Justin Hoyt Ambassador 2016
Ryan Griffin Ambassador 2016
Ava Welch Ambassador 2015
Craig Simpson Ambassador 2015
Jaheim Brumfield Ambassador 2014
Gabriel Thomas Ambassador 2014
P.J. Dykes Ambassador 2013
2013 TARC AMBASSADOR
P.J. was born to Pernell and Margaret Dykes on April 7, 1999. He has three siblings: Jamarion (18), Preston (11), and Paylin (3). Throughout his early months, physically, P.J. appeared to progress quite normally; however, in other respects his development appeared somewhat delayed.
P.J.'s delivery at birth was normal, and throughout is early childhood, his weight and height were classified as quite normal. However, at 8 ? months, P.J. began speaking ?da-da,? but he really spoke no other words. Additionally, P.J. by-passed the crawling stage only to progress awkwardly into walking at 15 months. Based upon their perception of an apparent delayed progression, P.J.?s parents suspected there was something unusual in his development.
Based upon their concerns, Margaret, his mother, consulted his pediatrician. The doctor referred her to a genetic specialist at Tulane Medical Center, where P.J. was evaluated by a lead geneticist. Based upon this evaluation, the doctor found no abnormalities. Nevertheless, because of his mother continued concerns, P.J. was referred to Diane Africk for neurological testing, during which she described him as a unique patient. Following this testing, the results were reported as normal. However, subsequent to that testing, P.J. was diagnosed with Mircocephaly and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PPD); and after further testing, he was diagnosed with Autism.
Today, P.J. is 13 ? years old, and, as always, he is a happy and healthy child. He communicates effectively even though he has limited speech. He is an energetic seventh grader at Ponchatoula Jr. High where he meets his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). P.J. remains a joy for everyone who meets him. It is indeed an honor, as well as an enlightening gift, for P.J. to have been chosen as a TARC Ambassador.
Bryan Stern Ambassador 2013
Brian Stern ? Story 2013 Ambassador for TARC
As with all special needs people in the world, our dear son Brian is a catalyst for love, compassion, acceptance and understanding to all whose lives he has touched.
At the age of 10 years, Brian contracted a deadly encephalitis virus from a mosquito bite. At the age of 18, as a pedestrian, he sustained a major head injury in an auto accident. The results of both accidents left him with a traumatic brain injury.
Brian?s recovery journey has been a path paved with many, many mental and emotional health challenges, obstacles and barriers that could have been totally devastating (as medically diagnosed), if not for the power of love, faith, perseverance, patience and understanding from family, friends and the gifted special needs agencies such as TARC. Each has been wonderful blessing to Brian and the entire family.
Brian has had much success, as well as many setbacks along the road to recovery. Since he joined TARC approximately two years ago after having a setback in his progress, TARC successfully helped Brian once again to become an independent, happy, productive, healthy and fulfilled member of our wonderful community. We are very proud of Brian?s progress.
Brian is very honored to be representing TARC as of the 2013 Ambassadors. This is all possible through the collective power of love that not only comes from the family and friends but also TARC and those that work within the organization.
With Gratitude and Love,
Connie and Jerry Stern (Brian?s Thankful Parents)
Madelyn Latino TARC 2011 Ambassador
Our family is honored Madelyn was chosen as the 2011 TARC Ambassador. Not only does it give us an opportunity to show everyone what a beautiful and special child she is, it also allows us to help an organization that has helped our family, and many other families, over the years.
Madelyn was an unexpected, special surprise. She is truly a gift from God. When I was pregnant with Madelyn, we did not know she would be born with Down’s Syndrome. My doctor noticed something, that didn’t look quite right on an ultrasound, so she referred me to specialists. After several visits to specialists who would evaluate the ultrasounds with more advanced equipment, they felt I did not need to return because she seemed to be developing normally. I opted not to do an amniocentesis. We knew we would want and love this child no matter what.
Up until Madelyn was born, we had kind of forgotten that we had had any problems in the beginning. I was no longer seeing specialists and Madelyn was developing right on target. The day Madelyn was born was when we found out she has Down’s Syndrome.
She looked so perfect and healthy and just that quickly our plans for her future changed. So many different scenarios go through your mind. We did not feel sorry for ourselves but we were very concerned about what kind of future Madelyn would have to face.
While in the hospital, our family was bombarded with different avenues of help and assistance. One very important arrangement we had made before having Madelyn was enrolling her and her brother, Matthew, at Kids R Us daycare. Kids R Us is affiliated with TARC. We thought it would be and ideal environment for Madelyn and Matthew to learn and play. Kids R Us would expose them to children with special needs and they would learn not to treat these children any differently than other children. We had no idea, at the time we would have a child with special needs.
Our family has always supported TARC. We have had friends through the years that have relied on their services. Madelyn’s father, Michael, belongs to a non-profit organization, the Hammond Knights Foundation (HK Foundation), which makes donations to TARC as well as other children’s organizations. Never did we imagine we would need their services.
Madelyn began receiving services from TARC’s Early Intervention Program when she was four weeks old. She continues to receive services from TARC today. If TARC is not able to assist you with a particular service, they will direct you to an agency that can assist you. When we could not depend on any other agency, TARC has always come through for us.
When Madelyn was in the Early Intervention Program, her instructors helped her reach milestones that would have taken years with out their help. For the last two years, TARC has made resources available to us that help her with her everyday needs.
