Garnerville Resident Launches Non-Profit to Aid Families of Special Needs Children

Kick-Off to take place Sunday, September 15

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

63210_4483258130119_257325438_nParent Resource Lifeline, a non-profit organization founded by Garnerville resident Debbie Bertrand, will host its first Family Fun Day kick-off event on Sunday, September 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Vincent Clark River View Park in Stony Point. The event, sponsored by several local businesses and restaurants, will offer yard games, music and food from a variety of local establishments. A silent auction will include, among other items, the chance to bid on a signed cookbook by Cake Boss Buddy Valastro.

Bertrand’s idea for Parent Resource Lifeline grew out of her own struggles, as a parent of a special needs child, to find accurate, accessible and affordable information and support for families of special needs children. Bertrand’s daughter, Megan, now 13, was not accurately diagnosed with cerebral palsy until she was three and a half years old. The diagnosis initially plunged the entire family into anxiety, confusion and loneliness as Debbie and her husband, Kevin, began to navigate their way toward providing the best care they could for their daughter. But doctors were not always forthcoming, websites proved unreliable, schools did not always provide what the law required and even the most well-meaning friends and family could not really understand what the Bertrands, were going through.

Today, through hard work and determination, Megan has made tremendous strides and Debbie has learned how to be a vocal advocate for her child. However, she knew there was more to do. “I wanted every parent out there to know that there is someone who understands. I wanted to create a lifeline for every family like ours, to share our resources and to support one another.”

This past June Bertrand filed for 501c3 status and initiated the Parent Resource Lifeline’s outreach through its website, parentresourcelifeline.org. The site not only provides families with referrals to doctors, lawyers, organizations and websites already fully vetted by Bertrand and her staff as active, user friendly and genuine, it also offers a place where parents can communicate with others going through the same process and where families can comfort and support one another. It is still a work in progress which Bertrand intends to continue to grow. “I felt so lost and alone when I first started out,” Bertrand says. “There’s no reason for anyone to have to feel that way when I can share the benefit of my experience with others.”

Other long-term goals for the organization include starting an online community through message boards, blogs and increased Facebook presence as well as promoting social gatherings for families at local restaurants and other places of recreation. Bertrand also sees a strong need to build a fund to help families with the financial burden of caring for a special needs child, such as hiring lawyers or parent advocates or paying for special therapies not covered by insurance. “Money should not be an issue in getting the best care for your child,” she believes. The Parent Resource Lifeline Board has already begun to develop the evaluation process it will use to distribute these funds.

The Family Fun Day is the first awareness and fundraising event for the fledgling organization, but Bertrand is already planning for future efforts including a holiday tie-in with Lucas Chocolates in Haverstraw. The suggested donation for the Family Fun Day is $25.00 and all proceeds raised through this and other events will go directly towards supporting Parent Resource Lifeline’s initiatives. As Bertrand says, “If I can help even one parent, then that’s one parent less who’s alone.”