As a Wichita native and also a licensed physical therapist, Kendall Drake has always known about Rainbows United and the services offered. Kendall worked professionally as a pediatric physical therapist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City until her son, Jackson, was born. It was at this time that Kendall first became personally involved with Rainbows. Jackson was diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome at a young age, meaning he has a deletion of a small piece of chromosome 22. Following his diagnosis, Jackson got plugged into Rainbows to receive therapy for the different challenges that his disorder presents. Before his third birthday, Jackson was receiving occupational therapy, speech therapy, and feeding therapy through Rainbows’ services. “He really benefitted from Rainbows. These therapies allowed him to progress and helped us to learn alongside him,” Kendall says.
Jackson is now a sixteen year old sophomore who plays baseball and works on theater productions at school as part of the stage crew. Despite all of his obstacles, he is flourishing. According to Kendall, “While Jackson does have some minor learning differences, with his accommodations he is very successful in school and brings home straight A’s!”
While Jackson no longer receives Rainbows’ services, Kendall still wanted to find a way to stay connected with Rainbows and the mission to help children with special needs. Though she currently chooses not to practice professionally, she keeps her physical therapy licensing and maintains her continuing education hours in case she ever decides to return. In the meantime, Kendall enjoys channeling her passion for therapy by taking on a volunteer role at Rainbows.
Kendall finds purpose in volunteering with the children served through Rainbows’ water therapy program. She says, “What I find so meaningful is being able to connect with parents who are young and are experiencing a diagnosis for the first time. I can absolutely put myself back in that position when I first found out about Jackson’s diagnosis. I remember the rush of emotions I felt, so it is extremely rewarding to be able to help both mothers and fathers experience that for the first time and work through the unknowns that come with it.”
Personal Experience Develops a Passion for the Cause
Kendall spends several days a month supporting Rainbows’ therapists with the water therapy program. She is completely committed to helping the children develop the skills they are striving towards by getting into the water herself and helping to show families how to work with their children in the water. Through this type of water therapy, children develop safety skills, strength, and range of motion. “I work on skills and developmental goals that the therapists and families are working to achieve on land. For example, we practice walking with those children who need it. The buoyancy of the water helps stabilize the child and makes it easier for them to practice certain skills. I apply the same concept with sitting up or crawling in the shallow end,” Kendall says.
Rainbows’ therapist Pam Chiles works with Kendall on a regular basis and testifies to the value that her volunteer role brings to Rainbows. “Kendall has been a huge asset to our swimming class. Her expertise, as a physical therapist and a parent, combined with her calm and confident personality is valuable to our families. We are fortunate that she volunteers for us,” says Pam.
Not only does Kendall volunteer with Rainbows through this wonderful program, but she is also involved in Friends of the Heart. Friends of the Heart members foster community support for Rainbows by increasing public awareness through special events, like Rainbows’ annual Fashion Passion event, and partake in other volunteer projects that meet identified needs. Though this is Kendall’s first year on the Fashion Passion committee, she has been familiar with the event for quite some time as her husband, Dan, has served on Rainbows’ Board of Directors since 2006.
Kendall and her husband also have a 13 year old daughter, Kennedy. Between Jackson’s multiple activities and Kennedy’s competitive gymnastics, Kendall finds herself to be a very busy mother. But despite her full schedule, she remains a strong advocate of volunteering at Rainbows. “I would absolutely recommend volunteering at Rainbows; it is so rewarding. You always receive more than you give when you work with children like this. If someone was looking to volunteer somewhere and they enjoy children, I would highly suggest that they look into the opportunities that Rainbows provides the community.”
Thank you for volunteering with us, Kendall! We are grateful for your commitment to enhancing the lives of children through Rainbows.