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Winter 2023 Newsletter

A Letter from our CEO

Dear Tennyson Community,

Happy New Year! I’m excited to share our big news which will offer hope to some of the most vulnerable kids in our state.

As part of the latest federal spending package, Tennyson Center for Children will receive a $1 million grant for construction of a mental-health treatment center on our campus for low-income children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). This project was included in a funding request submitted by U.S. Representative Diana DeGette as part of her commitment towards “making more housing and health care services available in some of our most underserved communities.”

I am extremely grateful that Representative DeGette identified kids with IDD as one of the most underserved populations in Colorado, and that she chose Tennyson to help meet this urgent need.

Research shows that youth living with IDD are often survivors of neglect, physical abuse, and trauma at higher rates than their non-disabled peers. More than 40% of people with IDD also experience co-occurring mental health challenges. This grant will allow Tennyson to move forward with a residential facility where these children can receive the care, services, and structure needed to gain the skills to live the most independent lives possible.

There are still many details to sort out for this complex and urgently needed project, and I look forward to sharing more updates as they emerge in 2023.

With great appreciation,

Mindy Watrous
President & CEO

Thank You for a Successful Operation Giving

We have just concluded our largest fundraising campaign of the year, raising funds to fuel the life-saving therapies that we provide all year long and helping families manage the extra demands of the holidays. Thank you for participating in Operation Giving! Together, we brought smiles to hundreds of incredible kids and families, and your impact will continue into the new year. Here’s a snapshot of your generosity:

  • Over $213,000 raised on Colorado Gives Day!
  • More than 131 families who received presents, warm clothes, and basic needs at the annual “Joy Drive!”
  • Over $1,732,000 raised in other donations from October-December to support Tennyson programs!

These gifts helped families manage the biggest stressors of the holidays and can fund approximately 7,500 hours of child or family therapy.

Donor Spotlight

Every year since 2009, David Powell’s parents delivered gifts from their church in Kansas City all the way to Tennyson’s campus in Denver. When his father passed away in 2012, David started making the annual trek with his mom. “Aside from seeing her grandson on Christmas, our annual toy drive delivery was the part of the season she loved most.” When David’s mom passed away this year, he decided to continue the tradition with his wife Amy. They flew from their home in Atlanta to Kansas City to pick up 140 gifts before making the long drive to Colorado! We are so grateful for their commitment to our children and families in need.

Treating Trauma with New Therapies

When a child experiences severe trauma, that memory is stored deep in the brain where it can impact every aspect of their mental and physical health. To treat the widespread effects of trauma and provide each child with the special set of interventions they need to heal, Tennyson has added more therapies to our list of services:

Speech and Language Therapy
with Ellen Ratigan, Speech Language Pathologist

Speech and Language Therapy targets fluency (the ability to express oneself easily and accurately), articulation (forming clear and direct sounds), and voice. Ellen’s primary goal with Tennyson kiddos is to improve their social communication skills (like interacting with new people, understanding what’s appropriate or inappropriate, or knowing how to express and read other people’s emotions).

This service is especially important for the kids we serve because trauma or persistent stress can impair a child’s speaking skills. Oftentimes, they haven’t grown up in a language-rich environment, or they may have learned destructive communication habits if they grew up in an abusive household. Ellen already has multiple success stories like the kid who was finally able to answer a question in class or the child who found the courage to ask her classmates if she could sit with them during lunch.

Recreational Therapy
with Jennifer Link, Recreational Therapist
Recreational Therapy uses games and activities to work towards specific goals. It’s also about finding the activities that bring someone joy or adapting activities they can participate. It’s especially important for Tennyson kids who may not be able to participate in activities they once loved because of a traumatic event. Even the simplest activities can be triggering for a child with trauma, but Jennifer knows how to navigate them in different ways to help the child feel safe and accomplished.

At the end of a session, she asks kids to reflect on the things they liked about the experience and the things they did well. “It’s important to have kids recognize that although the outcome of the game or activity might not have gone as planned, there are positive things to come out of each attempt. They remained with their peers, they didn’t give up, they stayed safe, and so on and so forth.”

Recently, Jennifer used basketball to improve a child’s breath control, which was limiting his speech. “With each dribble, we took a breath. For free throws, it was inhale, exhale, then shoot. It just shows the power of recreational therapy…using the things we love to achieve a difficult goal.”

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAA)
at Mustard Seed Ranch and the Intricate Roots Community Farm

Exposure to animals can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety, building self-esteem, practicing social skills, and learning emotional awareness and regulation. Kids in our School & Day Treatment program now have access to two forms of AAA. They can receive weekly equine therapy with horses at Mustard Seed Ranch or interact with a variety of therapy animals at the Community Farm owned by Intricate Roots. Through our new partnership with Intricate Roots, therapy animals will also visit Tennyson’s campus throughout the year. Click here to see our first animal visitor, Butterscotch the Guinea Pig.

Horticulture Therapy
with the Denver Urban League

Horticulture therapy uses plants and gardening to improve mental and physical health. It’s especially useful for kids who benefit from routines and calming environments, including kids with autism. In the garden, they have an opportunity to explore with their senses without being overstimulated. For similar reasons, it helps kids who are high-energy or in a state of dysregulation. “We want to give teachers and clinicians one more tool in their toolkit,” says the Garden Manager, Nick Wininger. “We already have high-energy spaces like playgrounds. By adding a lower-energy space, we’re giving kids more ways to work through their challenges.” One of our kiddos has a special fondness for catching bugs, and he’s looking forward to release of ladybugs this Spring.

Give Monthly and Get a Gold Star!

Kids in our School & Day Treatment program earn gold stars next to their names when they go above and beyond to help their peers. When you take the extra step for vulnerable kids and families by making a monthly gift, we think you deserve a gold star too! Monthly giving has special benefits for our cause, including consistency and greater efficiency since we won’t have to spend as much time pursuing new donations. To recognize this special impact, all monthly givers will now be enrolled in the Gold Star Society!

Our goal is 23 giving 23 in ’23! To meet the rising costs of therapy and support services, we are looking for 23 new donors who can give $23 a month in 2023. Together, these gifts can provide over 25 hours of life-saving therapy to help a child heal!

Become a Monthly Giver

Start 2023 with an Act of Self-Care

Your kindness towards Tennyson kids and families is deeply felt, and we want to encourage you to show yourself the same care as you enter 2023. Through our partnership with FreeWill, you can create your will for free and begin 2023 with an act of care for yourself, for your loved ones, and for Tennyson families. Start the new year with the peace of mind that all that you love is safeguarded.

Start Now
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