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October 10, 2012

Assistance fund helps kids, families get up and running

Fundraising event Oct. 20 at ISU’s Simmons Center

TERRE HAUTE — When Coleman Schaumleffel, now 6, was born, he seemed like an average, healthy baby to his parents and to doctors.

His mother, Missy, recalls that Coleman was a very good baby — he didn’t cry often, and he slept through the night at an early age. Then, his parents noticed at around three months that Coleman’s head seemed large for a baby his age. Doctors assured Missy and her husband, Nathan, that a scan showed nothing wrong with the infant.

But when Coleman failed to start crawling, or pulling himself up or walking, his parents knew something out of the ordinary was going on with their son — who was babbling, but not learning to talk. A series of doctor visits and testing eventually earned Coleman the diagnosis of an undefined genetic disorder with symptoms of autism.

Coleman now attends kindergarten at Davis Park Elementary School, where he has received a character education award for “Determination.”

The Schaumleffels were helped in making the discovery that has advanced Coleman’s health through the Pediatric Family Assistance Fund, founded by Union Hospital’s Service League.

The latest fundraiser in that effort — a special event at which kids will help kids — is planned for Oct. 20 at ISU’s Simmons Center. The event is the 20th annual Children’s Classic Run, a one-mile fun run that raises money for Union Hospital’s Pediatric Therapy Department.

Over the years, the fundraisers have brought in close to $340,000 in donations for the hospital. This year, the Union Hospital Foundation also has kicked in $25,000 to the fund.

Without the fund, the Schaumleffels say they could not afford the assistance that allows Coleman to communicate with his family.

The boy has become adept at sign language, and he also uses an iPad to give them messages.

“He’s pretty much non-verbal,” Missy said of her son.

“I don’t know what we would do without this fund,” Missy said on Tuesday at the clinic.

While her husband has a good job and insurance for the family, the insurance will not pay for Coleman’s therapy.

“We would go bankrupt easily without this fund,” she said, “because we would try to find a way to get our son the therapy he needs.”

Coleman’s parents are determined their son will get that therapy to help him grow up healthy. He has received occupational, speech and physical therapy at Union Hospital’s Pediatric Therapy Services Clinic, and he still makes regular visits for therapy.

The Schaumleffels have been to the Children’s Classic Run in the past, Missy said, and they will probably attend this year. It is a positive event that does a lot of good for the children and families that receive needed assistance.

“It’s really exciting to see the kids do something for other kids who are their age, who need some extra help,” she said.

Joel Harbaugh, executive director of the Union Hospital Foundation, said the Pediatric Family Assistance Fund helps many families who could otherwise not afford the therapy their children need to improve their lives.

Charlie Welker, system director of medical rehabilitation and therapeutics, said that many of the children treated have disability from birth and may need more attention in learning to do daily functions that other children pick up naturally.

For example, premature infants may receive therapy within a few days of birth to help them have food intake and adequate nutrition. Positioning and body control is also a therapy for some newborns.

“We can start with them at a very young age,” Welker said of the tiny patients, “but our most common age is 5, 6 and 7 years old.”

Some of the children will receive therapy — whether it’s learning to improve balance, head control, stair climbing, or feeding and speech — for three to five years, Welker said. That can be a huge financial drain on a family, especially if the family has no insurance coverage for the needed treatment.

Classic Run chairperson Cindy Martin, who serves both the foundation and the service league, said this year’s event is a great example of children helping others, because children in grades kindergarten through eight at all Wabash Valley schools have been invited to participate.

She expects Simmons Center — the site of ISU’s bike and trike races — to be full of children and parents who want to participate with their children in three laps around the track.

Registration opens at 9 a.m., with carnival games opening at 9:30 a.m. and the fun run starting at 10 a.m.

Cost is $10 per participant, but scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the $10 fee.

Incentives for school participation are prizes of $1,000, $600 and $400 for the schools who have the first, second, and third most students registered at the fun run.

The major sponsor of the event is Seneca Medical, with additional sponsorship by Asics, which provides the T-shirts that all participants receive.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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