Racheal and her grandson Luke are enjoying a day at the park together. It’s unusually hot, but they both are smiling as they walk through the park, stopping occasionally to enjoy a snack, watch a group of kids play, or catch a glimpse of a butterfly or bird zoom by.

After a while, Luke becomes uncomfortable and pulls down a large bright blue canopy over himself and tucks in the safety and comfort of his stroller. Racheal smiles. “When he starts to feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, he can go to his ‘safe space’ under the protection of the canopy,” she says, still smiling.

Racheal has been working with Beech Acres Parenting Center since July 2022. Krissi, her Family Specialist, has been helping her navigate challenges she has experienced raising Luke.  Luke is five years old and loves playing and hanging out with his grandmother. But due to his disabilities, he often becomes overstimulated when out in public. When he was younger Racheal discovered that one strategy that worked when Luke became overstimulated was to offer him refuge under a canopy or blanket in his stroller. It helped keep him calm and to reset.

When Luke outgrew his original stroller, he needed something larger.  Their insurance covered the cost of an adaptive stroller specifically made for children with disabilities. The new stroller would accommodate Luke’s growing body. Although their insurance would cover the cost of the stroller, they would not cover the $300 canopy that attaches to the stroller. With this high price tag, Racheal did not see this canopy as something affordable for her family. Racheal approached Krissi to see if she had a solution.

Family Specialists at Beech Acres Parenting Center help these caregivers find financial resources, navigate complex paperwork & connect them with other families.

After exploring several different options, Krissi was able to connect Racheal with the Varner Foundation for Children and Families. Together, they filled out an application for assistance. They were thrilled when the Varner Foundation chose not only to cover the cost of the basic canopy, but they offered to buy an upgraded canopy that offered better coverage for Luke.  Racheal is so excited to have this canopy for Luke. The extra coverage provided by the upgrade gives Luke plenty of space without also having to use a blanket, a welcome relief during these hot summer days. “I love this canopy, Racheal said. “It gives me the opportunity to go places and do things that Luke normally wouldn’t be able to handle.”

Luke and his grandma are now ready for any adventures this summer and beyond. And if Luke finds himself overwhelmed, he has a safe space in which to retreat until he feels comfortable again. “I am so thankful for the help I have received from Beech Acres!”