Located at the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability on the campus of Mississippi State University, Project IMPACT –– Insuring Mississippi Parents and Children Tomorrows –– has been providing services since 1999 to children from birth to age 5 with special needs.
T.K. Martin Center research associate Elizabeth Williams said Project IMPACT is an early intervention project started in the fall of 1999 with funding provided through the Mississippi Department of Health. After receiving additional funding through the Mississippi State Department of Education, Project IMPACT grew and now offers a continuum of services consisting of center-based, community-based and home-based evaluation and intervention services. Center-based services are available five days per week and consist of three classrooms for direct instruction with speech and occupational therapy offered as related services.
Project IMPACT is preparing for one of its major fundraising events called "Take a Chance, Make an IMPACT." Williams said it involves purchasing a $30 raffle ticket for a month-long raffle. A different prize will be given out each day of the month of April.
"Funds will be used to offset cuts in funding from our state agencies," T.K. Martin Director Janie Cirlot-New said. "All funds will be used to support the services provided by Project IMPACT such as special therapies, classroom assistants and specialized equipment."
Winners will be contacted by a T.K. Martin staff member to claim their prize. Daily winners will receive a gift card in the amount specified. Winners will also be posted on the T.K. Martin Center Facebook page. Project IMPACT reserves the right to modify the raffle based on ticket sales performance. Tickets are available and can be purchased by contacting Traci Campbell 662-325-0895 or by calling the T.K. Martin Center at 662-325-1028.
Williams said this year, alone, Project IMPACT is providing services to over 40 children with special needs.
"'Take a Chance, Make an IMPACT'" is a raffle fundraiser that encompasses a month’s worth of fantastic prizes from Walmart ranging from $100-$1,300," Williams said. "Participants will purchase a ticket for $30 in the month of March, and everyday in the month of April a ticket will be drawn for a winner. A ticket holder gets at least 30 opportunities to win and there is no limit on the amount of tickets one person can purchase."
Williams said the T.K. Martin Center is very proud of Project IMPACT.
"We feel honored each day by the opportunity to work with such beautiful children and families," Williams said.
Williams said she's had the privilege to work with Project IMPACT since 2002.
"During these years I have had the opportunity to serve children in both classroom and home settings, as well as assist with play-based assessments," Williams said. "There are so many things that I have loved about my job, but getting to know the families has to be at the top of my list."
Williams said early intervention is critical for children with developmental delays and is a very sensitive time for parents as they learn to cope with their child’s diagnosis or delays.
"I love being at the forefront of this difficult but important time," Williams said. "It is important for a teacher to support the parents of a child with special needs as they face the challenges before them, but even more importantly, to be with them to rejoice in their child’s achievements."
Williams said Project IMPACT not only serves children from Starkville, but also families from Columbus, Louisville, Macon and Kosciuskco.
"These parents are here with their young child every morning, ready for the school day," Williams said. "We are honored that they have chosen us to serve their child and that they are devoted enough to the program to make attendance a top priority. Their dedication is a major motivation to the teachers and therapists at Project IMPACT to provide the best services we can. Our families and children never cease to amaze us with their determination to make progress and their joy in celebrating their child for who they are."
Kaundra Hairston has a 4 year old autistic son who attends the Project IMPACT program at T.K. Martin Center.
"He started attending the school when he was three years old," Hairston said. "He was non-verbal and showed very little emotion."
Hairston said in the past year her son is much improved.
"Now he is saying so much, his behavior has changed tremendously and he now shows his emotions well," Hairston said. "This program has really been a blessing to me and my family. My son absolutely loves it. The teachers really know what they are doing –– without them I don't know where my son and I would be. To see where he has come from and where he is today is amazing."
Ameerah Delaney is another mother with a son at Project IMPACT.
"My son Amir Coggins is in his first year," Delaney said. "The changes in his mobility are unbelievable. Amir is a little over 2 years old and he can tell you his name, numbers, basic colors, his birthday, he can identify animals and sounds. I thank God everyday for my son's improvement thanks to Project IMPACT and its staff."
Orly B. Hardin is the mother of Owen Hardin, a 12 year old child with Down Syndrome.
"Owen was one of the first children the T.K. Martin enrolled in their Project IMPACT class," Hardin said. "The program started over at the Child Development and Family Studies Center because there was no other space designated for the program on campus. Each day, a devoted and compassionate group of teachers and therapists would come to the MSU Child Development Center and convert their large multipurpose room into a therapy/play center where children with different disabilities would come and interact with typical children."
Hardin said shortly after the program began, the T.K. Martin Center converted several rooms upstairs in their facility into space for the kids.
"I would bring Owen a couple mornings a week where he would spend time with speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and special education teachers having a great time while receiving the therapy he needed for development," Hardin said.
Hardin said each of those people have a special place in her heart. Hardin said Owen is now in 5th grade, continuing with speech therapy and with special education teachers.
"I feel sure he would not be where he is today if he had not been a part of the Project IMPACT group at the T.K. Martin Center," Hardin said. "I know that the program would not have met with such success were it not for the dedicated staff. These therapists and teachers are involved in this program because they love helping people. They are committed to making people's lives better and look for creative and fun ways to engage the kids while incorporating therapy and education. The benefits for Owen have been countless, and my husband and I consider this group to be a part of our family."
For more information, contact Project IMPACT at 662-325-1028 or P.O. Box 9367, Mississippi State University, MS, 39762.