith terms her son’s recovery and continued progress as “truly an answer to prayers lifted up at the crash site.”
Much of that progress, says Smith, is due to the therapy Connor has received through an organization called the Richmond Hope Foundation.
Founded in 2006 to provide H.O.P.E. (“Helping families afford therapy, Optimizing patient’s potential, Providing superior quality therapy services, Embracing the needs of patients”) for families of children with special therapy needs, the Innsbrook-based foundation has provided more than $100,000 in scholarships.
Connor Smith’s scholarships enabled him to participate in a program called intensive therapy, which focuses on stretching, proper alignment, and targeted strengthening exercises -- performed three or more hours a day, five days a week for three weeks.
Because the Smith family lives three hours away in western Virginia, a three-week trip to the Richmond Hope Therapy Center (RHTC) requires detailed planning and juggling of schedules.
“But [it’s] worth it because of the gains Connor makes at Hope each time,” says Cheryl Smith. “In addition, the therapists are so knowledgeable that we address equipment, splints, related therapies and programs that carry over to home therapies and school.”
The week after his sixth and most recent therapy session, Connor was able to attend a Young Life Capernaum Camp for five days and nights.
“Without Mom -- for the first time!” adds his mother. “He zoomed down a zip line into a lake, slid down a huge slide into the lake and swung on a three-person swing at treetop level.”
A hopeful vision
More than 3,000 children like Connor in the Richmond area are eligible for Foundation services because they incur therapy costs that they cannot afford. When factored in with insurance coverage that is often either inadequate or non-existent, expenses such as co-pays, deductibles, and equipment add up in a hurry – to an average tab of $24,000 a year per child.
Wyndham residents Michael and Cindy Richards established the Foundation because Cindy, a physical therapist, was concerned not only about the financial burdens but also about the lack of therapy options for children with cerebral palsy, developmental delays and other special needs. She wanted to start a clinic of her own – one that would integrate all the therapy disciplines to provide a holistic therapeutic approach.
The vision for Richmond Hope Foundation’s future includes acquiring at least 30 acres of land to house a full-service outpatient therapy facility and equestrian center with physical, occupational and speech therapy services, hippotherapy, therapeutic riding, and aquatic therapy. Future plans also include nutrition counseling and support groups for parents.
“It is a huge lofty goal and dream, but we hope one day with the right exposure and awareness someone will come forward and make it a reality,” says Michael Richards of his vision of a land donation.
“For now, we try to help the few children and families we can with our limited resources to receive life-changing therapy by providing families small scholarships.”
Among the most recent fundraisers the organization has held were a May 5k run in Wellesley and a September “Evening at the Vineyard” at James River Cellars.
An upcoming Veteran’s Day golf tournament is the latest in a series of golf outings designed to raise funds for the cause; set for Nov. 11, the tournament will kick off with an 11:11 a.m. registration time at Hunting Hawk Golf Course.
One parent of a scholarship recipient says that before encountering RHTC, she did not believe her son would ever be able to walk independently.
“This therapy . . . was a miracle for Aiden,” says Aiden’s mother. “I believe that RHTC was the catalyst for that miracle.”
The mother of six-year-old Ethan, a scholarship recipient who suffers from hydrocephalus, adds that Center staff can actually make the task of therapy seem like play.
“Richmond Hope Foundation has given [Ethan] the opportunity to continue improving his strength, endurance and balance while making it fun,” says Kristin Pace. “Therapy is a family effort and the entire family looks forward to seeing the therapy center staff and learn[ing] what Ethan has been doing.”
On May 21, Ethan participated in the Wellesley 5k fundraiser – riding for two of the miles on the back of his friend Cindy Richards.
Encouraged to run the rest of the way as they approached the finish line, Ethan completed the race himself while throngs of spectators cheered him on, then proudly declared to Richards, “I beat you!”
“Ethan couldn’t wait to tell his physical therapist about his achievement on Monday,” says Richards, adding, “The help that I gave Ethan during the race was symbolic of what we do at the Richmond Hope Foundation.
“We help a friend lighten the load, and then place the children a little closer to the finish line.
“The children are the real winners.”
The Richmond Hope Foundation Veterans Day Golf Tournament will take place 11/11/11 at Hunting Hawk Golf Club (12:30 p.m. shotgun start).
Citizen Staff Reports 12/03/2013
The region's two premier youth soccer organizations – the Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers – have partnered to create Richmond United, a cost-free U.S. Soccer Development Academy program designed to serve the most talented players in the region. The arrangement marks the first time in U.S. Soccer Development Academy history that two member clubs have united their respective Academy programs.
Slated to begin play in the fall of 2014, Richmond United will field U13/14, U15/16 and U17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. The teams will train and play home games at two of the top soccer specific complexes in the nation, Ukrop Park and Striker Park. > Read more.
Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen 11/24/2013
Henricus Historical Park has a new, messy guest. Eleanor, a rare five-month-old Tamworth pig, was donated this month to the Chesterfield park by the Chesterfield County Farm Bureau as part of an effort to enhance the living history museum's partnership with the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Eleanor and her livestock pig and goat neighbors at the park will be a special attraction for the schoolchildren and others who visit the Henricus Historical Park. Eventually, she will triple from her current 150-pound weight and grow to about two feet tall. > Read more.
Members of Triangle II, a community service club at Hermitage High School, braved the elements Nov. 16 to serve as a spirit team at the Richmond Marathon, providing half-marathoners with cheers, motivational signs and shouts of encouragement as they ran through Bryan Park. > Read more.
The new AMC television series “TURN” is currently being filmed in and around Richmond, and casting officials are seeking background actors to appear on screen.
“The background actors are profoundly important to the filmmaking process,” said Erica Arvold, casting director. “The show takes place during the Revolutionary War, and background actors contribute to the atmosphere of that era.” > Read more.
American Tap Room’s new Willow Lawn location offers breath-taking atmosphere, but average dishes
On a rare warm night in late November, the newly opened American Tap Room was, to my surprise, bright and packed with guests – many eating outside.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this unheard-of restaurant in an unexpected spot – right in the heart of Willow Lawn. I came to learn it’s not unheard of; it’s a restaurant chain out of Northern Virginia.
“It definitely improves the look of Willow Lawn,” said my friend, who ventured to the new spot with me on a Monday night for dinner one week after the restaurant opened. > Read more.
Free Birds offers some giggles, but more eye-rolling
Thanksgiving season is upon us – a time for friends, family, and recklessly indulgent overeating. As we settle into our annual turkey-induced food coma, there’s no better time to take in a festive holiday film. And Free Birds, for better or worse, has the distinguished honor of being one of the only Thanksgiving-themed movies currently on the market.
The film stars Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson as Reggie and Jake, two turkeys who can’t stand the Thanksgiving tradition of watching their neighbors be plucked and served for dinner. > Read more.
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