Be A Part of Our Story

Everyone wants to be part of a great story, and our children have stories that are inspiring and courageous. Here are a few.

Grace Fornea is our fun loving, free spirited 2.5 year old. She loves to tell everyone “Hey” when she walks into a room. She lights up a room with her smile and laugh, and enjoys dancing. She spends a good bit of time watching her big brother play sports and loves to cheer him on.

She was born February 11, 2016 and we received a birth diagnosis of Down syndrome. With a little time, lots of education and support, we jumped into this new community and found ourselves on the waiting list at LLH. Grace Fornea started LLH in August 2017 and what a blessing they are to us! We know our girl is loved, pushed to her potential and supported by everyone at LLH. We are so thankful for LLH and all the buddies that Grace Fornea and our family have made along the way.

Vaida was born in May 2014 with a virus called Cytomegalovirus (CMV) which caused calcification on her brain, microcephaly and hearing loss. We had never heard of CMV before Vaida was diagnosed with it. That was a very scary time in our lives as we had no idea what to expect- even if Vaida would ever be able to walk, talk or communicate.

When she was 3 months old, her physical therapist told us to get on the waiting list for The Little Light House. I was very surprised when she said that because I thought to myself, “That’s not us. She won’t need to go there.” Boy was I wrong. Luckily, I went ahead and filled out the application and tried to learn more about The Little Light House. After 2 years on the waiting list, Vaida finally started in August 2016.

Vaida currently functions at about the level of a 1 year old. She was diagnosed with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy in December 2016. She is totally deaf in her right ear but has not lost any more of her hearing which is common with CMV. Her progress is very slow but it’s still progress. Vaida has 5 appointments a week where she receives occupational, physical, speech and feeding therapy outside of school. She is working on walking with a walker, pulling up to stand, producing new words/sounds and eating solid foods.

Since starting at The Little Light House, Vaida has learned almost 100 signs. This helps immensely with communication as she can only say about 15-20 words. She has begun crawling, using her stander, pointing, responding with yes/no, selecting objects from a small group, drinking from a cup and straw, and eating more solid foods. These may seem like they are small things but they are huge to us. You don’t realize how many milestones there are until you have a child that takes months or years to reach them. And for that, we celebrate ALL of them! The classroom time and extra therapy she receives at The Little Light House is helping her reach milestones and exceed our expectations.

Francie was born in 2014 and came into our family through the help of the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. With her, we entered a new world of surgeries and therapies. Since Francie’s birth, we have met so many wonderful, encouraging, and helpful people. The Little Light House has been a big part of that encouragement and help. We were so thankful that Francie was able to begin attending TLLH when she was 10 months old, and we have seen her grow and develop by leaps and bounds since she started school. Now at 3 and a half, Francie is a happy, healthy toddler. Since she’s been at TLLH, she has gone from learning to sit up to running and climbing. She’s also learned to eat foods with texture and drink from a straw. She knows about 17 signs and we are realizing all the time she’s doing signs that we didn’t even know! We are so thankful for the guidance of the wonderful teachers and therapists at TLLH. Francie has added much joy and love to our lives, and we feel so blessed to be her family.

Riley Kate was born on January 12th 2016. She is a happy, loving, energetic 2 year old. She loves her big brother, music, dancing, and being outside. She never passes up a chance to cruise the neighborhood on the golf cart. She wins everyone over with her huge contagious smile.
Riley Kate was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a heart defect during 2nd trimester of my pregnancy. She was born with a balanced atrioventricular canal heart defect. She had open heart surgery to correct it at 6 months old.
Riley Kate started TLLH in January of 2018. Even though we have only been there for a short time it’s been the most rewarding thing we have done this far for her. She loves it there. And seeing all the love that she gets from everyone there just melts my heart. Not only is this a tuition free school for her to learn everything that she will need to start kindergarten it’s also a group of people that are becoming family to us. We are extremely lucky that God has lead us to TLLH. We will be forever grateful for everyone and everything that we get from TLLH. We can’t wait to see Riley Kate blossom into the smart little girl that we know she is.

