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IndyCar driver and IndyStar surprise kiddo Yerick

Posted 6:54 PM by

What’s better than making a kiddo’s day? Having IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson and the Indianapolis Star there to be a very special part of it.

They joined us last week to surprise Yerick, who will soon be graduating from physical and occupational therapies at Children’s TherAplay, with a very personal – and joyful – invitation to participate in the May 9 #Horsepower500.

The article and video

Smile your way through the two-minute video (at the top of the page) and the full article here. There’s a lot to celebrate. Indianapolis Star writer Maureen and photographer Jenna captured everything beautifully.

Behind the scenes

Here are answers to some of the questions you've been asking.

  • The “reveal” was supposed to be a surprise for Yerick. Did it work out? Mostly. With the not-so-small crowd gathering in the clinic, Yerick definitely knew something was up.
  • Was Yerick excited about Stefan? That’s a definite Yes. As soon as Stefan walked in, Yerick jumped up and hugged his #HP500 teammate -- see for yourself in the article and video! -- which is quite a compliment coming from a young man.

  • Favorite moment? There were so many! Obviously Yerick's reaction when Stefan came out. Also, when we asked Yerick if Stefan should ride Riley, Yerick whisked off his helmet and ran over to give it to Stefan.

The quickly-formed camradarie between Stefan and Yerick was really something to see. It's like they'd been buds for ages.

  • Could you love Stefan Wilson any more than you do right now? It would be difficult! Anyone who can find time in his busy schedule to bring a child that kind of joy is tops in our book. Stefan, we are so, so thankful.

Additional photos courtesy of Chelsea Timmerman of CoForce International.

And the official team poster

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And then came Thor

Posted 10:27 PM by

It’s official. Thor is no longer a therapy-horse-in-training. He’s now a fully-fledged member of our equine team!

This 13-year-old Norwegian Fjord horse comes to us with experience in dressage, which some people describe as dancing for horses. (That is definitely a clue as to which IndyCar driver he is paired with in the #Horsepower500.) His willing nature, mellow personality, and rock-and-roll mane and tail – a trademark of his breed – make him a favorite with all of us, especially the kiddos.

We are so thankful to Thor's mom Andrea for sharing him with us. And we're delighted to recognize fellow Norwegian and board member Anders Krohn, along with his wife (also a board member!) Jillian Unitas, and CoForce International as Thor's first "funding family" (sponsors).

Welcome Thor. We're so glad you're here.

 

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Teenagers making a difference

Posted 12:36 AM by

“We would tell others to give as much of themselves to help others as possible, because every little thing makes a difference. Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love. Anyone who wants to make a difference, even in a small way, can do so if they put their mind to it.” 

Who said that? The Teen Leadership Class (TLC) from Guerin Catholic High School in response to the question, “What would you say to others out there who are wondering if they can make a difference?”

Earlier this month TLC spent half a day hard at work on the unglamorous but important task of deep-cleaning the clinic. In case you couldn’t tell, they’re an exceptional group of young men and women. Learn more about them in the five-question interview below.

Among the TLC is Grace (lower right corner) who has served as a Sibling Camp counselor and also shows Miss Jen’s – now Miss Denise’s – horse Chance.

Learn more about the TLC and how they're making a difference.

 

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Hooves and kisses from therapy horse Rocky

Posted 6:27 PM by

Dear Valentine,

Me and my fellow therapy horses wanted to get you something special to thank you for being part of the Children’s TherAplay family. Carrots, peppermints, and apples seemed like a good idea but they wouldn’t fit through the Internet, so we are sending you something even better: LOVE!


It's something we see every day here... 

  • In the way our kiddos’ eyes dance when their physical or occupational therapist meets them at the clinic door and asks, “Are you ready to come play?”
  • In the cheers that roll through the building each time a child makes a gain – learning to put on socks or tolerate walking through the arena footing or ride a tricycle independently.
  • Through the gentle hands that feed and groom us, keep our stalls clean and comfortable, and guide us in our work.

And the indescribably grand love that we have for our kiddos. And that they have for us.

"Meet FairyTale or, as we like to call her, Fairy. She is a magical pony, Crew’s absolute favorite. (Shhh.… Don’t tell the others.) He loves all of the horses at Children’s TherAplay, but from the beginning there has always been a special bond between these two.

"To hear Crew squeal with excitement when he knows we are going to see Fairy, to watch his eyes light up when he gets to pet and feel Fairy [during physical or occupational therapy]. …It just pulls at this mama’s already fragile heart strings. Crew knows Fairy and, even if he can’t tell me, I know that his love for this special horse is so great."

-- Crew’s mother, Mandy  

There is so much love here at Children’s TherAplay.

Thank you for being part of it.

