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Littleton, Colorado church provides respite for kids with special needs

By Kristin Steadman, Night Lights Director @ WaterStone Community Church 

NightLightsNight Lights is a respite care program for kids with special needs and their siblings, ages 1-month to 12-years. There are trained, background-checked volunteers who provide one-on-one care to each of the kids.

Night Lights is held the 2nd Friday of each month from 6:30 pm - 10:00 pm at WaterStone Community Church. Kids enjoy activities ranging from crafts, gross motor activities, free play, snacks, dog therapy and a movie.

Families must meet with the staff prior to attending.

For more information, please contact Kristin Steadman, Night Lights Director at kristin@nightlightskids.com or 303.414.0715.  Visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Night-Lights/191358547564753 

We do not have our own website yet. We are working on that along with several other things like a new logo, fundraising, and filing for our 501c3. In the meantime, I describe my family’s journey to creating the Night Lights program:

Kristin SteadmanKristin SteadmanWhen we began our journey of starting a family like most people, thinking, "We will have two amazing kids, everything will be great, and go as planned." Well, we do have 2 amazing kids, but that's about the only part that went as planned.

My husband, Shane and I have grown so much since becoming parents. Our daughter, Kaitlyn is almost 7-years-old, and is compassionate, empathetic and very bright. Our other child, Zach is 3-years-old and loves life! He loves to snuggle with people, loves bath time, loves to eat - loves everything! 

When Zach was about 5-months-old, we realized he wasn't hitting his milestones, and he was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive. We were advised to feed him everything we could get down him, the higher the calorie count the better (someone even suggested milkshakes). We did as we were told, and he did start to put on weight, but it didn't seem to help him progress developmentally.

A few months later, as we continued the full time job of feeding our son everything we could, as often as he could handle it, we were referred to Children's Hospital for a neurological consult. The doctor was puzzled and concerned, just as we were. She was “hoping” Zach had a stroke either in utero or soon after delivery. She ordered a brain MRI and told us to go home and wait for Radiology to call with scheduled MRI appointment. 

This is when I knew our lives were forever changed. When a highly rated Pediatric Neurologist at one of the best hospitals around was hoping that our sweet little Zach had a stroke! If that was the "best-case" scenario, then what did it mean if he did not have a stroke?  

We were scheduled for the MRI two-weeks after our first appointment. They told us that all food and fluids would need to be stopped several hours prior, because he would need to be under general anesthesia. For a baby that needs to consume as many calories as possible, not eating or drinking for several hours is completely painstaking for everyone involved.  

Although we didn't know this was going to be the answer we would hear over and over (and still do to this day), the results of the MRI were negative and the doctors were puzzled. They said, "We don't know what is wrong with your son." From that point we were referred to several other doctors, specialists and therapists. They all had ideas about Zach's condition, but nothing definitive.

We had a round of genetic testing done, which was negative. We had an extensive metabolic panel done, and it was negative as well. We saw an incredible Geneticist and Metabolic Doctor at Children's Hospital in May of 2010, and he suggested that since so many tests had come back negative we should wait until Zach was a few years older to do more genetic testing. Since most kids grow into their conditions, we could narrow down the field of what we were testing for.

We know that he has severe developmental delays, visual impairments and growth delays. This journey has been filled with pain, grief, frustration, fear and at times total loneliness! It began to take a toll on our marriage and our family. We all knew we were dealing with a situation that we had not planned and didn't know how to make it better.  

One evening, as I was pouring over information on the internet about developmental delays, my husband said to me, "Kristin, I understand the importance of finding out what is wrong with our son, but at the end of the day, he is still just a kid and needs the same love and acceptance as any other child." That stuck with me! I decided I am not a victim of my circumstances and that we all have choices in life.

I chose to do something.  

With my amazing children as my inspiration, and my husband's support, I started a respite program called Night Lights in March of 2011.  

Night Lights provides parents an evening out while trained, background-checked volunteers provide one-on-one care to children with special needs and their siblings.  

Night Lights is offered the second Friday of each month from 6:30pm - 10:00pm at WaterStone Community Church (5890 S. Alkire St., Littleton, CO 80127). The kids enjoy activities like crafts, free play, gross motor, dog/cat therapy, snacks and a movie.  

Night Lights has grown significantly since its start up. I don't know who goes home feeling more blessed at the end of the evening - the kids, the parents or the volunteers!

You can visit our Facebook page or contact me at kristin@nightlightskids.com or 303.414.0715; to learn more or if you would like to volunteer or support Night Lights.

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