Jo Gascoigne: A Special Educator
Since our founding more than 35 years ago, A Chance To Grow has relied heavily on the generosity of volunteers to sustain the growth of our organization. As the number and complexity of services grew, so too did the need for volunteers with diverse skills. ACTG’s cutting edge new therapeutic techniques attracted many professionals to support our worthy cause. One individual who saw the benefits of ACTG’s mission was Jo Gascoigne.
Jo began her illustrious academic career in 1958 as a physical education teacher in Mankato. She moved up to Minneapolis and began teaching at North High School and next moved to Wayzata where she served as a physical education teacher and trainer for elementary teachers. Click here to continue reading...
29th Annual Race for the Children
We are excited to invite you and your family to join us at A Chance To Grow’s 29th annual Race for the Children at Canterbury Park in Shakopee on Sunday, August 25!
Come out for a fun afternoon of live horse-racing, a lunch buffet, games, raffle prizes, a silent auction and more! Please visit ACTG.org to learn more and to register. We hope you’ll join us for this family-friendly day to support all the amazing programs and services at A Chance To Grow! For more information, please call us at (612) 789-1236.
Race for the Children Raffle
A Chance To Grow is holding a special grand prize raffle to support our organization's programs and services! Tickets are only $5 and are ON SALE NOW! The drawing will be held at 3:00 pm at Canterbury Park during our Race for the Children event on Sunday, August 25.
Tickets are available at A Chance To Grow (1800 2nd St. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418), specifically at our reception desk. If you are unable to make it in to purchase a ticket, we invite you to call us at (612) 706-5560 to purchase your tickets and make arrangements.
Save $470 with Our Neurofeedback Intensive Special
Skip the summer slide and empower your child with a summer brain-training program that will help your child excel next fall. Choose from two different programs that meet your specific needs. We offer an in-home or in-clinic program tailored to your desired health outcomes. Space is limited, reserve your spot today! To learn more about the Summer Intensive programs, please follow this link or contact us at (612) 706-5551 or email email@example.com.
2019-20 ACTG Workshops
Auditory Processing Workshop
1-day Auditory Processing workshop on Tuesday, August 13, 8:00 am-4:30 pm. Designed for SLPs, audiologists and educators working with small groups, this workshop introduces participants to normal aspects of auditory processing, auditory processing disorders, testing and the JIAS intervention. To register, please visit our website at ACTG.org. For more info or for questions, call us at (612) 789-1236.
This workshop is for educators who work with small groups including reading specialists and intervention teachers, Title I, special education and paraprofessionals. This one-day workshop includes a review of "typical" neurological development, hands-on time for activities and Make & Take sessions that allow for immediate implementation.
S.M.A.R.T. Boost-Up Plus
ACTG's popular summer intensive program returns from July 29-August 16! Open to children ages 5-15, this multi-sensory approach gives children the school readiness skills they need. This 2-week program incorporates the S.M.A.R.T. approach, motor work and other physical activities to enhance proper brain development, which influences a person's ability to learn, think and remember.
Brick Campaign Update
Thank you to everyone that contributed to our Buy a Brick campaign. Because of your generous donations, we were able to raise enough to fix the immediate safety concerns and allow the children of the Turnquist Child Enrichment Center to return to their playground!
Northeast Lions Club Donation
This spring, the NE Minneapolis Lions Club #02677 made a $15,000 donation to A Chance To Grow's Vision Clinic to provide eye exams and glasses for our uninsured clients! This donation allow us to treat vision problems early in a child's life and help prevent life-long negative impacts. Thank you very much to the Lions for their continued support of A Chance To Grow's mission and the whole NE Minneapolis community!
29th Annual ACTG Golf Classic
It was a great day at The Wilds Golf Club for our 29th annual Golf Classic! Thanks to everyone that came out and supported ACTG! Special thanks to Al from Beisswenger's Hardware & Power Equipment and Marty from the NE Minneapolis Lions Club #02677. We are very grateful for all your help in making this event possible!
Early in Oliver's life, Annie observed some unusual and worrisome behaviors. "From the time he could walk, he was falling down or crashing into things," she said, "He'd walk on his toes and I didn't know why." Click here to continue reading!