Sawyer is a precious happy 3-year-old boy who loves lights & toys that spin. The Little Light House has been such a blessing to Sawyer and our family. He has shown tremendous growth & improvement in his time at The Little Light House. This school year Sawyer has learned to pull up to stand from sit, stand while leaning against something, learned to give a high five, taking steps in his walker, drink from a cup & straw, learned how to chew, pull spoon to his mouth to eat, mimic sounds & making new sounds. As a parent, it is such a wonderful feeling to know that he is loved, cared for, & safe every day & surrounded by wonderful Christian teachers and volunteers.

jedibrody2Brody is a happy, beautiful little boy with a big smile and a laugh that can bring sunshine to the darkest days. He loves trucks, trains, cars, and anything with wheels. He’s also a very affectionate son and brother who gives great hugs and big, messy kisses.

Brody was diagnosed with heart tumors through a routine ultrasound before his birth. The doctor told us they were likely caused by Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, a rare genetic condition that causes tumors to grow throughout the body and on vital organs including the brain, heart, and kidneys. Tuberous Sclerosis is the leading genetic cause of epilepsy and autism.

Brody has multiple brain tumors, and as a result, has suffered from epilepsy since he was two months old. Even so, we held on to the hope that he would be part of the 1/3 of children with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex who are mildly affected and developmentally normal. As the seizures progressed and he failed several medicines, we noticed more significant delays in his development. When he was one year old, we decided to put him on the waiting list at The Little Lighthouse so he could get more therapy and help.

In November 2013, Brody went through a two stage brain surgery to remove two of his tumors which were triggering seizures. The following month, I got the call that he would be starting The Little Lighthouse in January. It was the perfect timing because he was able to start school seizure-free and able to learn.

In the time Brody has been at the Little Lighthouse, he has increased significantly in his vocalization and learned to drink through a straw. What has made me most happy is seeing how much his teacher and the other children love him. I can’t wait to see the improvements he makes in the future.

love bug graceBack in 2010, when we received the devastating diagnoses for Grace, we could not have imagined where she would be today.  In all honesty, we didn’t think she would live, so we are so excited that she is not only living, but living her life happily and healthily!  She is thriving, learning, and growing every day, in large part because of TLLH.  She started going to school at TLLH back in October of 2012 as a 19 month old, and has come SO far since then!  She is starting to learn how to walk without her walker, she is talking more and more (and loves singing), she is feeding herself and drinking from her cup independently, and learning more every day!  We have been so blessed by TLLH, and we desire to give back to the school that has given so much hope to us!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

This is Mackenzie Wilbanks. She was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Genitopatellar Syndrome at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in October 2010. All we knew is that she would have severe physical and mental delay. While we were in the NICU, we kept hearing about this school called The Little Light House and how we needed to get on the waiting list immediately. Time after time we were hearing about LLH. We were so excited to get our little Mackenzie on the waiting list and visit the school. In April of 2011 we got a call saying there was a place for Mackenzie for the next school year and set up a time for the screening. We felt so honored and blessed to be so quickly a part of the family of The Little Light House! Mackenzie started school the following August and has enjoyed every minute of it. She has really been able to learn interaction and how reaction is important to communication. She used to get lost in her surroundings but has now become a big part of it. We continue to work on her intentional communication and movements. Only through the unconditional love and unselfish giving of time and talents of her teachers and therapists at The Little Light House has Mackenzie been able to grow into the precious girl that she is today! Offering such services tuition free has greatly helped us not to worry about the next month’s funds. Thank you to those who have given of their time and/or monetary donations in effort to provide our little ones with a safe, loving, Christian environment.

