Local charity provides financial aid for special needs kids

By: Kurt Buesching | February 15, 2012

When you have a child with a physical impairment, you learn quickly the need for financial resources to provide the necessary equipment and medical care for a child to live his or her best life. Canton residents Kelly and Dave Hermann were thrust into the world of special needs kids when their daughter Maggie was born with cerebral palsy in 2002. Since then, the Hermanns have been on a mission to help other families with special needs kids.

“We were very fortunate to be able to provide the things she needed,” Kelly Hermann says. That included a wheelchair, wheelchair-accessible van, a communication device, a home that’s wheelchair-friendly and countless medical visits. But not everyone can afford even the bare minimum of necessities for a special needs child, and not everything is covered by insurance. What’s more, knowing where to start in navigating the medical system can be difficult.

So in 2008, the Hermanns founded Kelly’s Kidz, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to families that include children with physical impairments. In its first year, Kelly’s Kidz raised some $75,000 – just through appeals to family and friends. Over time, the organization’s success has grown. Kelly’s Kidz has now raised just under $300,000 to benefit 41 families with special needs kids.

Earlier this year, the Hermanns raised more than $16,000 at the annual Maggie’s Lucky Strike Challenge at Plaza Lanes – a day of bowling and fun for kids and their families. The day included 240 bowlers who were treated to pizza and visits from Spiderman and Batman, plus raffles for sports tickets and other gifts. The annual event not only raises money for Kelly’s Kidz, but provides an opportunity for special needs kids and their families to just have fun, Hermann says.

“It’s a total family-driven event,” she says. “They always call it ‘Kelly’s Circus'” because I usually have a clown and other special guests for the kids. “It’s difficult to get her wheelchair up by a clown,” Hermann says of her daughter Maggie. “It’s nice because the characters come to the kids.”

With the money raised at events like this and the June 2 golf outing at Fox Hills in Plymouth, Kelly’s Kidz provides programs like the Children’s Special Health Care Grant, which provides supplemental health insurance for medical needs. The organization also brings kids who use augmentative communication devices together through a program called Kidz Speak, and provides a college scholarship program for children with physical impairments.

Partnering with the Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families in Dearborn, which provides rehabilitative care and support for families that include a special needs child, Kelly’s Kidz helps direct families to the necessary resources for daily living. Kelly’s Kidz also connects with the majority of the families it helps through the center, and often uses the center as a meeting place for its programs.

The organization has no minimum income requirements for the families it helps, Hermann explains. “Income doesn’t matter. Even if you’re making $100,000 a year,” wheelchairs and all the other equipment and medical needs get very expensive, she says.

For example, driver’s training can cost up to $2,500 for people with physical impairments, Hermann says. So Kelly’s Kidz has a Kidz Drive program that helps pay for it.

With no administrative costs to speak of – all the work is done by Hermann and her husband, along with family, friends and other volunteers – Kelly’s Kidz continues to work toward helping more families, developing more financial aid programs and increasing public awareness about physical impairments.

“Unfortunately, it’s out of sight, out of mind for people,” Hermann says. Stores and restaurants that are supposed to be wheelchair accessible are still difficult to navigate, and people just don’t think about what it takes to get around with a physically impaired child.

So as needs arise with the families Kelly’s Kidz touches, the organization will develop programs that help meet those needs, she says.

For more information, visit www.kellyskidz.net.