For more information or assistance with registration, contact Katie Hansen at (612) 706-5519
Please help us by donating a brick to the project! To buy a brick, please send a check to our main address or visit our donation page and fill out the online form. Your gifts are tax-deductible! Thank you for supporting A Chance To Grow!
But wait...There's more! Mark your calendar for our 29th annual Race for the Children event at Canterbury Park on Sunday, August 25. Registration details coming soon!
Sign-up early to recieve registration discounts and be sure to subscribe to our S.M.A.R.T. newsletter for helpful tips to implement the program in any setting!
S.M.A.R.T. Boost Up Plus is Back!
Our summer intensive returns from July 29-August 16! Open to children ages 5-15, this multi-sensory approach gives children the readiness skills they need. This 2-week program incorporates the S.M.A.R.T. approach, motor work and other physical activities to enhance proper brain development, which influences a person’s ability to learn, think and remember. For more information and registration details, visit ACTG.org in May. For questions, please contact A Chance To Grow at (612) 789-1236.
ACTG Awarded Otto Bremer Grant!
ACTG was awarded $100,000 from the Otto Bremer Trust in February. $75,000 will focus on furthering our work in Southern Minnesota to embed the S.M.A.R.T. Pre-K Program within a 20 county region. $25,000 is allocated to aid in our leadership transition. The funding will allow us to invest in the proper training of a Development Director and successfully increase all fundraising efforts to continue to support our programs.
Neurofeedback Summer Intensives!
Skip the summer slide and empower your child with a brain-training program that will help your child excel next fall!Choose from two different programs that meet your specific needs. We offer an in-home or in-clinic program tailored to your desired health outcomes. Space is limited, reserve your spot today! To learn more about the summer intensive program and to register, please contact us at (612) 706-5551 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Place For Us To Be
It’s difficult to truly understand the challenges that accompany a traumatic brain injury; not only for the affected individual, but for the family as well. The life-changing diagnosis can leave parents feeling alone, uncertain and frightened about what the future holds.
Such is the case with Sharon and her daughter, Samantha, who was born with anoxia (a lack of oxygen to the brain), which resulted in an encephalopathy that damaged the brain’s speech center. Samantha was unable to utter an understandable word until she was four years old.
As she grew into adolescence, Samantha faced countless struggles to develop social, planning and judgment skills. Daycare and special education classes often didn’t meet her individual needs. Ten years of speech therapy resulted in dismissive attitudes from therapists who thought she’d reached her maximum potential.
“It’s hard for people, and even some therapists, to understand a brain-related disability,” said her mother. “The automatic assumption that they’re intellectually impaired couldn’t be further from the truth.” Sharon, a registered nurse of more than 30 years, said that Samantha comprehends and understands, and that it’s important that she not be treated at a lower level. “Don’t ever tell a parent their child has reached his or her maximum potential!”
Samantha’s injury also caused fine and gross motor deficits that made routine daily activities unmanageable without constant care. Aside from younger sister, Alexis, Sharon and her husband Bill were totally responsible for Samantha’s round-the-clock care.
“Those entire 19 years were a challenge, but we did what any parents would do for their child,” said Sharon. “After she graduated from high school, Samantha tried several different vocational programs but none were a good fit and this left her with too much unstructured time during the day. We became quite concerned about her safety and vulnerability.”
Early in her nursing career (30 years ago), Sharon worked as an RN with a PCA agency so she understood that in-home care was a complicated process, requiring a certain level of comfort and communication between agency and client. Despite this knowledge, she felt like she was venturing into the unknown in searching for assistance with Samantha’s care.
That search led her to A Chance To Grow, where she learned about the agency’s custom care plans for children and adults.
“I saw the wealth of services they offered - not just PCA services - and it was clear they took a vested interest in all aspects of a child’s care,” said Sharon. “The first time I came in, I picked up a list of symptoms they treat and was shocked to find that it perfectly described my daughter! No doctor or therapist had ever described my child in this way.”
Soon after her initial visit, Sharon discovered the Home-Based Services department was hiring a nursing position. “I realized I could be my daughter’s PCA and work for this wonderful agency at the same time,” she said, “I knew immediately this was the place for us to be.”
