A World of Difference: Hailey's Story

Hailey was born fighting for her life. Diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy, she was dependent on oxygen and feeding tubes early on just to survive. Over the next four years, Hailey continued to struggle with some of the most innate and crucial parts of physical life. In fact, her body even prevented her from sitting in a chair without support. However, with the recent help of a process called conductive learning, Hailey’s development has reached new heights, literally.

Only four weeks into her treatment, Hailey could finally sit upright on her own. Today, at age five, she can pull herself up to stand, use her hands to break a fall, dress herself, and take steps with a walker! “Hailey attending Conductive Learning Center has made a world of difference for her and to our family,” expresses Natalie, her mother. “It is still hard for me to believe that Hailey is there, getting the help and benefit that she deserves.” Hailey also started attending school this past fall, and as an indication of her future triumphs, Natalie can see her daughter’s confidence rise each day.

Hailey’s dedicated parents, Natalie and Tom, spent two years researching treatments for their daughter. Eventually, it was the support of friends that helped them find the Conductive Learning Center in Grand Rapids. “We heard through other families that conductive learning was truly beneficial to their children’s development,” says Natalie. “Without it, Hailey may never have gotten the opportunity to realize her full potential.”

Serving young children born with motor disorders, the CLC uses an intensive, holistic approach that combines medical knowledge with educational methods. Children learn to gain control over their bodies and accomplish physical tasks and mental feats. “Children with motor disabilities are at risk for being isolated and frustrated. They often give up and withdraw,” explains Terry Stelter, Executive Director of the CLC. “Our services have allowed Hailey the opportunity to develop her abilities and to gain independence.”

Conductive Learning Center is part of a network of more than 50 local partner organizations that receive funding and support from United Way. “Our collaboration with United Way has also helped us build awareness in the community and to reach more children." say Stelter. "We continue to work to make sure that every child with need is reached.”

Often, families like Hailey’s are struck with financially-draining hospital bills, in addition to their emotionally-exhausting and physically-challenging lifestyles. Access to local, worthwhile organizations like the CLC is a critical element to their stability. United Way funding ensures that families do not have to let financial hardship defeat their child’s opportunity to overcome a disability.

A weekly gift of just $5 will help a child with a disability reach a greater level of independence by attending eight hours of therapy, support leading edge alternatives like conductive education for all who are in need, and allow the CLC to serve Kent County children like Hailey, regardless of their ability to pay.

United Way invests more than $2.6 million annually in local organizations that uphold family and community strength and well-being through health services. Learn more about how United Way works for Kent County or show your support with a donation now.