HenryHenry entered this world by emergency c-section and hasn’t stopped surprising us since! Henry was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after he was born. I was already in love with this beautiful boy and scared to death at the same time. Henry was the first person I’d ever met with Down syndrome and everything I “knew” about this diagnosis was stereotypical and outdated. When Henry was 1 week old, my husband and I were connected with a couple whose son had attended LLH and they encouraged us to place him on the waiting list as soon as possible. So,
at 10 days old, we did just that. I’ll be forever grateful to that couple for bringing their son to meet us and for showing us so early so many of the good things coming that I couldn’t yet imagine. When Henry was 9 months old I received the call informing me there would be a spot open for him in
January. We were nervous and excited all at once! Henry was 11 months old when he started LLH, he is 4 years old now and wow! He has progressed from a bottle to a straw cup, eating baby food to eating most meals with the rest of the family and feeding himself with a fork or spoon (messily!!); he was barely sitting on his own when he started school, now he runs and jumps and climbs and dances!!
We have always used sign language with him at home, the school uses the same program we use, so he is signing with most everyone he knows. Henry knows well over 150 ASL signs and learns more all the time. Henry
was recently diagnosed with apraxia and so his speech therapy is now more focused on this area. He is trying to say more words, and together with his sign language.  Henry can definitely tell you what he thinks!

The Little Lighthouse has been an amazing blessing for our family. Not only does Henry have tuition-free access to wonderful teachers and therapists, but we have also connected with wonderful, loving families. Henry is smart and funny, sweet and loving, oh so loving. We see this every day at home, but TLLH has helped Henry blossom outside of our immediate family to show all his great qualities to the rest of the world!

Katy 2Katy is our sweet hearted 4 year old little girl. When she was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. This diagnosis was definitely not expected. We thought she had hearing loss since she didn’t seem to acknowledge any sounds or her name when called. Katy was in her own little world. We couldn’t seem to break through to her and when we did, it seemed to upset her. Little did we know we were overloading her sensory system and her mind couldn’t handle that much intake all at once.

Since her diagnosis, Katy has been in Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy to help her process things around her and learn to use her words to communicate when she needs something. Our little angel has come a long way in 2 years, but she still struggles with communication and in social settings.

We started going to The Little Lighthouse this past August and already see so much progress with Katy. She sings songs and even told a therapist at The Little Lighthouse her name when asked! This school, funded by donations only, has already done wonders for my baby girl and I am so thankful to God for them. Otherwise, we would not be able to afford the one-on-one time Katy receives. Please help us support The Little Lighthouse and allow them to help so many like us that desperately need a school like this to step in and take their babies further than we thought possible in such a short time.

Many thanks for your support; and don’t forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!

OLIVIA-2015Olivia’s Bible Verse- “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

The birth of Olivia Elise was joy to our family. She lights up the room where ever she goes. After overcoming brain surgery at 5 months old, we became worried about the next step because she was growing & doing well. Shortly after her first birthday, I saw a Facebook post about The Little Lighthouse School. I contacted the school and Olivia was placed on the waiting list! Olivia began school in August 2015 when she was 2yrs old. She could not walk, communicate, feed herself, and still used baby bottles. Now, 3 years later, at the age of 5 Olivia can vocalize a few words and use a communication board to interact with others, she feeds herself with a spoon, she not only walks but runs all the time, and can use straw sippy cups. Progression at its best! We are grateful for the teachers & therapists at the school.

Cora-Lakshmi-Baisden-croppedSometimes God takes us on journeys we never expected. That was certainly true when Jason and I decided to become parents!

Cora Lakshmi was born on July 4, 2011 in India. Through a series of circumstances this pearly-eyed beauty made her way to an orphanage in Bangalore. In January of 2013 we learned of a little girl who needed a family and started our adoption journey to bring this beautiful little girl home. In April of 2015 we were finally all together as a family. And our blessings have just exploded with this little firecracker in our lives!

By the age of 2, Cora Lakshmi was diagnosed with Congenital Glaucoma, Stickler Syndrome, Megalocornea, and Bilateral Retinal Detachment. Which are really just a bunch of big words to say that she is blind. She can see light and loves to tell you when “the sun is on”.