Hooves and kisses,
Therapy horse and equine ambassador Rocky

 

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Cover girl - meet board member Jillian Unitas

Posted 9:14 PM by

The woman on the cover of Carmel Monthly Magazine is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

Yes, board member Jillian Unitas is the granddaughter of one of the Colts’ all-time greats Johnny Unitas. But she’s blazing her own path. We’re so thankful it includes Children’s TherAplay.

It started with pro-bono graphic design work. Then she arranged for an Andretti Autosport racecar to be present at the inaugural #Horsepower500. (You can imagine the smiles that brought the kiddos!)

This was followed by more gratis graphic work, a very active seat on the board of directors, and even the donation the 2016 Hoe-Down’s marquis live auction item: tickets to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in Baltimore. Philanthropy is in her blood. Like her grandfather and father before her, Jillian has a heart for children and for giving back.

She told Carmel Magazine, “My grandfather and dad both loved children, so having grown up watching and learning from them, I am inspired to carry on that work in honor of my grandfather.” She’s inspired us as well.

Learn how, as the magazine reports, “Just as the Colts have moved from Baltimore to successfully make Indy their new home, Jillian also made the trek from Baltimore to make Carmel her home.” And the contributions she’s made to Children’s TherAplay along the way. The Carmel Monthly article starts on page 12.

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Kiddo Anthony: sitting tall and proud

Posted 7:44 PM by

What image comes to mind when you think of someone daydreaming in class? A child slouched sideways and forward in her chair with her head propped on her hand.

As it turns out, the posture that so often passes for inattention often indicates something you might not expect: a neuromuscular challenge.

That’s why during his occupational therapy treatment kiddo Anthony and Miss Jaime are using the bolster swing in the clinic (and, later, the movement of the therapy horse in the arena) as a dynamic surface: to develop and stabilize those all-important core muscles so he can sit tall and proud in class.

(We have to ask: After reading this, do you find yourself sitting a little taller? Miss Jaime would be so proud!)

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Enjoy Your 2016 Children’s TherAplay Yearbook

Posted 11:39 PM by

2016 has been quite the year. The kiddos have grown in leaps and bounds and so have we (more on that later). Just look at some of the adventures our kiddos have had during their occupational and physical therapy treatments.

79% more

It’s not just the kiddos who have grown like weeds. In the past four years we’ve gone from an average of 280 monthly treatments to providing more than 500 each month. That’s more lives changed, more gains, more cannots that have become can-do’s for the children in Central Indiana.

It’s possible because of you

Thank you.

Heart power

We look back on 2016 with bittersweet memories – the joy of doing right by these kiddos, ensuring that they will continue to have a way and a place all their own to flourish; and also the grief that comes from doing so without two dear teammates, Dorian and Miss Jen, who passed away this year.

And we look towards 2017 with hope knowing that, along with our barn and clinic, our herd of therapy horses will be expanding; our loving new facility service dog AJ will be at our therapists’ sides; and, through these expansions, we will be able to serve these children and their families even better than before.

We thank you for being part of our past and present and invite you, as we move into a new year, to be part of our exciting and uplifting future.

Here’s to a beautiful 2017.

The Children’s TherAplay family

More favorite moments from 2016

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Have you met yet?

Posted 9:48 PM by

With all the physical and occupational therapists, both full- and part-time, who have joined the staff in 2016, there’s a good chance you may not yet be acquainted with some of our newer friends.

Scroll through the online profiles below and you’ll be able to answer questions like these:

  • Can you guess which occupational therapist spent a lot of time in the Children’s TherAplay waiting room as a child, watching her sibling receive therapies?
     
  • Do you know which therapist is preparing to run her very first marathon?
     
  • Any idea of which physical therapist started riding horses when she was just five years old?

Read on to find out!

 

Arin Andrews, MS OTR/L

Miss Arin joined the Children’s TherAplay team in early September. She’s been an occupational therapist for seven years with experience in adult neuro rehab and early intervention. And she’s a cheesehead! At least she was for two years. Erin received her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse. She has since been to Nicaragua twice on mission trips focused on serving those with special needs. 

Fun fact: Arin grew up in the upper Midwest and has the accent to prove it. Just ask about her home state of Minnesooooota or a "hot dish."
 

Molly Sturman, PhD, PT

Molly is relatively new to Children’s TherAplay -- she started in early August -- but not to pediatric physical therapy. She has been working in the profession for 20 years! Molly earned her master’s degree in physical therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and her PhD in movement neurosciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has worked as a physical therapist in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Orange County, and even London, England.

Fun fact: Molly started riding horses when she was just five years old. 

Sue Tribolet, RPT

Miss Sue (above, right) has been a therapist for 30 years and treating kiddos for the last 17. Her work has taken her all the way from Indiana to the Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Romania to work with children who have special needs.

