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November 2002

Release Date: November 22, 2002

PT Class Assignment Develops Local Service for Community

An assignment for three students in an Angelo State University physical therapy class has evolved into an evening respite service to provide care for children with disabilities and an opportunity for their parents to enjoy a little time to themselves. Happy Kids Night Out, which operates on the second Friday of each month, allows parents an evening out while their children with disabilities as well as any siblings are provided age- and skill-appropriate activities and entertainment.

Happy Kids Night Out evolved from an idea suggested by Jennifer H. Leight and Kathleen Cegles of ASU's physical therapy faculty as a possible community service project for Kimberley Kasner, Martha La Rowe and Russell Huckert in their physical therapy administration and management class. The three students worked to confirm the need for such a program locally and to determine how to address that need as part of the community service component of their class.

They found that no local agency was set up to provide the parents of children with disabilities any evening coverage so that their parents could go out to dinner, take in a movie or just have some time alone without having to worry about the care of their children. The trio then began contacting local agencies and churches to gauge interest in partnerships to provide the service.

In the process, they developed a 35-page business plan and policy manual. "This experience has taught me," said Kasner, who after graduation has a job in pediatric physical therapy, "that it takes a lot of planning to pull something like this off, and it has allowed me to have insight into what parents of children with disabilities deal with every day." Their groundwork coincided with the desire of an Abilene agency, The House That Kerry Built, to expand its services to San Angelo.

The House That Kerry Built has successfully provided such evening respite care in Abilene. With the ASU students arranging the oversight and volunteer support, The House That Kerry Built could provide the necessary administrative support as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The three students found a facility, St. Luke United Methodist Church at 2781 West Ave. N, to serve as site for the monthly respite service.

The House That Kerry Built with support from American Homepatient began providing services on May 10 while the three students finalized the contractual requirements to implement their vision. Even though they were still resolving the contractual details, they volunteered their services that first night. "It was wonderful," La Rowe said of that first night. "The kids were happy and having a great time. We all read stories together and one little girl directed all of the 'older kids' to make Mother's Day cards.

We did something really good for those kids who truly need our attention." By the middle of September Kasner, La Rowe and Huckert had lined up additional support from ASU's Physical Therapy Department, Kinesiology Department and School of Education and met all of the contractual requirements to officially start Happy Kids Night Out. For Dr. Kathleen Cegles, who heads the ASU Physical Therapy Department and taught the administration and management class, the project was one of three that the students in the inaugural PT class took on.

Another group of students started an outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program at Lillian M. Hudspeth Memorial Hospital in Sonora while a third group examined the possibility of a pro bono physical therapy clinic for individuals who did not have insurance for treatment or whose coverage had run out.

"The San Angelo community has been so good to us in helping start Angelo State University's physical therapy program," Cegles said. "By identifying local needs and trying to meet them, our students are helping us show our thanks to all those who have supported us locally from the time this program was just an idea to the point where we will graduate our first class in December in a fully accredited program." As for the future of Happy Kids Night Out once Kasner, La Rowe and Huckert graduate in December, they are not worried.

They designed it to continue once they move on to their physical therapy careers. La Rowe said, "This provided me an opportunity to see what is needed in communities, and I learned the techniques needed to provide a community service. This project was above and beyond my initial ideas of what physical therapy school would be like. It was an added benefit."y

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