Category Archives: Non-profits

Preschool Partners empowers parents and children

By MARY NOBLES HANCOCK

Preschool Partners

PreSchool Partners teacher and Mountain Brook resident Loretta Keller with some of her students. Photo courtesy of PreSchool Partners.

In 1995 a group of Birmingham City Schools volunteer tutors from Mountain Brook realized a problem:  The children they were tutoring were lacking the essential skills necessary for success.  Wanting to give children a head start on a successful life, volunteers Bill Black and Jeannette Hancock created PreSchool Partners, a special preschool for at-risk children.  The program targets children from the Norwood and Whatley communities and has always been supported by many in the Mountain Brook community.

“The most rewarding part of working at PreSchool Partners is that I feel like I am making a difference,” said teacher and Mountain Brook resident Angel Garrett. “We test the children at the very beginning of the school year and then again at the end.  It is just amazing to see the progress they make.”

PreSchool Partners works to equip 70 children, ages three and four, each year with the skills necessary to begin kindergarten. In addition to teaching reading, numbers, shapes and colors, the program also focuses on general behavior, computer skills, music, art and dance. Continue reading

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Emma’s dreams of balance beams

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

Emma Planson, who is blind, learns gymnastics techniques with assistances from Hailey McManus at Mountain Brook Gymnastics. Photo courtesy of Lori Planson.

When Lori Planson approached Mountain Brook Gymnastics about her daughter, Emma, taking gymnastics, the gym’s staff didn’t hesitate to say yes. It didn’t matter to the coaches and board of directors that Emma was blind.

“When she came to me, it wasn’t a question of if we would teach Emma but of how was the best way to go about it,” board of directors vice president Chantal McManus said.

Emma, a kindergartner who attends public school, was born with Bilaterial Microphthalmia. She wears prosthetic eyes with a clear pupil, which allow her to use her residual vision.

Just as Emma learns Braille and other non-visual methods at school, she learns gymnastics through auditory and tactile methods. Continue reading

Alabama Forever continues momentum for relief and recovery in state

By LAURA CANTERBURY

Volunteers work in Pratt City with Alabama Forever. Photo by Stacey Willis.

No one in the state of Alabama could have predicted the outcome of the April 27 tornadoes that ripped through so many communities in our area. Many people were moved to help the cities that were affected, but not too many people I know quit their regular job to truly make a difference in the lives of people who they didn’t even know. Alex Sokol did just that.

“On the afternoon of April 27, I had no idea my life was about to change,” he said.  “As I watched James Spann report on the outbreak of tornadoes in our state, I realized something bigger than the state of Alabama was happening.”
He went along to help a friend the next morning in Tuscaloosa clear debris, and he couldn’t believe what he saw. Continue reading

Bumper stickers support Clinic 8 at Children’s Hospital

By KARI KAMPAKIS

Bumper Stickers

Front row: Lucy Hollman (age 11), Rollins Wilkerson (age 4). Back Row: Ann Holman, Charlotte Langley and Jane Cooper. Bumper stickers are available at local stores including SNAP Kids. Photo by Madoline Markham.

You never know when inspiration will hit a creative type. For Mountain Brook artist Jane Timberlake Cooper, it came while reading a story in February’s Village Living.

Titled “Cupcakes, Chemo, and Courage,” the article chronicled Brooke Wilkerson’s journey through cancer with daughter Rollins, who was diagnosed at her two-year-old check-up with childhood leukemia. For more than two years, the Wilkersons visited Children’s Hospital Clinic 8, the hematology/oncology unit. The experience was an emotional roller-coaster that tested and strengthened the family’s faith.
Continue reading

Honoring mothers at Motherwalk

Teal is to ovarian cancer what pink is to breast cancer, and it will be the color that survivors don in Crestline Village for the 8th Annual Motherwalk and carnival festivities on May 7.

“It’s a celebration of life,” said Susan Greene, Executive Director of the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation. “There’s just something special about walking with people whose lives have been touched by ovarian cancer. Through walking, we make a difference.”

All money raised from the walk will benefit the foundation in its efforts to fund research and increase awareness about the risks, symptoms and treatments of this disease.

Signs with information about ovarian cancer symptoms and statistics will be posted along the race route. Cheerleaders will also line the course.

The event is always held the Saturday before Mother’s Day. “It’s a great way to honor all our mothers,” Greene said. Continue reading

Local families share same fight: Tuberous Sclerosis

By Jennifer Gray

Summers Family

Stuart, Thomas, Anna Lauren, Forrest, and Chris Summers. Photo by the Summers family.

Carole Pitard is excited.  She has recently returned to Mountain Brook from Washington DC, where she was lobbying for funding for a cause that she is not only passionate about but is also very personal.  Carole works tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for a disorder known as Tuberous Sclerosis (TS).

Tuberous Sclerosis causes tumors to form in your body such as your brain, eyes, kidneys, liver, lungs and skin.  It causes seizures in 90 percent of TS patients, is the second leading genetic cause of autism and can cause learning and behavioral disorders.  It is estimated that TS occurs in 1 out of 6,000 live births.  Some people have it so mild that they do not realize that they have TS, and some people are affected so severely that they require 24/7 care.

Pitard’s two youngest children have TS. But her family is one of the lucky ones.   “You would never pick my children out of a crowd for something being wrong with them,” she said.   “Even though we deal with brain tumors and seizures, they are thankfully under control due to medications.”

As scary as this disorder is, families living in Birmingham are incredibly lucky.  UAB has one of the few TS clinics in the country.  Opened in April of 2007, the clinic is truly a lifeline for families struggling with TS. Continue reading