Fun fact: Miss Sue loves to run in the woods with her two dogs, Remi and Ella.

Leah Van Antwerp, MS, OTR

Miss Leah joined the Children’s TherAplay team this past August after receiving her master of science degree in occupational therapy from Indiana University.  She has more than six years of experience in working in pediatric adaptive aquatics and has interned with pediatric therapists in the United States, Ghana, and Haiti.

Did you know? Miss Leah loved watching her sibling receive treatment at Children’s TherAplay when she was a kiddo. One of her favorite memories is attending sibling camp!

 

There are more friends to meet. Stay tuned to learn more!

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Video celebration of Miss Jen

Posted 12:56 AM by

Physical therapist assistant Jen Grillo was passionate about Children's TherAplay and hippotherapy and we know she would want her kiddos to literally get back on the horse and continue their treatment. Still, it was so difficult to reopen the clinic today without her there. It seemed like, at any minute, we’d hear Jen coaxing a child to accomplish something he’d never done before. Or perhaps she’d zip into the office to send a fax off to a physician.

Those moments didn’t come today but you did. Well, you came yesterday. Hundreds of you came to her celebration of life, filling the party room and all three parking areas to capacity, bringing with you stories and tears and appreciation and love for Jen. Yes, we grieved, but we did it together. And we will continue to do so, just as we will continue to celebrate and build upon her legacy.

Thank you.

There is more Jen-ness to come, more to share – photos, memories, news, and an especially loving moment from her Celebration that made our hearts leap. It’s coming. For now though, we hope this video with 2015 interview footage brings you comfort. To us, it feels like one last #HugFromJen.

Initial announcement about Jen  |  Resources for families  | Donation in Jen's honor

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Helping children process loss

Posted 5:43 PM by

Dear Children's TherAplay families past and present, 

Here are the answers to some of the questions you might be asking after yesterday's announcement

How can I help my child through this loss, especially when it comes so soon after Dorian's passing?

Several parents have suggested that a social story about Miss Jen and Dorian would help kiddos work through this difficult time. Our occupational therapists have partnered with a medical social worker to create this social story. We hope that reading this together will help your family process these losses in a more graceful and gentle fashion. 

We'd like to express our condolences to Jen's family. Is there a service for Miss Jen?

The funeral service will take place in Illinois later this week. Additional details are available in Jen's obituary. We are hosting a family-friendly community-wide Celebration of Life at Children's TherAplay tomorrow, November 15, from 4-7 p.m. 

You may not have realized it but Miss Jen was all about the Hoe-Down. Her family has asked that, instead of wearing black to the service, everyone come in boots, jeans, cowboy hats, and other Western wear.  

Is the celebration appropriate for children? 

Absolutely. There will be no caskets or urns here. This will be a gentle, heart-warming celebration along the lines of an open house (come and go as you please). Jen's family may not be here the entire time - everyone grieves in their own way and this is a terrible shock to them - but we will, along with snacks, new facility service dog AJ, pages to color and notes to write, and plenty of photos and videos to remember Miss Jen by. 

Where should I send flowers or another tribute? 

Everyone honors people differently. Here are a few ways that may appeal to you.
  • Some families have found it meaningful to place a photo, message, or small bouquet of flowers on the bench in front of the waiting room door. (These will be moved to the party room Tuesday for the celebration.)
     
  • Others find solace in sharing their memories of or appreciation of Jen on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChildrensTherAplay . Stationery will be on hand at the Celebration for those who would prefer to write theirs by hand.
     
  • And lots of people prefer to send a floral arrangement to a funeral. Jen's family has asked that, in lieu of this, donations be made to Children's TherAplay. We are deeply humbled by their decision and honored to carry on Jen's extraordinary work.
What will happen with my child's treatment?

The clinic will reopen this Wednesday, November 16. Jen was passionate about Children's TherAplay and hippotherapy and we know she would want her kiddos to literally get back up on the horse and continue their treatment. 

We are still in the process of determining how best to make sure all the kiddos, include Miss Jen's, receive the treatment and support they need. We will be in contact with those whose schedules have been affected by Jen's passing. If you do not receive a call from us, it is safe to assume your child's treatment will continue as usual. If, for any reason, you are not able to make your child's appointment, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make appropriate arrangements.

Thank you for your patience and understanding while we work through this. As always, if you have questions you are welcome to call and we will do our best to answer.

One more thing 

Jen may not be here physically but she will always be a part of us here at Children's TherAplay. Thank you for helping us celebrate her.

-- The Children's TherAplay team 

Initial announcement about Jen  |  Video celebration of Jen  | Donation in Jen's honor

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