How one Dad's strength, positivity, and love for his daughter sparked an educational revolution for disabled children
When she was a baby, Sarah Jane Donahue was violently shaken by her nanny. This cruel act resulted in brain trauma which left her unable to walk and talk. Many parents would be too overcome with grief to fight on after such tragic news, but Sarah Jane’s father Patrick refused to give up on her. He asked himself, “What can one dad with one child do to change the world?” This question was the starting point for launching the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, and the beginning of a journey that would become the focus of Patrick’s life.
In September 2013, Patrick started a school in his living room for six brain-damaged children, including Sarah Jane. One year later, the New York-based school had expanded to 24 students and 50 full time staff. Patrick calls it iHope, and he plans on extending the plan across the city, the country and eventually the world. The curriculum mixes academic subjects with physical, speech, and occupational therapy, which gives disabled children individual educational plans with amazing results.
Music and bicycles are used to encourage children to move and build their muscle strength, getting them up and out of their wheelchairs to take steps the doctors predicted they would never achieve. Tuition for iHope is $135000, which is reimbursed by NYC dept of education.
“Every day there are miracles occurring with these kids. We’re not going to create false expectations, but we’re not going to give up hope,” says Patrick. “So my hope for every one of these children is for them to be walking and talking, and live the most productive life they possibly can.”
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