by haley ragsdale | photos provided by midland children’s rehabilitation center
Walk into the newly renovated waiting room at Midland Children’s Rehabilitation Center (MCRC) and you might be inclined to kick off your shoes and play. The room features bright colors, loads of natural light and the latest in puzzles and toys. This initial sensory experience sets the tone for what to expect at MCRC. “Primarily what we do here is change lives,” Brooke Mueller, Executive Director at Midland Children’s Rehab said. A tour of the clinic reveals the theme of a kids’ haven--welcoming therapy rooms, kid-friendly play spaces, and hallways painted with wispy clouds. The nearly 22 thousand square foot facility is coming off a fresh renovation project, the result of their latest fundraising campaign. MCRC also includes a dance studio, indoor pool and an outside riding arena.
“We try to identify what obstacle is in the way of normal development. It’s so important to start therapy as soon as possible because there really is a window of opportunity that we don’t want to miss. We build those natural processes into therapy, so we get the child back on track,” Mueller said. She went on to explain they help MCRC parents navigate the often-difficult world of therapy to give parents a place to start. “It is a difficult spot to be in when you are a parent trying to figure out what your child needs and where to go to therapy. Until you have been in that situation, it is hard to understand. We hope to help parents on their journey with therapy,” Mueller said. MCRC first opened its doors in 1956 as a clinic to serve children with cerebral palsy. The average caseload was around twenty-five kids a year.
Brandon Hamilton, Titus Tucket, Bill Mueller & Terry Perry, Hippotherapy Play Day
These days it is quite different with MCRC providing services for more than 500 families a year. “We really treat the family unit because a child is not going to succeed if the whole family is not on the same page. We identify the problem and look for solutions,” explained Muller. MCRC offers services in occupational, physical, and speech therapy. They employ 34 staff members consisting of 23 therapists, dyslexia tutors, and therapeutic riding instructors. MCRC also offers programs that include hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, aquatic therapy, and therapeutic dance. “We are able to offer all of our core services on horseback or in the pool, as both horses and water are huge motivators for children to relax and build strength,” Roxana Rubio, Communications and Development Coordinator explained. The Equine therapy arena is located in the backyard with the horses available three times a week. The arena is heated and cooled to allow year-round therapy. Children benefit with mobility, balance, use of hands and arms and speech while on horseback. They also learn to care for their equine therapists. The heated pool is on the grounds of MCRC to allow access any time of year. Therapists can use the buoyancy and resistance of the water to allow children with weak muscles to help develop independent movement. “We had a child with autism whose parents were told he would never speak. He loved going to the pool and said his first word while doing therapy there. Now he is up to 22 words,” enthused Rubio.
MCRC Volunteers- Patty Waton, Karen Lang, Robin Askew, Denise White & Shelia Vines, Hippotherapy Play Day
MCRC has a dance studio, and current renovation plans will update its floor to allow for more wheelchair dancers. “One of the highlights here is we have a wheelchair dance recital twice a year, and with the new floor we can accommodate additional wheelchair dancers, something we have been wanting to do for years,” stated Mueller.
Hannah Hernandez, Aloura Sanchez, Therapeutic Dance recital Christmas 2017
MCRC is home to the West Texas Dyslexia Center. This service provides a one-on-one tutoring program for children who are reading below grade level standards and unable to keep up in school. “We have four tutors in the center and all of the children who have come through our program have had a 100 percent success rate,” Mueller said.
The Mission of MCRC is this: to change the lives of children by providing neurological, orthopedic and developmental therapy, in a compassionate environment, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. “ All our services are at no cost to the family. No copay, no payments, no sliding scale,” Mueller said. Mueller went on to explain their philosophy when it comes to billing. “Since we don’t take Medicaid or insurance, we don’t have to abide by their rules of how much therapy or how often. We have children with lifelong therapy needs and have had a 22-year-old recently graduate out of our program,” Mueller said. She explained that they investigated billing practices and found that reimbursement was minimal, sometimes only 27 percent of the amount billed. “We do have lots of families that donate for the services they receive. They don’t have to but, we have several families that budget and make a monthly donation,” Mueller said.
Midland Children’s Rehab Center is a nonprofit organization that operates through donations, grants, foundations and special events. Their signature biennial fundraising event is Steers and Stars. The 2018 event grossed around nine hundred thousand dollars. The next Steers and Stars will be held in the spring of 2020. With the rapid growth of the Permian Basin and the unique services MCRC offers, the waiting list is long and the speech waiting list is closed due to overwhelming need. Families travel from Lamesa, San Angelo, Fort Stockton, Iraan, and many other places to get services at MCRC. “We could double in size and still not meet the needs of children. No one else is doing what we are doing. The challenge we are facing, like so many other places in the Permian Basin, is keeping up with growth,” Mueller remarked, “In the past five years we have added five therapists and support staff, but we just can’t keep up with the growth.”
Steers & Stars 2018 guests
MCRC is always in need of volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. “We need help with clerical tasks like mailouts and help with hippotherapy. Each rider on horseback needs three helpers; one to lead the horse and two side walkers, so we can really use lots of volunteers for that,” stated Rubio. Walking out of MCRC makes one feel lucky that such a facility exits in the Tall City. MCRC slogan may sum up what they do best, “Changing lives, one step at a time.” †
Brandon Hamilton, Sharla Gray, Elizabeth Chalambaga, Elnora McKee, Susan Byerly, Gail Heathington, Margaret Knelssen, Peter’s brother & Peter Knelssen