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Young Redbird finds her voice with help from SECA charity Easter Seals

image of Alice, Ryan, and Theresa Denham

Alice, Ryan, and Theresa Denham

The State Employee Combined Appeal (SECA) provides all state and university employees the opportunity to donate to the charitable causes directly through their employer. Illinois State participates each year, giving our Redbird family members the chance to support their favorite charities through one-time donations or payroll deduction.

Who does SECA help? Redbirds like Alice Denham, the 3-year-old daughter of Illinois State alum Theresa (Kurzeja) Denham ’10 and ISU staff member Ryan Denham. Here’s her story, as told by her parents:

When you have kids, it’s easy to lose yourself down the Rabbit Hole of Worry.

“Oh no, my 2-year-old isn’t sharing her toys. The other kids aren’t going to like her in school. She’s not going to have friends. She’s going to be a loner. She’s going to live in our basement until she’s 47.”

Our family almost got lost in a Rabbit Hole of Worry too, but we didn’t. We didn’t because of Easter Seals of Central Illinois and the people and programs that make it such a special place.

image of Alice Denham

Alice Denham

First, let’s introduce you to our daughter, Alice. She’s an amazing kid. Sharp as a tack. Started making jokes at age 2. More observant than the NSA. She has a lot to say to the world.

Unfortunately, the world can’t really understand her yet. She was diagnosed at age 2 with an expressive language disorder—basically, she can’t produce speech like other kids her age. She loves to talk, but the average person can’t understand most of it. If you ask her name, she says it’s “Abiss.”

Sometimes it’s cute, but mostly it’s worrisome. We, her parents, can understand her most of the time. But what if she needs to tell a stranger something important? What if she’s out with relatives and needs help?

Our biggest worry, of course, is what happens when she starts to notice the other kids saying they can’t understand her. Will she retreat socially? How will that impact her future?

After her diagnosis, in 2015 we began weekly in-home speech therapy sessions through Easter Seals. Alice’s therapists, Kelsey Lutes and later Jacquelyn Liggett, M.S. ’13, found all sorts of creative games and ideas to get her engaged with her exercises. She loved when they visited.

Day by day, week by week, Alice made progress.

In 2016 we joined a weekly Easter Seals play group for children with speech issues. It was the best of both worlds: Alice socialized with other kids and worked on her speech.

Day by day, week by week, Alice made progress. Her babbling became 2-word combinations, then 3-word phrases, then sentences. Strangers may not be able to understand her just yet, but now her grandparents do, and a few others. That’s progress.

Most valuably, those Easter Seals therapy sessions and play group meetings prepared Alice for where she is today—a special phonology class in Unit 5 school district. Her experiences with Easter Seals made her comfortable in a school setting accustomed to doing exercises. We’re grateful for that.

We still didn’t realize the full impact of Easter Seals on our community until we took Alice to the organization’s Walk With Me fundraiser at Hancock Stadium this year. Everywhere we looked we saw friends, coworkers, neighbors—people we had no idea were touched by the challenges that Easter Seals helps you face.

Easter Seals is one of the charities employees can support through SECA. Give at SECA.IllinoisState.edu.

Our family is aware of how lucky we are, that unintelligible speech is the greatest challenge in Alice’s path. But we’re parents. We worry.

Now we’re hopeful too. And we know she’s ready for anything.

You can’t put a price on that feeling, but it costs money. That’s why we urge you to support SECA charities like Easter Seals. Programs like these, and professionals like Kelsey and Jacquelyn, are worth the investment.

Give now at SECA.IllinoisState.edu.

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