Local Nonprofit Provides Physical, Occupational & Speech Therapy
Writer / Julie Yates
Joe’s Kids provides a much-needed service for children up to the age of 18 who have challenges in the areas of physical, sensory, cognitive and speech development. The 501(c)(3) organization, located at 902 Provident Drive, Suite C, in Warsaw provides physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in Kosciusko County plus the 10 counties surrounding it. Joe is an acronym for Join Our Effort.
“Join Our Effort comes from the fact that we can’t do it alone,” explains Executive Director, Rebecca Bazzoni, MS, PT. “We are so grateful for the support of the community. It really has to be a community effort. Small towns can’t support something like this. That’s why children from 10 other counties come to us.”
For seven years, Bazzoni was a physical therapist for First Steps, an early intervention program serving children with developmental delays up to the age of three. During that time, she realized that many children did not meet the cut off qualifications, yet had a real need for services. In addition, First Steps had a waiting list for those that did meet specifications.
“To qualify for First Steps, a child must be two standard deviations below the norm in one area or one and a half standard deviations in two areas,” Bazzoni says. “Many kids who are developmentally delayed don’t qualify and will eventually get further behind without intervention. Also, the sooner a child gets therapy, the quicker they can catch up.”
Since children serviced by Joe’s Kids don’t have to meet the stringent First Steps qualifications, they are able to get help before they fall even farther behind. The same is true with school-aged kids as well. First Steps works with children up to age three, then local school systems test and evaluate. If they don’t qualify for services, they are still behind and need help to reach their full potential.
“In 2013, with the help of Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation in Valparaiso, I started a clinic in Warsaw,” Bazzoni says. “The clinic grew so rapidly that our board and the Jacob’s Ladder board agreed that we needed to be a separate entity. We began as Joe’s Kids in February of 2014 and at that time we saw 60 to 70 children per week. Today we see 300 per week and many travel an hour or more to get here,” says Bazzoni.
Joe’s Kids offers physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy services. For those that need PT, help is provided to increase gross as well as fine motor skills and increase the ability for move around the environment. Sensory processing and self-care are other skills that may be addressed. Speech therapy includes communication, making needs known and even feeding and swallowing. OT strengthens the ability to interact with others and facilitates independent play.
While 60% of the children who participate in Joe’s Kids are below six years old, another 20% are older. A portion is on the waiting list for First Steps. The sooner a child can receive intervention, the better it is for development.
“We would operate at a loss without the support of the community,” Bazzoni says. “It costs about $25 a child for each session. We need $495,000 a year to operate. 70% of our funding comes from insurance or Medicaid reimbursement and 30% comes from grants, donations and fundraising.”
Joe’s Kid’s hosts two annual fundraisers each year. This year their Golf Outing was held in June at Stonehenge Golf at Winona Lake. The Dinner, Tailgate and Auction will be held September 17. More information about attending or being a sponsor at this event is available by calling 574-376-2316.
Currently, two foundations are offering to match the gifts of first-time donors. The Dane and Mary Louise Miller Foundation, Inc. will match donations until $20,000 is reached and The Dekko Foundation will do likewise until its $25,000 cap. This challenge lasts throughout the end of the year and is a great way to triple money given the organization.
“Without help, kids who fall behind will struggle from a young age in school,” Bazzoni adds. “When they participate in appropriate therapies, it can make a difference now and impact their later life. Small towns can’t sustain clinics that provide this type of care for our children.
“We have been fortunate to get enough support from our community that we can keep on growing. We need more space to continue to grow. We don’t know how that growth will look but we want to grow our staff to continue to meet the need in Kosciusko and the surrounding counties.”
Joe’s Kids is located at 902 Provident Drive, Suite C, in Warsaw. For more information, call 574-376-2316 or visit them online at joes-kids.org.