It is very important that our community continue to support TARC and all of their wonderful services. Our family never imagined we would need TARC. You never know when your child, niece, nephew, cousin, friend etc. may need their services. Continued support is also important. Even when you or a loved one’s services end, continued support helps TARC remain viable in the community.
Madelyn is such a joy to us. She is now six years old and is in Kindergarten at Midway Elementary. Her presence has such a positive influence on everyone she encounters.
Madelyn has two older brothers. Michael, Jr. is fourteen years old and is in the ninth grade at Hammond High School. Matthew is nine years old and is in the third grade at Holy Ghost School. Madelyn means the world to them, they love her so much. The feeling is mutual. She lights up when they play with her. (Especially baseball) They both show much love and concern for her.
Madelyn is special in so many ways. We don’t know what we did to deserve such a special person, but we thank God for her everyday. There is not a thing about her we would change. Everyday we are faced with a different challenge and everyday she makes new accomplishments. TARC has helped us with these accomplishments. We are so proud to have been able to support TARC in the past, and we are even more proud to have our daughter represent them.
Thank you TARC.
Michael Sr., Laura, Michael Jr., Matthew & Madelyn Latino
Chance O'Hern, TARC 2010 Ambassador
One tough little guy—a story of courage the love of a mother.
Chance was born March 18, 2003, a month early weighing in at a meager six pounds. He had his first open heart surgery when he was just one day old. His mother knew when she was five months pregnant that Chance had a congenital heart defect, however, since he was still in the womb, the doctors couldn’t tell just exactly what his defects were or if he would even survive the process of being born. From the moment he took his first breath, Chance was out to show the doctors his fighting Irish spirit along with his will to survive.
After his second surgery, Chance remained dependent on oxygen for months. When doctors told Chances mom that there was nothing more that could be done for him, she refused to accept it. She immediately changed Chances medical treatment solely to Oschners in New Orleans. At least they still had some hope. She spent hours researching his diagnosis, which included transposition of the great arteries, dextracardia, situs inversus, pulmonary stenosis, right aortic arch and single ventricle defect. To complicated things even more, Chance was born without a spleen which caused him to be immunodeficient, and more susceptible to illness. They had to be extremely cautious, making sure he did not get exposed to others who were sick.
After hours on the computer searching, Alice (Chance’s mom) found a doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, who had successfully repaired heart defects much like the ones Chance had. Alice made the call and the doctor agreed to review Chance’s medical records (at no charge) and spoke to doctors at Oschners making a long shot recommendation. There was a glimmer of hope.
Between surgeries, Chance underwent numerous heart catherizations, which included placement of stents, dilating vessels and coiling off less needed vessels. Chance was like a work of art. There were so many heart caths that eventually they lost count. In addition, Chance had to have intestinal surgery to tack down his intestines which were free floating. A feeding tube was also placed in his stomach to try to achieve weight gain when he was diagnosed with failure to thrive. And due to recurring ear infections, tubes were placed in his ears.
The third heart surgery lasted the longest, 13 hours, with Chance’s chest having to be left open due to excessive bleeding. It was touch and go. Eventually Dr. Jim Davis, his cardiovascular surgeon, was able to close his chest. Dr. Victor Lucas, Chance’s primary cardiologist, stated that they would also be weaning him off the oxygen as well. It seemed too good to be true. While in the hospital Chance got pneumonia. Recovery was rocky but day by day he regained his strength. His determination and will to overcome the odds was amazing.
Chance was able to avoid the last surgery for almost two years. But finally on January 10, 2007 Chance underwent his last surgery. An artificial tube was placed alongside his heart to send more oxygenated blood to his heart. Recovery took three long months in the hospital. Chance’s mom had made a promise that she would not go home without him. So for those three long months, she never left his side. And when they finally got to go home they left together as promised.
Since Chances last surgery he has developed a condition called protein loosing enteropathy in which the protein is not absorbed as it should be. Today he gets daily injections, which his mom gives him, of Lovenox. There is little known about this abnormality so treatment is experimental. If the condition is not corrected, Chance will have no other choice but to undergo a heart transplant.
Today, Chance is an energetic, loving, and happy six year old. He loves to torture his sisters, Sasha, 23, and Ariana, 18. He has completed Kindergarten at Spring Creek Elementary and is currently in first grade. Due to his recent diagnosis, Chance is receiving home bound teaching. There are moments when Chance is playing with his friends, that his mom can almost forget that he is “special.” According to her, his is “not only special, but a God given miracle. Each day is a gift not to be taken for granted.”
Chance’s mom (44) is now in her third year at Southeastern Louisiana University and it’s no surprise that her major is nursing. Chance’s life inspired her to go for her dream despite the odds.
TARC has delivered service from the first day Chance arrived home from the hospital. The therapists TARC provided were responsible for many of his firsts. His first time to roll over, sit up, take a step, were all facilitated by the therapists. They provided encouragement, guidance and assistance needed to make life more manageable for Chance and his mom. Chance has used TARC services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, a wonderful social worker, diaper service, assistance with medical supplies, daycare, a DSP worker and much more. Our case supervisor is always there to answer questions and provide help and support in any way she can. “Because of TARC I always felt sure we were getting all the services we needed and all the help that was available to Chance.” stated mom.