Mary Anne Ruddis, the executive director for Elevations: A Children’s Therapy Resource Foundation, knows the good that her organization does.
“We started 10 years ago in response to the lack of funding for kids with special needs to get their services,” Ruddis said.
Though the early years were lean, Elevations is growing into a funding lifeline for clients.
“That first year, I think we awarded eight grants,” Ruddis said. “In 2021, we awarded 119 grants that totaled, I think, $97,680.”
This year, Elevations is upgrading their grant cycles from twice a year to three times a year. The first grant cycle this year took place in May, when Elevations awarded 60 grants. With two grant cycles left this year, Ruddis is confident the amount of grants they award, in total, will be higher than 2021’s number.
Julie German-Murrey is a board member on Elevations and the mother of Rosalie, a grant recipient. Doctors diagnosed Rosalie with a rare genetic disorder when she was 13 months old that required physical therapy. Immediately after her daughter’s diagnosis, German-Murrey quit her job as a middle school principal.
With that background, German-Murrey knew that early intervention was key.
“So that was my driving force for Rosalie. I knew we needed to get every single skill we can get as early as possible,” German-Murrey said. However, with most of the expenses being spent on physical therapy, introducing Rosalie into other helpful therapies and programs seemed like an impossible financial hurdle.
“The big thing for our family is that we have a very high deductible insurance plan, and then by the time we meet our deductible, Rosalie would have used all of the covered visits for physical therapy. And that was her area of greatest need,” German-Murrey said.
German-Murrey described her experience with insurance as paying for Rosalie’s college, except she didn’t have 18 years to save for it. The out-of-pocket money being spent on therapies for Rosalie, particularly her physical therapy, continued until German-Murrey discovered Elevations.
“One of the things that Elevations does really well is that they make it easy for families to get the grants,” German-Murrey said. “There aren’t a ton of hoops to jump through, there isn’t a bunch of red tape.”
With the grants offsetting some of the medical costs, families are then able to enroll and pay for their children to participate in other activities.
The way that Rosalie grew, German-Murrey said, was incredible.
“I distinctly remember the day that she started walking, and just yeah, I don’t know,” German-Murrey said with tears swelling in her eyes. “There aren’t really words …”
In November 2021, Rosalie died unexpectedly. Her story remains an inspiration to those at Elevations and to her family. While German-Murrey was able to spend a lot of one-on-one time with her child, she doesn’t know how a lot of parents are able to manage work, life and a child with special needs.
“I don’t know how families where two parents have to work are able to do all of those things. Because even with one parent working and me at home full time, like, it was overwhelming for us at times. And so if two parents have to work, I don’t know how you do that,” German-Murrey said.
Elevations is a program that relies heavily on fundraisers to raise money for the grants they give out.
Elevations’ biggest fundraising event is called the Ghost Ball, which has been online via Zoom for the past two years. This year it will be in-person at the Spokane Convention Center on Oct. 29.
Kelly Lynch, president of Elevations, oversees the governance side of the organization and is also chair of the grants committee that decides which grants will be accepted.
“Elevations can help, you know, fund some of that stuff (therapies and equipment),” Lynch said, “Help that family pay down that deductible or help that family pay for co-pays for therapy services. So that that kid continues to get what they need and the family isn’t struggling to figure out how to pay for it.”
For German-Murrey, the way that Elevations has helped both her and Rosalie can not easily be put into words. Elevations’ help in funding didn’t just assist in developing Rosalie’s physical abilities, it helped with so many other factors, like speech.
“It wasn’t just like she was a slow walker, but her speech was right on target. Because she couldn’t explore her world, her speech was delayed. After she started to walk, suddenly her speech just exploded. She got all of these words, so seeing the interconnectedness of all of these things, and seeing her being able to explore her world,” German-Murrey said. “You know, even things like walk up to a flower and touch it, or pull a leaf off of a tree. Just things she couldn’t do until she could walk.
“These things that you take for granted until you realize that not everyone can do those things … It’s bittersweet.”
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