Blindness doesn’t slow this girl down one bit. She has a HUGE personality with a smile to match. She loves Frozen and can sing Let It Go at top volume! In fact, she loves to sing anything! If you’re really special, she’ll even make up a song about you! Cora Lakshmi is also a fabulous dancer and can be seen busting her moves during worship time at TLLH! Most of all she loves her school and all of her friends in the Blue Class!

charlieThis year our family was blessed with the news that Charlie got into The Little Light House (LLH) after being on the waiting list for over 2 years!  Before he was born we knew there would possibly be challenges he would encounter due to some abnormalities discovered on the ultrasounds.  At this time, Charlie does not have a medically diagnosed syndrome; he simply has “symptoms” we treat, one of which is developmental delays.  Having worked with speech, occupational and physical therapists for nearly 3 years, Charlie has steadily made progress.  In addition to those therapies, he is now a student at The Little Light House – yet another answer to prayer!   Charlie has been attending LLH for a few months now, and he loves it!  We are beginning to see new skills developing – drinking from a straw, singing songs and communicating his needs/wants, running and climbing, just to name a few.  Drew and I are excited to see what the rest of his time there will bring!

Kaden 1Kaden is a feisty 3 year old who makes his way into everyone’s heart.  He loves to play ball, eat cheese puffs, watch Sesame Street and Family Feud, and listen to music.  He was born on May 7, 2012 via uneventful repeat cesarean section.  He was soon after transferred to NICU due to his inability to keep his oxygen level within normal range on his own.  It was there that he was tested for and diagnosed with trisomy 21, a form of Down Syndrome.

Due to the low muscle tone of Down Syndrome, Kaden has required frequent speech, physical, and occupational therapies. He has delayed speech, with a few words and a few signs.  He has loose hips that makes learning to walk difficult.  At 3 years old, he can take a few baby steps.  He is mostly fed third stage baby foods and soft cookies, though he loves his straw cups!

We first heard about The Little Lighthouse from fellow parents in the Central Mississippi DS Society.  Due to a few separation anxieties on my part, I didn’t place Kaden on the waiting list until he was 2 years old. He started at about #30 and over the course of a year and a half worked his way into a classroom.  I got the call from TLLH in December, and Kaden was able to start class in February.  Although it has only been a month, Kaden has progressed by leaps and bounds! We are so blessed to be a part of something so great.

Francie (2)Francie was born on October 4, 2014 and came into our family through the help of the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. With her, we entered a new world of surgeries and therapies. Since Francie’s birth, we have met so many wonderful, encouraging, and helpful people. The Little Light House has been a big part of that encouragement and help. We were so thankful that Francie was able to begin attending TLLH when she was 10 months old, and we have seen her grow and develop by leaps and bounds since she started school. Now at 16 months old, Francie is a happy, healthy baby. Since she’s been at TLLH, she has learned to sit up unassisted, crawl, eat foods with texture, and she’s now working on drinking from a straw! We are so thankful for the guidance of the wonderful teachers and therapists at TLLH. Francie has added much joy and love to our lives, and we feel so blessed to be her family.

Luke-croppedLuke is 3 years old and was born with Spina Bifida. He had surgery when he was one day old to close his spine and afterwards spent 4 weeks in the NICU. Our family heard about the Little Lighthouse because we have an older child with special needs and had been told about the school when it was a little too late to put her on the waiting list. Since I knew the waiting list was long, I called to place Luke on it when he was still in the NICU at around 1 week old. Luke started at LLH in the fall of 2015 and has been loving it ever since. He was not very verbal when he started and is now speaking in sentences and able to recognize his name in print. Luke is able to take up to 10 steps unassisted and has been working hard to learn to walk independently. The Little Lighthouse has been a huge blessing to our family by providing tuition free school and services for Luke.

