*This story originally appeared in The Budget’s Feb. 21, 2018 Local Edition
By Stacey Carmany
The Tuscarawas Society for Children & Adults, Inc., better known as the Tuscarawas County Rainbow Connection, is once again reaching out to the community to support its mission of meeting the needs of disadvantaged and disabled residents.
The organization is currently gearing up for its 45th Annual Rainbow Connection Telethon, scheduled for Sunday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event will be aired live on TV2, now digital cable channel 1021 or 1022, and live streamed online at www.tuscrainbow.org.
During the telethon, volunteers including community and business leaders will be manning the phone lines to accept pledges on behalf of organization. A series of live auctions will also be held throughout the day.
The success of the event is critically important, as the money raised will be used to fund all of the organization’s programs and services for the coming year, according to Executive Director Carmel Haueter. “It’s my only fundraiser,” she said. “This is our working budget for the year.”
Haueter explained that the money raised during the event is used in a variety of different ways to improve the lives of children and adults living in Tuscarawas County.
Services provided by the Rainbow Connection include assisting individuals who are handicapped or seriously ill in purchasing necessary equipment and supplies as well as assisting individuals with life-threatening medical diagnoses with paying doctor and hospital bills and purchasing prescriptions. “We help a lot of cancer patients. That seems to be the big call right now,” Haueter explained. “Any sort or surgeries, we help with the medical bills and the pharmaceutical costs. We get a lot of calls with cancer in Tuscarawas County, so we’re doing a lot of them right now.”
The organization also helps individuals with special needs purchase technological equipment, working closely with staff at the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ECOESC) and following their recommendations. In addition, the Rainbow Connection also offers a Hearing Enhancement Program that helps furnish hearing aids and assistive listening devices for hearing impaired children and working adults.
Another area of focus for the organization in recent years has been purchasing sensory items and equipment for local school districts to help them meet the needs of students with autism, according to Haueter.
Recently, Haueter had an opportunity to visit two local schools that received funding from the organization last year to furnish sensory rooms that are designed give students with sensory needs a designated place to calm down or refocus.
“They did a nice job,” she remarked after viewing the new sensory room at Baltic Elementary that was made available to students beginning this school year.
“We are so incredibly grateful with the Rainbow Connection and their donation to this room,” Williams shared. “Anytime we have a student who needs this room, I automatically think of all the good that they do not just for us but for districts all throughout our county. They were the jumpstart we needed to be able to get this room.”
He added that the room is utilized not only by students with sensory needs but also by the district’s physical and occupational therapists. “Our occupational therapy and physical therapy had always been done like in our gym or in a room that was available, so this also has doubled as our occupational therapy and physical therapy room,” he said. “It gives those people in our district the space to be able to do the things they need to help our students.”
Brandi Regula is a physical therapist for ECOESC who works with students in several school districts including Garaway. She explained that funds from the Rainbow Connection were used to purchase several large items for the sensory room at Baltic including a swing, trampoline and several sensory tables. “Those items have been very helpful as far as allowing children to utilize the room for learning strategies, calming strategies,” she shared. “We want every student in the building to be able to access the room regardless of whether they have a diagnosis or not. Everyone can use the sensory room. They can even just come in here and color to try to relax, just different things like that. [They] don’t necessarily have to use the specific equipment.”
After the trip to Baltic, Haueter also visited Miller Avenue Elementary for an opportunity to see children enjoying the building’s new sensory room, which was also furnished last summer thanks to funding from the Rainbow Connection.
For Haueter, seeing the smiles on the children’s faces is the most rewarding part of her job. “It’s very cool that we could do this, that we have the funding to do so many sensory rooms because they’re needed in every school,” Haueter said. “We love to help children with special needs. That’s our mission.”
Principal Curt Fisher thanked Haueter and the organization for their generous contribution to the school. “We are so fortunate to have Rainbow Connection donate a lot of sensory items for our sensory room,” he said. “We have a lot of students, and thinking in the future, incoming students as well who are going to benefit from these donations.”
In total, the Rainbow Connection provided more than $220,000 in assistance last year to meet the needs of more than 10,000 children and adults in Tuscarawas County.
Anyone who would like to support the organization’s efforts this year is urged to call 330-343-1600 during the upcoming telethon to bid on an auction item or make a pledge. All donations both large and small are greatly appreciated and will help the Rainbow Connection continue to achieve its mission of improving the lives of children and adults in Tuscarawas County.
To learn more about the Rainbow Connection and the upcoming telethon, visit www.tuscrainbow.org or like and follow the organization on Facebook.