For more than 100 years, St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Rosemont has provided residential care, education and support to youth affected by a range of profound physical and intellectual disabilities.
That effort recently received a substantial boost thanks to #GivingTuesday, a global donation campaign held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to promote year-end charitable contributions.
On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the Catholic Charities Appeal of the Philadelphia Archdiocese (CCA) presented a check for $10,870 to St. Edmond’s Home, an intermediate care facility that was the first Catholic home of its kind in the United States.
CCA designated St. Edmond’s from among more than 180 Catholic agencies in the archdiocese to receive the funds collected from Giving Tuesday. The money will be used to purchase therapeutic equipment for the home’s 44 residents.
“This money will be put toward scooters, adapted tricycles, standers and wedges,” said Denise Clofine, the administrator of St. Edmond’s Home. “Our children are in the severe and profound ranges of an intellectual disability, with tremendous physical challenges. This equipment enables them to stand, to walk – to be like any other kid.”
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The home’s residents, who range in age from six weeks to 21 years old, are “medically fragile,” said Clofine, a Cabrini University graduate who has worked in the field of intellectual disabilities for over 30 years.
“Along with having physical and intellectual disabilities, they have other diagnoses such as seizure disorders and cerebral palsy,” she said. “Many of our kids are (fed through) feeding tubes. And they also have reactive airway disease and osteoporosis, just to name a few conditions. So they require 24-hour nursing care.”
The new therapeutic equipment will provide the children with opportunities for stretching, exercise and socialization. Through enhanced muscle strength and control, the children can better manage their conditions.
Since each child’s particular set of challenges varies, staff members tailor their support accordingly.
“There’s a wide variety of needs among the children,” said Elizabeth O’Shea, a speech therapist at St. Edmond Home. “Some use assistive speech devices, and others need us to read some of their personal signs to communicate with us. We account for their different moods and how they feel on different days. So we adapt to the personalities of each child, and get to know them.”
In fact, building relationships – between children, staff, families and the community – is central to St. Edmond’s mission.
While the children are generally referred to the home by medical professionals or school agencies, families remain active in the residents’ ongoing care, attending regular events and off-site outings.
During the summer months, St. Edmond’s hosts Camp Rainbow, an eight-week series of all-day recreational activities open to children who live within the community.
In addition, all St. Edmond’s residents from ages 3 to 21 attend area schools, including the Marple Education Center, Haverford High School and the Overbrook School for the Blind.
To support residents beyond age 21, when federal benefits for special education typically expire, St. Edmond’s plans to open a community home in Newtown Square within the coming year. It will complement the archdiocese’s existing communities of Don Guanella and Divine Providence, which for several decades have provided a broad range of care to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.
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“There’s quite a track record already of young people aging out of St. Edmond’s and moving into either Divine Providence or Don Guanella,” said James Amato, archdiocesan secretary for Catholic Human Services. “This new home will allow aged-out youth to stay right in the St. Edmond’s continuum. They’ll live in the community, and they’ll still have the facilities at St. Edmond’s available to them.”
That continuum of care deepens the bonds between St. Edmond’s staff and residents.
“You can see the dedication of the staff when you walk through the door, and you can feel the love they have for the children here,” said Angelo J. Valletta, president of the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia, which partnered with the Catholic Charities Appeal on the Giving Tuesday project.
“Love is a feeling – the kids know when they get it, and they know when they don’t,” said Valletta. “And the staff surely gives that here.”