IMG_7968Weston was born at 32 weeks. He was welcomed into the world on January 30th 2012, weighing only 1 pound, 10 oz, and measured 12.5 inches long. He stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 84 days. On his 5th day of life he was taken off the ventilator and because his lungs were underdeveloped they began to bleed. This led to another complication involving a grade 4 bleed on both sides of his brain causing Cerebral Palsy.
He has endured multiple surgeries and receives his meals mostly through a g-tube but IS eating some things by mouth.
Weston uses a wheelchair and is working on his speech. He has a beautiful smile and loves being with his friends at The Little Light House. This little man is unstoppable. He is our super hero!

Tyler as peeblesThis is Tyler’s second year at The Little Light House and we couldn’t be more excited about the progress she has made!

Due to issues during the pregnancy with Tyler (or TylerBelle as we like to call her) and her twin sister, Bailey Grace, we had to make the tough decision to have an emergency c-section at 26 weeks and 2 days. Tyler was born at 1 lb 3 oz and 11.75″ long. Unfortunately, after 15 days, we lost Bailey Grace due to an intestinal infection her little body just couldn’t overcome.

During the course of Tyler’s 120-day NICU stay, she had an intestinal surgery to release some blockage that was affecting her bowel movements, diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), Periventricular leukomalacia, chronic lung disease, and feeding issues.

Since she was released from the NICU, she hasn’t looked back. We got the call that she was accepted at the Little Light House right before her 3rd birthday. When she started, she couldn’t sit up straight in a chair, stand up with or without assistance, her talking was limited, she was still having feeding issues, and she couldn’t use a walker. During this first year, we also got an official diagnoses of mild cerebral palsy due to the periventricular leukomalacia and mild optic atrophy.

This hasn’t stopped this determined little girl. She can talk your ear off now, sit up straight in a chair and on the floor without any assistance, stand for about 2-3 minutes without any assistance and use a walker. She is even learning sign language to communicate with her other classmates! She loves to sing, laugh, and work on her sight words! She always comes home talking about what she learned that day.

I can honestly say, without this school I don’t think Tyler would be where she is today. We still have a few hurdles to work on, but this school gives us additional tools to help our children reach their fullest potential. The Little Light House has been a true blessing for not only our precious TylerBelle, but for our family!

Meredith 1Our sweet Meredith was born in January, 2012. Meredith developed normally and hit all of the milestones until she was 10 months old. At that time her development in all areas stalled, with little or no development. She is now 4 and we still have no definitive diagnosis. Through hard work and therapy she has made progress in a lot of areas.

She has only been at The Little Light House for a couple of months but loves to be around all of her classmates and has made many friends. She loves her teachers and to our surprise and delight, she really loves going to school each day. We are so thankful God has opened this door and we are looking forward to the progress she will be making at The Little Light House.

Meredith loves playing with her big sister, watching Elmo, the Wiggles, Home (the movie), Barney and trying to make us all laugh at her silliness.

Kaiden 1Kaiden was born in October 2011 with a rare genetic condition known as Apert syndrome. During his short stay in the NICU, we found out about The Little Light House. We put him on the wait list shortly after we were discharged home. Kaiden started school at TLLH in January 2014! At the age of 4 he knows all of his colors, the entire alphabet, some sight words, and many songs! He talks and sometimes uses signing to communicate. He amazes even his own doctors with his progress! Without the help of TLLH staff and therapists, Kaiden may not be where he is today. I thank GOD for this blessing!

Harrison CatMeet Harrison.

