Our guest writer this week is Joe Butler, founder of Ability Tree.
Ability Tree is a non-profit located in historic, downtown Siloam Springs.
I never really noticed people with disabilities until about 14 years ago when my son Micah was born. Prior to having a child with special needs, I associated disability with old age and unfortunate circumstances. As most soon-to-be parents do, my wife and I hoped for and expected a healthy child. There were no signs of disability when Micah was born. It wasn’t until his nine-month check-up, that were we told there were developmental delays.
Disability not only takes a toll on the individual but the whole family as well. At nine months old, Micah started receiving physical, occupational, and speech therapy, multiple times a week. My wife, Jen, had the full-time job of parenting a two year old and a newborn with special needs. Among other things, she was responsible for juggling Micah’s multiple weekly therapy appointments, which were critical in teaching him how to walk, talk, and use fine and gross motor skills. We often felt alone and abandoned on the journey.
Ability Tree was born out of my family’s experience with disability. Disability can bring disappointment and difficulty, but it also brings a new perspective on life and living. Ability Tree believes every person has abilities and a purpose in life.
In June of 2010, we founded Ability Tree as a nonprofit corporation to come alongside families impacted by disability through recreation, education, support, and training (R.E.S.T.); we aim to partner with individuals and organizations to raise awareness and build support networks to strengthen and grow able families. Our vision is to see individuals and families impacted by disability being accepted and supported in their local community, enjoying healthy relationships in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and churches.
Over the past five years, we have connected with hundreds of families in Northwest Arkansas through community events and the Ability Tree Center which offers after-school, art, respite, and support programs for children and teens with special needs, their siblings and caregivers, while teaching volunteers, from throughout the community, how to interact with kids and adults with disabilities and their families. The Ability Tree Center is located in downtown Siloam Springs at 300 East Main Street.
Micah turns 15 years old this year, he’s not your typical teenager, he’s happy most of the time and he cares about others more than himself. His disability doesn’t define him. He lives a healthy life in his community, and challenges others to do the same.
On a mission,
You’re invited to help make Siloam Springs more inclusive!
Community building families is the theme for the 4th annual Laughability, on Saturday, November 7, at The Cypress Barn in Siloam Springs. Laughability helps sustain Ability Tree’s outreach and programming for individuals and families impacted by disability. To purchase tickets, go to: www.abilitytree.org/laughability4
abilitytree.org | Twitter: @abilitytree | Facebook: Ability Tree | Instagram: @abilitytree
Ability Tree Inc. is a 501c3 tax-deductible organization, incorporated in 2010 in the state of Arkansas.