CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Childhood Language Center in downtown Charleston, which has become a learning safe haven for families of children with speech problems, will co-host a fundraiser with the city Friday evening at Haddad Riverfront Park.
The fundraiser, "Celebrate Independence 5K," begins at 7:45 p.m.
The center was founded in 1990 by the Scottish Rite Masons and operates entirely on donations, grants and fundraisers. The center provides free speech and language therapy for children with language delays, autism, Down syndrome and hearing impairments.
Holly Martin, executive director of the center, said the race will go a long way toward helping children receive necessary speech therapy.
"We don't want families to have to worry about their kids getting the care they need," Martin said. "They often face a huge financial burden, and that's where we come in."
The Hiser family first learned about their adopted son, Ian, when he was 8 months old. Ian's mother, Michelle, knew they would have a long road of speech therapy ahead of them. He was born with a cleft lip and palate.
"I wanted a baby. I didn't even think about it," Hiser said. "I knew my other son had [speech] therapy and, if that's all we had to deal with, that was fine with me."
Doctors in China surgically repaired Ian's lip and palate to close any gaps, to enable him to speak more properly and eat food regularly.
Ian has been in speech therapy since he was 12 months old. During the school year, he attends two sessions each week. During the summer, he visits the center for therapy once a week.
The communication between Ian and his mother has improved with therapy but still needs work. Sometimes, Hiser said, Ian gets lazy and just points to an object when she can't understand him.
From the skills she picked up during speech therapy sessions, she tries to walk Ian through what he wants to express. Recently, Ian mentioned the circus but his mother had no idea what he was talking about until she asked him: What's there? Where is it?
Ian responded and clearly annunciated the word "clowns." Instantly, his mother knew he was talking about the circus they'd visited.