In 2014, Sharon joined the ACTG team as an RN Case Manager, responsible for supervising PCAs, meeting with families and creating custom care plans. She and Alexis also serve as Samantha’s PCA, helping her complete daily living activities, participate in community social functions, and learn independent living skills. Sharon sees growth in the little things Samantha does; picking out her own clothes, making her own purchases at the store, or washing the dishes.
“There’s no nice timeline,” said Sharon. “Every day with Samantha is different, but she continues to grow and make progress…but it’s on her timeline. A Chance To Grow understands that and has embraced her for who she is and the strengths she has.”
That’s not to say there aren’t difficult days. Sequencing activities and social boundaries are still a challenge, but through ACTG’s PCA program, Sharon is able to help Samantha face those obstacles in a supportive environment.
“It’s mutually beneficial to be able to meet the needs of my daughter and support other families’ needs too,” Sharon said. “ACTG makes such a difference in the lives of its clients. I get so much enjoyment developing relationships with families and helping them and their loved ones navigate difficult situations.”
Sharon strongly recommends ACTG’s PCA program when seeking in-home care for their loved ones. “At A Chance To Grow, we’re so focused on our clients.” she said. “From communication to paperwork, we are all attentive and aware of the comfort and flexibility that families like ours need. Most importantly, ACTG accepts your knowledge of your child-- like no one else can. It’s been an amazing partnership.”
ACTG’s Next Chapter: Erica Dickerson
The winds of change are blowing at A Chance To Grow. In June, founders and directors, Bob and Kathy DeBoer retired after 35 years leading this exceptional, life-changing organization. On July 1, Director of Clinical and Home-Based Services, Erica Dickerson, assumed the helm as ACTG Executive Director.
Erica’s journey to this role began at Michigan State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders. As an intern in both voice and adult therapy clinics, her passion for language development and non-verbal language grew. Erica received a master’s degree in Speech Pathology from Kent State University in 1997.
After graduation, Erica and her husband, Greg, relocated to the Twin Cities where she pursued a career in adult speech pathology. Working with NovaCare Rehabilitation, she served several different clinics including one that primarily served children.
“I didn’t anticipate working with kids … all my training was with adult populations,” said Erica, “but after I was assigned to a pediatric clinic, I discovered how much I absolutely loved working with children and the impact it could make on the whole family.“
Soon after, Erica was hired as a full-time speech pathologist at Therapy Connections for Kids in Coon Rapids, where she spent the next three years practicing her passion in pediatric speech pathology. Although she enjoyed her job, Erica was receptive to the opportunity as Rehab Director at A Chance To Grow.
“I walked into the building and I knew immediately: It was a no-brainer,” said Erica. “There was great energy and amazing facilities. It’s everything a therapist could need and more.”
Erica accepted that role, as well as a half-time position as a speech therapist, in 2001. She was thrilled about her new opportunity, but was even more excited about everything else ACTG had to offer--audio-visual entrainment, vision clinic and auditory therapies.
Over the next few years ACTG added new therapies and departments under Bob & Kathy’s leadership. Erica enjoyed collaborating with other therapists, learning new techniques and incorporating them into treatments. “It always felt like we were trying to catch up to their ideas and visions,” she said, “and for every challenge or roadblock, they just figured out a way to make it work.”
Erica learned a great deal from the DeBoers. She admired Kathy’s never-ending quest for new information and Bob’s ‘don’t-take-no-for-an-answer’ mentality. She learned that it’s OK to not to know everything; that sometimes, it’s more important to ask the right questions and listen to clients.
The Rehab department’s three clients in 2001, today number more than 180 children and adults. Erica considers this a testament to Bob and Kathy’s commitments to helping children achieve their full potential.
“Bob and Kathy want to make a real impact in the community,” said Erica. “Their goal to get children ready for kindergarten, college and adulthood is inspirational and motivates me to take on new challenges with the same determination. It’s one of the reasons I truly enjoy coming into work every day,” she said.
Over the next several years, Erica’s role expanded into nearly every ACTG department. As Director of Clinical and Home-Based Services, she utilized her talents to support practitioners and professionals by ensuring they possessed the best knowledge and tools to do great work. She organized fundraising events, established partnerships and wrote grants that funded many groundbreaking initiatives. “It’s been amazing to be a part of so many of the success stories for families we’ve touched,” she said. “What I really love, now being a parent, is watching the impact we can make on an entire family in working with their child.”