He is a little brother to two big sisters, Madison and Meredith.  God gave him to us on April 27, 2011.  Within a couple of days after he was born, I knew something was a little different because of a consistent rapid movement happening in his eyes.  It was a gut feeling I couldn’t shake and wouldn’t leave alone until I found an answer. We soon discovered he had congenital Nystagmus.  This small diagnosis didn’t seem like much, but it was the start to uncovering a chain of different neurological conditions. He has been diagnosed with congenital muscular myopathy, speech/language expressive disorder, ADHD, and struggles with a few sensory processing things (touch and sound).  We settled for a little while on these labels and accepted it, but I still felt something was overlooked.  I noticed how he was more withdrawn from peers, struggled emotionally when his daily routine was interrupted, and he would express his feelings using words that didn’t fit.  For example, whenever he was/is happy at home, he will say “GOLF CART!”  He loves the mess out of golf carts and even has little toy golf carts all over his bedroom he plays with!  But, just in everyday life, he will say “GOLF CART” to express when he is happy.  It dawned on me, that the first moment he felt a thrilling feeling of excitement, was when he rode on a golf cart one day.  Ever since then, he has paired that word and experience together and will even to this day, say “Golf Cart” when he’s excited about something.  He was doing things like this off and on. Although these are cute and funny expressions Harrison was showing, I took it as a red flag that it needed to be addressed and looked into further.  Through many tears, researching, talking to others and his doctors, I decided to get him tested and evaluated through the Child Development Clinic. This past summer at the age of 4, he was placed on the Autism Spectrum.

Harrison’s journey into The Little Lighthouse is truly orchestrated by God.  Harrison was enrolled in a local preschool program at the age of 1.  During his first year at the preschool, I noticed he was behind developmentally from other typical children his age.  I am a graphic designer, but put that on hold to take a job as an assistant preschool teacher where he was enrolled.  By being in his academic/social environment, I was able to get into his world full time and see how he interacted outside of the home.  It was then where I truly discovered he was developmentally delayed.  He seemed to be in his own world, had no interest in learning colors, shapes, and all that goes along with a preschool class.  He couldn’t keep up with his classmates even as a 2year old.  He didn’t understand simple commands like standing in line and sitting down for story time.  We decided to place him on the waiting list with The Little Lighthouse.  About 8 months later, The Little Lighthouse called to let us know a spot had opened up for him.  I am extremely grateful and blessed God opened a door for our little man.  That was an answered prayer for our family because he was getting a true shot at life and being a part of a school that fit him and his pace of learning!  He started there in January of 2014.  At that time, Harrison had only 3 words in his vocabulary, was in his own world, had trouble with transitions, and we weren’t even sure he knew his name.

We have been enrolled with The Little Lighthouse for two years now.  He is now saying new words on a regular basis. He can recognize objects and name them, follows one and two step directions, and is encouraged to take on a task for a little positive reinforcement.  (Stickers are a big deal!) Harrison now recognizes his name when called and said it back to his teacher for the first time a year ago!  He has come out of his shell to interact with his peers and initiates playtime with friends and family.  These little milestones are such a big deal and couldn’t have been achieved had we not found The Little Lighthouse.  We are so humbled and blessed to have this AMAZING school that is helping him reach his full potential.  This tuition free school that is strictly funded by the donations of others, is the ONLY reason why kids like Harrison have a real shot at life.  We are extremely thankful for those precious individuals and the staff at The Little Lighthouse for making this possible in our area.  Because of The Little Lighthouse, Harrison is a little guy who is now Full of Life, BIG Smiles, and High Fives. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

 Journei outsideJournei Brathwaite is a lovely 3year old little lady born to Tiffiney Jiles and Maurice Brathwaite on March 6, 2012 at a UMMC in Jackson MS. Journei was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 when her mom was 3 months pregnant. In the 5th month of pregnancy the Drs found out that Journei would be born with a heart condition named tetrology of the fallout. Journei had corrective surgery when she was 7 months old. Since then Journei has flourished. She has attended physical, occupational, and speech therapy since 2months old. She began attending the LLH when she was 1 year old. During her time at LLH she has learned to walk, feed herself, count to 10, say her ABCs, and sing a wide range of educational songs. Due to LLH being tuition free Journei’s mom was able to finish her Marketing Degree and start a career. Journei is a blessing to everyone she meets. She is not a person you could ever meet and forget. She touched the lives and hearts of everyone around her. She is intelligent, beautiful, sassy, and full of life!! More then anything she is truly loved by the people around her.