When Hannah Southerland went on stage to receive her Mississippi Occupational Diploma from Lawrence County High School in 2013, her entire class gave her a standing ovation. Surely, this kind of moment would have been exciting and memorable for any family. But for Hannah’s family, it also signified how far she had come and how many odds she had defied. When Hannah was diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy at a very young age, her family was left feeling uncertain about what the future would hold – a feeling to which any parent of a child with special needs can relate.
Hannah began receiving services from The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at USM at 15 months of age. At that point, her parents knew that their daughter would be nonverbal and that they would need help finding alternative ways to help their child communicate with the world around her. But they had no idea what that might look like. It was only through the guidance of her dedicated therapists at The Children’s Center, the support of her family, and a whole lot of hard work on Hannah’s part that she was able to find her voice. For Hannah, that voice came through a communication device that was controlled by the movement of her head or the gaze of her eyes.
“We owe so much of Hannah’s success to her early beginnings at The Children’s Center,” said Tina Southerland, Hannah’s mother. “We are forever grateful to the entire staff for their dedication and love. They saw so much potential in her. They looked beyond the physical and saw a bright, intellectual girl just needing the right devices to help her communicate.”
“The Children’s Center opened so many doors for her – opportunities that we would not have otherwise had access to. They laid the foundation for Hannah, and we will never forget any of them.”
In school, Hannah excelled both academically and socially, and touched so many lives. Today, Hannah enjoys being at home with her family and is actively involved in her church. She will turn 26 in February, is a big MSU Bulldog fan, and still keeps in touch with friends that she made at The Children’s Center.
This is just one of countless examples of children and families whose lives have been changed for the better by their time at The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at Southern Miss. And on February 22 and 23 they will be holding their largest fundraiser of the year – their fifth annual Children’s Center Classic 10K, 5K, and 1-mile fun run.
Join The Children’s Center for this important event and help ensure that they are able to continue providing innovative therapies for infants and children with complex disabilities at absolutely no cost to their families. Registration begins at $20 ($10 for the children-only fun run) and all profits go directly to these life-changing services.
If you can’t make it to the race, but would like to get involved, there are many other ways you can help.
Visit thechildrenscenterclassic.com to learn more, or to register for the race.
Contact Courtney Tesh, courtney.tesh@-usm.edu with any questions.