In 1984, during one of the most tragic times in their lives, Hudson residents Tom and Brenda Clark made a promise to themselves that one day they would give back to the hospital that did so much for them during their son Brandon’s short life. Born with microcephaly, Brandon received physical, occupational and speech therapy at Akron Children’s during his 18 months of life.
“The rehab department at Akron Children’s was our support system during that time,” said Brenda. “We were so appreciative. We knew when we got to a point in life where we were able to give back we would.”
In 2009, the couple started the Brandon Thomas Clark fund to offset the costs of therapy, adaptive equipment, augmentative devices and hearing aids for families in need.
According to Barb Kline, supervisor of the speech therapy department and the fund’s administrator, “Sometimes insurance companies will only partially cover therapies or equipment so the fund is meant to augment the cost for families.”
“This is not an endowment that sits in a bank account accruing interest,” explained Tom. “Money comes in and is spent regularly.”
One of the biggest contributors to this little known fund is the West Akron TWIG #13 group. TWIG, which stands for Together With Important Goals, is a group of nearly 500 volunteer women across northeast Ohio (divided into local chapters) who traditionally assemble craft kits for the hospital’s craft cart. But for 12 of the years current group president Dr. Joanna Manz has been a member, TWIGS #13 has done things a little differently.
“We are unconventional in the sense that we don’t put together craft kits, although we do financially support the craft cart program,” she said. “Our group prefers to host fundraisers to help the lesser known and supported programs at the hospital. In the past we have donated to Flashes of Hope, Children Who Witness Violence, the Dominic Vesco Memorial Endowment Fund, the Doggie Brigade, and for the past 3 years – the Brandon Thomas Clark Fund.”
For new member Shannon McKinney, who just moved back to the West Akron neighborhood she grew up in, joining TWIG has been a way to reconnect to the community and get to know like-minded women. Her group holds monthly meetings, about 9 times a year, in members’ homes.
“I work full-time so I don’t have the time to physically go to the hospital and volunteer so this is a means for me to give back to the hospital that has treated my 2 daughters’ various illnesses and injuries over the years,” she said. “Socially, it’s a nice way for me to get to know ladies in the neighborhood and bond over a common cause.”
On March 30, TWIGS #13 members were invited to tour the rehabilitation department at the hospital and see some of the equipment they had a hand in helping purchase. Over 3 years, the group has become one of the fund’s top contributors – raising a total of $13,500.
“Due to the generosity of the TWIG and other patrons, 100 plus patients have received essential therapeutic tools, equipment and treatment services that traditional funding sources would not cover,” said Kline.
For the Clarks, who receive handwritten notes from the families the fund helps, it’s been a heartwarming experience.
“To read the cards and see photos of these kids communicating or hearing for the first time is very moving,” said Tom.
To learn more about TWIG, or how to join a group, call the Volunteer Department at 330-543-8424.