Posts in 2001
Caitlin Fleischmann
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Caitlin Fleischmann is one nine-year-old girl with a busy schedule. Between Brownies, gymnastics, school, and spending time with her family, she is a girl on the go.

Thanks to The Eric Fund, Caitlin will be able to more fully experience her activities with new hearing aids. Her mother, Debbie, heard about The Eric Fund grants through her part-time work at a Virginia social services organization and thought she would apply on behalf of her daughter, who has down syndrome and conductive hearing loss.

"I was shocked when I found out that insurance won't pay a dime," said Debbie. "When the audiologist recommended hearing aids and that they were $800, I said OK, thinking it would be a major stretch to afford that but Caitlin needed them. I didn't know they were $800 a piece!"

Debbie said the hearing aids will help Caitlin with all of her activities and they will be especially helpful in school.  Dedicated to providing her daughter with the best education and supports to make her own choices in life, Debbie and Caitlin moved from Prince William County to higher-priced Fairfax County so Caitlin could attend Hayfield, one of the model schools for inclusion in Virginia.

Caitlin is flourishing at the school, which includes children with and without disabilities in each classroom.  Caitlin's teacher recently wrote home that she is a "great model" for the class. Caitlin was recently named star of the week and reader for the day in her second-grade class. 

In addition to school activities, Caitlin is a member of her local Brownie troop, is a medal winner in track & field for Special Olympics and is getting ready to learn gymnastics. 

"Caitlin is doing really well," Debbie said.  "The doctor just told me and I agree - imagine what she can do when she can really hear." 

"This kid may become President of the United States. You just never know"

2001Nate Nashawardee
Stephan Bragg
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Forty year-old Stephan Bragg of Lorton, Va., will be getting the gift of new wheels this holiday season, thanks to The Eric Fund. Stephan, who relies on his wheelchair to go everywhere, has been using the same chair for the past 10 years and both he and his father are tired of the constant repairs that it requires. The Eric Fund will be awarding him with a new Quickie/Breezy 600 wheelchair. 

His father, who is Stephan's primary caregiver, was thrilled to learn about his son's Eric Fund grant award. "The new wheelchair will eliminate the aggravation of having to constantly fix the old one," he said enthusiastically. "That thing had something go wrong with it every week!" The Breezy 600 is considered the best standard wheelchair on the market today. It's lighter and safer than Stephan's current chair, and comes with a number of options that can be customized to fit his needs.

Stephan, who has a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident in 1981, is partially paralyzed on his left side. In addition to freeing him of the hassle of repairing the old wheelchair, the new wheelchair will free Stephan from isolation and solitude by allowing him to go out in the community and make new connections.  He will no longer be dependent on his father to help him get around. 

The Eric Fund will also be awarding Stephan a new bath chair to replace the old one that he has been using for ten years. 

2001Nate Nashawardee
Diamani McNeely and Zachary Baldwin
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Zachary Baldwin is three years old and his friend Diamani McNeely (pictured at left) is four. They are also both deaf. Their mothers are friends who got acquainted through a parent support group in Washington, D.C. for parents of children who are deaf.

Zach and Diamani have similar needs. When Diamani's mother, Amber Robles Gordon, found out that the Eric Fund had selected Diamani as an award winner, she was thrilled, but the first question out of her mouth was, "Was Zachary Baldwin selected too?" She was equally concerned that Zach, too, would be granted the assistive technology that both children need.

The Eric Fund will be funding environmental controls for the children that will assist them with basic living skills and increase their ability to interact with the hearing members of their families at home. A First Alert smoke detector, which provides visual cues as opposed to auditory cues to alert someone of a fire, will make their homes safer. A TTY device will assist in teaching the children how to communicate via the telephone by using a keypad as opposed to a handset. Similar to the First Alert, the Nutone Strobe door chime and the Simplicity Telephone Ring Signaler both indicate that someone is "calling" by giving a visual cue. Both children will receive all four controls. 

Diamani's mother explained that the technology will help her son become more aware of things that hearing people take for granted. 

"Diamani needs these things to adapt to everyday living," says his mother. "They will help teach him basic daily activities that will help him grow and mature as an adult."

As his mother, she is excited because she knows that these basic devices will increase her son's ability to communicate with her. She says she looks forward to the day when he will come to her and say, "Mommy, someone is at the door." 

Zachary Baldwin lives with his mother and his grandmother. Zachary's mother, Renee Johnson, is the only one who knows sign language. She's eager for her son to learn how to use his TTY so that he'll be able to better communicate with his grandmother. 

"Zach is at an age in his life where he is beginning to understand that he is different from other people because he can't hear," said his mother. "It's very important that he learn that he can do everything a hearing person can do, but that he's just going to have to learn to do them differently. [The technology that the Eric Fund is going to provide for Zach] will teach him basic social and adaptive skills that will begin to help him understand that." 

In addition to having sons who are deaf, Zach's mom and Diamani's mom share single motherhood. Raising a child with a disability involves additional financial costs. Assistive technology is expensive and as any parent will tell you, securing funding for devices can often be extremely difficult and frustrating.   Renee and Amber were both thrilled to find out that The Eric Fund would be helping them out ... and helping their dreams for their children to come true.

2001Nate Nashawardee