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October 24, 2002

The ABC's of helping kids with special needs

From: Kerrville Daily Times, TX
Oct. 24, 2002

By Gerard MacCrossan
The Daily Times

Published October 24, 2002

Looking at Brennan Garcia playing at his home this week, it is hard to imagine his situation only nine months ago, hooked up to monitors in the intensive care unit of a San Antonio hospital.

A victim of bacterial meningitis at only nine months of age, the little boy’s recovery has been miraculous, his parents said.

Evan Garcia, Brennan’s father, said the 18-month-old suffered bilateral hearing loss, but appears to have escaped brain damage.

“Developmentally, he’s OK,” Garcia said, adding that the two-week stay in the hospital and severity of the illness slowed Brennan’s progression to crawling and walking.

But the toddler now runs around and is developing motor skills that match other children his age, said Garcia.

Brennan’s mother, Jonquil Doty, said she and Evan were in a state of bewilderment during Brennan’s hospital stay. Away from their home, they went through a period of not knowing where to turn for help in getting through the situation, she said.

At that point, Any Baby Can Inc., in the form of case worker Chuck Del Toro, appeared on the scene with answers to many of Doty and Garcia’s questions.

Any Baby Can is a community outreach unit — funded by grants, donations and state money — that helps low income families with special needs children. There are Any Baby Can offices in Austin, San Antonio and Kerrville.

During his hospital stay, Brennan had been evaluated and his hearing loss determined, Doty said. Any Baby Can helped them deal with financial challenges that Brennan’s illness created.

“We could get him the help quickly,” Doty said.

With Del Toro’s help, Brennan was able to qualify for the Program for Amplification of Children in Texas. The PACT program provides hearing aids for hearing impaired children in low income families.

Brennan’s impairment requires a hearing aid for one ear. His hearing aid cost more than $3,000.

“If it wasn’t for Any Baby Can, he probably wouldn’t have the hearing aid,” Doty said.

Brennan’s illness caused both his parents to miss a lot of time at work, bringing a new set of financial problems.

Garcia said the hearing device is very important, especially during the next few years as Brennan learns to speak. He said the permanent nerve damage suffered during the meningitis appeared to be the only major problem at this point, although doctors are concerned about his immune system.

“He’s a strong kid and has come back very well,” Garcia said.

Doty said initially she didn’t know what Any Baby Can was, but now has nothing but praise for the community outreach unit. She said they have helped create ties between the family and the Kerrville Independent School District to help Brennan in the future.

Del Toro said the problems faced by the Garcias are very common among families with special needs.

“When we walk into a home, the priority is the needs of the child,” he said.

Preservation of the family by recognizing their needs was another important task for the case worker.

“When you find yourself in the hospital ... you don’t know where to turn,” he said. “It is instantly completely overwhelming.”

He said 95 percent of the families helped by Any Baby Can have special needs children with permanent conditions. While most are not always active cases, Del Toro’s caseload is 65 families in a six-county area, some of whom have been with him for three or more years. He travels to visit his clients as far away as Junction and Bandera.

“We’re really lucky,” Doty said of Del Toro. “Whenever we need him, he’s here.”


Saturday event will benefit Any Baby Can

The 10th anniversary fund-raiser to benefit the Kerrville office of Any Baby Can, an evening of fine wine, music and art at Riverhill Country Club, will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

There will be a wine tasting, showcasing vintages from across the globe, and hors d’oeuvres from the Riverhill kitchens. Kevin McCormick, Tim Porter and pediatrician Michael Fontenot will play classical guitar.

Artists donating works for the art auction include Kathleen Cook, who has donated a painting titled “The Impostor,” and Jim Reno, who has given one of his bronzes, “Little B.F.” Tom Sokol, Dan Burt and Shirley Gaultier also contributed pieces for the event.

Other items up for bid include rounds of golf for four, donated by the Dominion, Riverhill and Comanche Trace; and a mixed case of 2000 Bordeaux wines from 12 different chateaux.

For ticket information, contact Any Baby Can at 792-4222.


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