In 2016, Erica’s management responsibilities grew to include the Turnquist Childcare Enrichment Center, where she helped grow the parent transportation program. With the potential to improve the lives of multiple generations, this program holds a special place for Erica.
As Erica transitions to her new role as Executive Director, she aspires to continue the work of the DeBoers in listening to the needs of parents and providing the essential services to help their children lead happy and healthy lives.
Looking forward, Erica will work to ensure the sustainability of the agency’s programs and services. As well as executing new outreach strategies to create greater awareness of ACTG, she will assist with the implementation of the Emotionally SMART pilot-program that addresses ways to help children who have experienced emotional trauma.
“Parents don’t have 20 years to wait around for the research,” she said, “they go out and look for what works now. Thanks to the work of our founders and amazing practitioners, we have 35 years of experience and successes to share with parents. We have the passion to help…and ability to provide hope.”
Building Good Futures: A Teen Parent’s Story
Jillian had just entered high school when she learned that she was going to be a mother. At 14, she was overwhelmed at the idea of being a single parent. She told herself, “I’m going to stay in school. I’m going to get this done.” She attended classes for a few months, but a complicated pregnancy and unstable living situation made it nearly impossible to focus on her studies. Like so many teen parents, she had to drop out to care for herself and her child.
Her son, Kaiden, was born prematurely. The doctors warned Jillian that he may not survive. He had a feeding tube and required a lot of attention, making it even more difficult for Jillian to plan for their future. One month after Kaiden’s birth, his health had stabilized and Jillian returned to school. It was hard for her to focus while away from her baby, and she would often leave in the middle of the day to be with him.
It was during her sophomore year that Jillian, now 15 and mother of a 3-month-old, found out she was pregnant again. Nine months and another difficult pregnancy later, she gave birth to her second son, Khail. They all moved in with Khail’s father and Jillian once again attempted a return to school.
She endured emotional abuse and battled depression and anxiety, both at home and in the classroom. Now with two children under the age of two and another father who wasn’t fulfilling his responsibilities, she was again forced to drop out in what would have been her junior year.
“With two of them so close in age, not having much help, and not having anyone to watch them, I didn’t have time for school,” said Jillian. Soon after, a 16-year-old Jillian packed up her boys and moved back in with her parents.
For the next two years, Jillian bounced from job to job. She wanted to provide for her children and didn’t want any help from the boys’ fathers, but the demands of working and parenting were difficult. Without a driver’s license, transportation was always an obstacle. Her parents helped when they could, but were adamant that Jillian return to school and earn her GED.
Determined to find a solution, Jillian filed for daycare assistance through the Minnesota Family Investment Program; a service helping low-income families with children meet their basic needs, while helping parents move to financial stability. She was referred to the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Association (a partner of A Chance To Grow) where she learned about the 4-star Parent Aware rated Turnquist Child Enrichment Center.
After touring the center and learning about ACTG’s Teen Parent and Transportation program, Jillian, now 19, was excited for the opportunity to return to school. She would finally be able to focus on her education with the peace of mind that her children would be cared for in a nurturing and accredited childcare center.
“I started at Minneapolis Community Technical College last September and my boys started at Turnquist the same day! It’s made my life easier,” she said, “I’m improving myself and making sure I can build a good future for them.”
Her boys love the program, too. Prior to Turnquist, Khail had difficulty socializing with other children and had attachment issues. Now, nearly a year later, he has lots of friends and looks forward to going to school, in part to the S.M.A.R.T. approach (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training) developed at A Chance To Grow.
“Turnquist’s staff genuinely love the kids and the children love their teachers,” she said. “They also have helpful resources to us younger parents. Other schools don’t care to help out the family as a unit like Turnquist.”
With her children being cared for and her home life stabilizing, Jillian was able to focus on her education and on April 17, 2018, she earned her GED. Shortly thereafter, she participated in an internship program at Hennepin County Medical Center and is now exploring courses to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Medical Management, where she hopes to begin a career as a nursing assistant and cosmetologist.
“This program has helped me improve my life by allowing me to go back to school, graduate, get a good internship opportunity, and help me do what I need to while knowing my children are being taken care of,” she said. “Turnquist and ACTG’s Teen Parent Program provides comfort to my kids and to me. It’s their second home where they know they’re safe and loved.”