Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) held its Annual Celebration at the CARES Center’s Jean Austin Bagley Campus on October 11, 2017.
The program featured poems and skits performed by children who attend Canopy’s lower elementary CARES School, which serves children with behavioral challenges in a therapeutic, specialized education environment.
The event highlighted the organization’s top successes for the year and recognized benefactors who helped make those accomplishments possible. Three Chrysalis Award recipients were honored for their work on children’s issues and positive impact on children in our state: the congregation at Oakdale Baptist Church in Brandon, Girl Scout Troop 5713, and Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. The awards were presented by Canopy’s CEO John D. Damon, Ph.D., and Mississippi’s First Lady Deborah Bryant.
Oakdale Baptist Church
Volunteers from Oakdale Baptist Church provide spiritual enrichment to our children at CARES Center each Sunday and Wednesday as part of their local mission outreach. In addition to spiritual needs, the congregation also provides for the physical needs of children offering new clothing donations when called upon.
Oakdale provides children at CARES with recreational enrichment through off-campus excursions which are made possible through monetary donations from the congregation. Volunteers also plan fishing trips, a block party each fall, and a Christmas party complete with a gift for each of the 60 residential children. The volunteers come to personally know and care for each child they meet and upon discharge gives each one a celebratory gift to carry home.
“This ministry means so much to us,” said Jim Maulding, who began volunteering at Canopy 11 years ago and attends the bible study on campus every Sunday. “We work with surrounding Christian groups and churches, not just ours, to make sure these children know the love of Christ. We can see how that impacts them week by week as they continue to hear the word.”
The Chrysalis Award for Oakdale Baptist was accepted by Debby Boyd, Latonya Coleman, Janet Floyd, and Jim and Linda Maulding.
Girl Scout Troop 5713
Girl Scout Troop 5713, made up of a group of 15 girls, adopted the CARES Center Jackson for their Silver Award Project in 2015. The project requires a minimum of 50 hours of service per scout. As part of the two-year project, the girls planned regular activities to engage and mentor the youngest children at the CARES Center. These activities included trips to the Mississippi Children’s Museum, holiday parties, game nights, weekly tutoring, and birthday parties. At the end of their project, the troop partnered with an Eagle Scout candidate to build and decorate commemorative outdoor benches for the campus.
“When we began discussing what the girls wanted to do for the silver project, they unanimously agreed that their project should center on children,” said Virginia Gautier, the troop’s leader. “We didn’t know much about Canopy when we began, but these past two years have changed these girls’ lives, and ours, forever.”
“This project really impacted our girls,” said Deanna Funderburg. “My daughter bonded with many of the children and she saw some of the kids as her true friend. She would start telling me about something fun she did with a child and I thought it was someone from school, then she would say, ‘no mom, from Canopy.’ That is how much this project meant to her.”
Virginia Gautier, Elizabeth Mehrle and Deanna Funderburg were in attendance to accept the award on behalf of the girls (who were in school).
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was first elected to public office in November 2007. His efforts to reform insurance coverage for children with autism in the state have truly been transformational for many families.
Secretary Hosemann played an integral role in the passage of House Bill 885 in 2015 which required insurance to provide coverage for autism therapy and intervention services. The legislation also established the Mississippi Autism Board, a licensing board for professionals practicing Applied Behavioral Analysis—the empirically supported treatment therapy for autism.
“I’ve served for many years on the Autism Advisory Board and Delbert came in and told us, ‘You are trying to do too much. You need to focus on just one thing,’” said Damon. “Ahead of the legislative session, Secretary Hosemann sat down individually with every member of the state legislature, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi and other insurance companies, the Mississippi Department of Insurance, Medicaid, Department of Mental Health, anyone who had a say, and he got HB 885 passed. That was a crucial win for Mississippi families.”
“As an elected official, I am merely a placeholder for our children, the future leaders of our State,” Secretary Hosemann said. “Some of those leaders will be the bright young minds I have met through Canopy and other organizations. Our children have limitless potential, but they must have access to the support and care they need.”
In 2017, Secretary Hosemann helped organize an event at the state Capitol to bring awareness to the state’s growing autism epidemic, bringing together many of the state’s leading autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) experts as well top providers of ABA and other autism service programs. Additionally, Secretary Hosemann and his wife Lynn, who serves on Canopy’s Board of Directors, continue to support increasing ABA training programs, a critical need throughout the state.
Guests attending the event included adoptees, board members, school administrators, state agency leaders, elected officials, volunteers, business leaders, clients and other friends of Canopy. Visitors were given guided tours of the Bagley therapeutic cottages as well as the CARES School led by some of the children receiving care through Canopy.