Project HOPE Children's Play featured in Index Journal

A little more than a year ago, Jill Ginn’s son, Luke, was unable to speak or eat solid foods.

Luke, 4, falls on the autism spectrum, and learning and interacting with others can be a challenge.

On Wednesday, Jill watched as Luke took the stage and spoke in front of a crowd of people during a play put on by Project Hope — something she said would have been hard to imagine not long ago.

“Since he’s been here, they potty trained him within one day,” Jill said. “It’s been amazing. He speaks in full sentences. He doesn’t read, but he memorizes the pages every three days so they have to change his books every three days. It’s just amazing. I don’t know what we would have done without them.”

As part of the production, Luke and 13 other children on the autism spectrum, sang, danced and spoke to the crowd of loved ones who gathered at Project Hope.

Project Hope, a nonprofit that specializes in helping children with autism, opened its Greenwood location in September 2016 at the former Merrywood Elementary School site.

Jill said since it came to Greenwood, the organization has been a godsend for her and her family.

“I don’t have enough good things to say about them here,” she said. “It’s been a complete blessing. I’m thankful.”

Niki Porter, the Greenwood clinic coordinator, said the play gave the children a chance to showcase their progress to their loved ones.

“I think what sometimes happens is, with these kids in other situations when people don’t know how to get them through stuff like this, they don’t really get to participate,” Porter said. “That’s something we try to avoid. So we try to showcase everyone’s individual talents. Even if they’re just sitting up there and smiling, that’s an improvement for a lot of our kids. They wouldn’t have been able to be in this room because of all the stimulation a year ago.”

The children began rehearsing the play about a week and a half ago, Porter said, starting with listening to the music and gradually learning the motions and lines as they progressed.

Porter said she was impressed with their performance Monday and happy they had the opportunity to demonstrate their progress to their families and friends.

“Today’s performance was the best they’ve ever done, and that’s something you can’t prepare for, especially when you have parents around, because you never know what they’re going to do,” she said. “But all of the kids were rock stars.”

Amber Kneece, whose 4-year-old son Coby also participated in the play, said watching the performance was an emotional experience.

“It’s a joy just being able to see him sit on stage and say some words,” Amber said. “When he started at Project Hope, he was completely nonverbal, so it’s been such a blessing.”

Porter said she hopes to make the play an annual event.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again next year,” she said. “And then we’ll see some of the kids who had smaller parts this year will have bigger parts next year or who were speaking less this year may speak more next year or whatever it may be. We’re just trying to grow on our progress every single year, because for every child, a milestone for them is going to be different.”

Hope Reach Program Director Presents to Healthcare Subcommittee

Mark Knight joined Lorri Unumb, Vice President of State Government Affairs for Autism Speaks, informing the Healthcare Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee about the need for funding for ABA therapy.


Congratulations to our Graduates

Project HOPE Foundation celebrated a milestone on September 12 with our Capstone Commencement Ceremony in collaboration with Florida Institute of Technology.  This joint Master's program is one of only three pilot programs nationwide. Congratulations to Dr. Adam Brewer and our pioneer participants - Mandy Allen, Hannah Blaha, Meg Foster, Amanda Friederich, Marisa Griswold, Joanna Haynes, Andrea Hudspeth, Katie Lemieux, Kayla Lilly, Marley Oleynik, Casey Sumner, Jon Todd, Shannon Tyner, and Nikii Vanegas! Thank you to our Supervisors for their support and mentorship through this program. We are especially grateful to Bruce and Dawn Clayman for establishing an annual scholarship in honor of this special group!


Parent Toolkit Training

Project HOPE Foundation teamed up with Institute for Behavioral Training to provide a parent workshop in Greenwood on Friday, August 28, at the Greenwood Genetic Center. This training, funded through a grant from the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, is one of a statewide series, focusing on empowering parents awaiting therapy services for their children with autism.

Parents attending the training were equipped with a package of free resources, including:
· a hard-copy manual, Evidence-Based Treatment for Children with Autism
· a one-year subscription to over 40 hours of online training modules to be watched at an individualized pace, and
· a year's access to an online "curriculum" (Skills®) designed to help parents begin working with their children with autism to build skills and to diminish problem behaviors, personalized to each particular child based on input from the parents.

The response of parents has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. “This is the best autism workshop EVER,” reported one mother.

Future workshops are planned for Aiken, Charleston, Columbia, and Florence.

Mary Black Foundation Grant to Support Hope Reach

Project Hope Foundation is excited to announce we are one of 20 nonprofit organizations who were awarded grants from the Mary Black Foundation during the fall grant cycle.  We received almost $50,000 to help in our efforts to streamline and create efficiencies in programming and operations at Hope Reach.

Outcomes from Hope Reach are impressive.  Over 95% of our clients gain significant, measurable skills that improve their lives dramatically. 48% of our clients are able to participate successfully in mainstream "regular" classrooms. When we can start services before the age of three, that percentage increases to an amazing 86%.

Although we are proud of our current outcomes, we know we can improve.  This grant will help us assess and identify best practices in key areas, including training, team meetings and data collection/reporting. The timing of this assessment is particularly critical as we work towards tripling the number of clients we can serve in the next two years.

Our thanks goes to the Mary Black Foundation for their support!