Recently at Turtle Wing Foundation’s Jack Hooper Day at the Ballpark and Homerun Derby some of the youth who threw out first pitches at recent autism awareness baseball games were featured, sharing their goals & dream. To kick things off Ty Janak of Weimar stepped up and sang the national anthem. Founder and president DeeAnn Hooper shared with attendees that though her son Jack, whom the foundation was founded in memory of, loved baseball, it was a big challenge learning how to play. Not being the most talented, he struggled a little but always tried his best. Jack made his family and everyone who knew him better! So naturally, Turtle Wing Foundation is continuing his legacy and making lives better! Turtle Wing Foundation’s mission is helping children with learning challenges in rural areas achieve their full potential. Not just children with autism but all children who need extra support academically, socially and spiritually. It is their 7th year of helping children “grow wings and fly”. Last year alone Turtle Wing helped directly served 298 children and indirectly touched hundreds of families across their tri-county service area and beyond. During the opening ceremonies DeeAnn also recognized one of the Turtle Wing families whose son Weston traded in his Turtle Wings for Angel Wings this last year. Melissa Adcox was present with Weston’s favorite dog, Rookie. Weston did have his struggles, but much like the other children who participate in Turtle Wing programming he had his triumphs, his hopes and dreams. The youth who helped throw the first pitches represented those benefiting from the services provided. Their ages and stages in life vary, but they all want to be the best they can be. The challenges they face are not stopping them from following their goals and dreaming big. They are setting their sights high and working hard to attain their very own Turtle Wings, which were represented on their turtle posters. Turtle Wing’s mission is to assist them in making those dreams a reality. That assistance can come in the form of any number of supplemental services including speech therapy, occupational therapy, vision therapy, ABA therapy, social support groups like Turtle Tweens & Teens, academic support and intervention such as Hatch Ahead and Mini Milers, and soon equine therapy. One of the newest Turtle Wing programs is focused on assisting young adults or aged out individuals. The provider for this is And Then. And Then is ready to assist in guiding these youth and young adults to not be a “square peg in a round hole” within their community. And Then’s mission is to help young adults with learning challenges find a meaningful purpose in life. One goal is to provide specific work opportunities to highlight individual strengths and abilities and in return create a meaningful job and a positive quality of life. And Then is currently working to launch a Day Program where Ty, and other local young adults could go daily and be a part of a working environment and be immersed in their community not only helping others, but doing something they enjoy and love. This Day Program would not only benefit them, it will also help their loving parents find an answer to what their child will do after high school graduation. The youth who shared their dreams were:
Emma Kubala is 10 years old and attends Schulenburg Elementary School. She is a member of the South Texas Sparkles Cheer Team. Her dream is to lead a cheer group like DeLynn Pesek, her current cheer coach.
Cayson Fitzgerald is 10 years old and attends Columbus Elementary School. He loves to vacuum & mow! He would like to have his own cleaning and lawn care service.Ty Janak is 22 years old and is a graduate of Weimar High School. His goal is to work and learn at And Then!
Joelle Mihalovich is 24 years old and a Hallettsville High School graduate. Her dream is to become a Special Olympics Equestrian.
Emma, Cayson, Ty and Joelle were privileged to throw out the first pitch for the Derby. It was an amazing day where the baseballs flew as high as the many children Turtle Wing serves. Turtle Wing programming includes Early Intervention, Supplemental Services, and Community Education & Advocacy. Program participants have all been from Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca and surrounding counties with academic, social-emotional, behavioral and/or developmental needs. For more information contact Susie Shank, managing director, at (979)505-5090, visit www.turtlewingfoundation.org, or follow the Turtle Wing Facebook page.
2018Derby4Turtles – (L-R) Ty Janak, Joelle Mihalovich, Megali Medrano (Cayson’s mom), Cayson Fitzgerald, Emma Kubala
2018DerbyTyAndThen – (L-R) Erin Wotipka/And Then founder, Ty Janak
2018DerbyDeeWings – DeeAnn Hooper/TW founder and president