WARSAW — In a fast-paced world with increasing technology aiding in communication, it is easy to lose the personal touch that comes with human interaction. Joe’s Kids is a non-profit organization bridging the gap for those who may be left behind in the rapidly changing world, especially in school-aged children.
After hearing the desperate pleas of dozens of parents whose children needed help with physical, occupational or speech therapy, Executive Director Rebecca Bazzoni realized she needed to do something to help. “I knew that these parents weren’t going to get help elsewhere,” said Bazzoni. There are many children in the world who walk around living normal lives, but may be falling behind in school or daily communications because of special needs, according to Bazzoni.
Joe’s Kids started as a satellite organization with Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehab Center, Valparaiso, but became an independent non-profit in February 2014. Since then, Joe’s Kids has doubled in size, continuing to grow and impact the community in even more ways.
Walking through the doors of Joe’s Kids, there is an overwhelming feeling it is a world crafted for children. Primary colors, compact chairs, obstacle courses and slides, plus creative spaces to draw and color. It is a child’s world packed into a double office building. Behind each colorful plaything is a mighty purpose — to keep kids active, attentive and communicative. Sensory rooms utilize various swings to teach children the power of motion, or how their body operates in relation to space. For many children with special needs, understanding their own body’s movements can be a large challenge. These kids may seem clumsy or disoriented in regular day-to-day functions, but physical activities can aid in this.
An upstairs gym provides plenty of physical activities that teach balance and strength, including kick boxing and a rock wall. With the help of grants and donations from Warsaw Community Church, Joe’s Kids has been able to add needed items to its sensory rooms, gym and speech therapy supplies. Bazzoni also receives funding from the K21 Health Foundation and other local organizations, along with community support.
Bazzoni believes schools do a great job of providing help to their students with special needs, but a school’s method is catered toward helping the child in classes. Indiana First Steps is an early intervention program for children from birth to age 3, but Bazzoni realized how large the need in the area truly is and has also helped with overflow of that age group. The majority of the children who partake in therapy at Joe’s Kids are between the ages of 3 and 12.
Joe’s Kids also offers free developmental screenings for parents who may have noticed delays in their children. Although the organization is a non-profit, Joe’s Kids charges $65 per therapy session. When possible, Joe’s Kids bills to standard insurance and Medicaid, but also offers easy payment plans for children who aren’t covered. For those who struggle with payments, Joe’s Kids can also recommend places to find assistance.
Joe’s Kids continues to raise money each year with two major fundraisers, the 5K Splatter Dash and a large auction. The community can come together to learn more about the organization while helping raise money to pay for the valuable services. Currently, about 80 percent of those receiving therapy at Joe’s Kids are from Kosciusko County, with the other 20 percent traveling up to an hour for treatment.
Bazzoni said her organization is “blessed to have community support,” and is looking ahead to expanding the organization as the need continues to present itself.