Money raised will support some of Texas’ most vulnerable children

Six months ago, Jasmine was a single mother, struggling to care for her son Jonathon.

Born prematurely and weighing just 3.5 pounds, Jonathon uses a wheelchair and requires almost round-the-clock care – meaning Jasmine couldn’t work, and was exhausted almost all the time.

Then she found Respite Care of San Antonio, which offers day care and emergency shelter services for children with disabilities.

Today, Jasmine is not only working, she’s in school to become an occupational therapist, to better care for Jonathon and to help other children like him.

For his part, Jonathon is a thriving and happy four-year-old – and for that, Jasmine is profoundly grateful.

“If it wasn’t for Respite Care, I wouldn’t be working, going to school and providing for him,” she says in a recent video produced to show the community what Respite Care does. “I’d still be overwhelmed.”

This year, Respite Care of San Antonio was chosen as the recipient charity for the 15th annual CPS Energy IBEW Local 500 United Way Golf Tournament.

The goal was to beat the $38,000 raised for last year’s recipient, CAMP, which offers disabled children an experience camping along the Guadalupe River.

The final total is still being calculated, but already, it’s clear that the goal wasn’t just beaten – it was obliterated! More than $80,000 was raised by companies and individuals that will help Respite Care care, feed and provide medical services to more than 400 children like Jonathon.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic about the results of this tournament,” said Lori Johnson Leal, CPS Energy’s director of corporate responsibility. “It has been a humbling experience working alongside our 37 business partner companies to raise money to support Respite Care’s incomparable services and programs.”

Children with developmental disabilities often require round-the-clock-care, which can be emotionally, physically and financially exhausting for parents. Studies indicate such children are 4 to 10 times more likely to suffer physical or emotional abuse or neglect. Parents, too, can suffer. Divorce is also higher for those with special needs children.

Because the time and commitment required for home care makes it difficult for both parents to work, and the associated medical expenses can rapidly deplete a family’s financial resources, the majority of affected families tend to have moderate to low incomes.

As a result, these families are often unable to afford any outside care for their child. Respite Care offers its services to families on a sliding scale, based on ability to pay.

The organization was born out of local need.

Twenty-six years ago, a group of San Antonio families with their own special needs children needed help, and began advocating within the community to create a system to allow temporary respite for the parents from the intense and constant care required by their beloved children.

It began simply, with a safe and nurturing place to drop children off for a few hours each week – giving parents a break while comfortable that their child was still getting appropriate care. It then grew to include full-time day care, which allowed parents to work. Today, Respite Care of San Antonio includes the only emergency shelter in the state of Texas for disabled children who have suffered abuse or neglect.

The San Antonio Express-News wrote about the emergency shelter in a poignant holiday story in 2009.

Since then, “We’ve grown by 300 percent,” said Bert Pfiester, Respite Care’s president and CEO. “We now have four homes in Monte Vista, side by side.”

And 65 percent of the families they serve are at or below the poverty level, Pfiester said, making the support Respite Care receives from the United Way, and events like the CPS Energy IBEW Local 500 Golf Tournament, that much more important.

The money raised last week will cover the basics, including food, clothing, and to help pay for medical staff as well as “fun stuff,” Pfiester said, like trips to the San Antonio Zoo.

“We’ve been a United Way recipient for 22 years,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without their support – which is, of course, the community’s support.”

Fundraising is time-consuming and costly, so having the support of the United Way, and being chosen as CPS Energy’s charity golf tournament recipient, is an incredible gift, he said.

“We wouldn’t have the time to manage an event like this,” he said. Being part of it “has given me a wonderful sense of family with CPS Energy – it’s really a corporate culture of giving, and empowering others who are less fortunate.”

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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