An award to be proud of

Mar 13, 2009

Last night started as an obligation, and ended up as an amazing validation of why we do this stuff.

I attended a fundraising event for the Specialized Language Development Center (SLD) with Dawnlynn Suttorp, our volunteer coordinator. We were there to accept an award on behalf of Amway for supporting the organization for the last twelve years.

Since 1997, Amway has given a modest grant to SLD for tuition assistance, which provides tutors for children who have dyslexia. The organization has steadily increased its programming over the years, as well as its rigorous approach to children and adults with “unique learning styles.”

But those are just words.

What really got me was hearing a story from Cindy, a mother of a child with dyslexia. Her son started having trouble with school around first and second grade, and was considered a behavioral issue. After struggling with the school district, checking his hearing and eyesight and testing with a neurologist, they didn’t find anything wrong with him, physically, mentally or emotionally. Yet their son was clearly not learning how to read. In the third grade, he was still reading at the first grade level. They came across SLD by talking to friends and family, and finally landed on the issue of dyslexia, a learning disability.

I guess I never realized how tough dyslexia is to cope with and what you have to overcome to learn to read, write and spell. Cindy held up a plastic box with index cards that held all of the techniques her son had to learn. Tapping his arm while he said different words. Writing letters in sand or on the carpet to open up brain pathways. Understanding the structure of the English language so he could understand the rules to help piece together the meaning of words.

It took four years and 250 tutoring sessions, but Cindy’s son learned to read, write and spell. His “behavioral issues” went away. He was commended for some outstanding projects by his teachers. He graduated, and entered college. He sent a note to his mom the first week and told her that he had a ton of reading to do for his classes … and he was keeping up! She still has the note.

SLD has been one of those programs that we think we know about when we review their application for an Amway One by One grant. We evaluate them based on how well they manage their money, how efficiently they run their operations, and the impact they have on the people they serve.

But sometimes you need to hear the stories to learn just how deep the impact really goes, and what investment is being made in a child’s life.

I met Cindy’s son at the event. He is about ten years younger than me. He graduated from a local university. He works in sales for a West Michigan business that sells products to the manufacturing and warehousing division of Amway.

It all comes full circle. And suddenly I am very proud of our award.

SLD Award for Amway

  • 7 Comments

    • Guest says:

      Wow !!! I sure like that story.

      Thanks Jesse

    • Guest says:

      It is nice to hear during these hard economic times that the Amway Corp is making things better for our children.  In addition SLD should be commended for their continued efforts to help children with learning disabilities. They are trully the unsung heroes of our society. Thanks again

    • Guest says:

      I was at the event and proud to have been a donor the past few years.SLD does some amazing things for children and their parents.Thanks Amway for all your support.John Lefere

    • Guest says:

      Pretty cool story. I love hearing GOOD news! Especially in this day and age of Doom & Gloom reporting. Thanks for sharing!

    • Guest says:

      Jesse, I am familiar with and a donor to the SLD.  The SLD isn't a flashy organization with a lot of buzz behind it, but it's an effective organization.  
      I know what you mean when you say "an obligation," b/c it's easy for any donor–and I especially believe corporate donors are at risk–to become entirely disengaged from a grantee's mission.  While development people are proud and passionate, their role requires them to push hard into the community for engagement and funding.  Much as we all agree on the common good of philanthropy, a grantmaker's decision-making eventually follows that simple script you outlined:  "Financials good? Solid management? Effective programming? Here's your money; who's next?"  These two roles can easily conflict if "pushing" becomes "selling" and grantmaking loses its philanthropic roots. As with all relationships, the best ones are created with a large dose of mutual empathy, of understanding.  
      Good for you for and Amway for opening your hearts to this program, and even better for you for sharing your new understanding of the SLD with your colleagues.  
      My best to you! Thank you for all that you do,  
      Melissa Janes

    • Guest says:

      What a great story that tells about the compassion and good works of one of the many outstanding non-profits in our community. Congrats to Amway and SLD!

    • Guest says:

      Thanks for sharing this touching story – what a breath of fresh air…Thank you!

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