Bost helps kids, adults ‘escape’ from developmental challenges
When a group of parents came to ask Fort Smith pediatrician Dr. Roger Bost to help them with the education goals of their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the United States was still 16 years away from passing the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975. That law would help protect the educational rights of infants, toddlers, children and youths with disabilities. But, in 1959, there were few, if any, options for families who wanted to provide their children with an appropriate education that took into account their developmental needs.
“These parents came to him and said, ‘Our kids can do so much more than just sit at home,’” explains Jeanne Montgomery, director of marketing and fundraising at Bost Inc., the organization that has grown out of Dr. Bost’s original efforts. “So he began his ‘School for Limited Children’ and, since then, it’s grown to serve those school-aged children, as well as preschool children, and then throughout their lives. We serve over 1,000 people with developmental and physical disabilities in 28 counties.
“We start with children at 6 weeks old, and we take care of them throughout their lifespan,” says Montgomery. “Of course, public schools are open now to people with disabilities, so they go to regular schools, but if they need additional care after school, we have people that work one-on-one to help them meet whatever goals they and their parents choose.
“What I find really fantastic is watching a child who might not have had severe disabilities but might have developmental delays, and through the therapies that we offer, they start school right on par with their peers. It’s fantastic.”
In fact, despite its original name, Bost has grown into an organization that helps children and adults challenge the notion of “limits.”
Cecelia Tu is the parent of Andy, a 48-year-old man with cerebral palsy. The Tus had been searching for an appropriate setting for Andy for some time when they found Bost. Andy was living at home at the time, but both parents had begun experiencing health issues. Tu says it made them realize that they needed to prepare Andy for the eventuality of being on his own. In 2006, Andy moved into a condo and, with the help of Bost, has learned financial literacy and basic living skills.
“It’s been 10 years of training, hard work and learning,” says Tu. “We are proud parents. We have learned how to let go and learned how to trust Bost staff. [Andy] is on his own. He is really getting along, he is making his own decisions — I don’t have to
worry. He is still taking classes in speech therapy, and he is learning to use the iPad and the iPhone. He can call anybody on the phone and can communicate with anyone and help solve problems. It’s wonderful to see him communicate with other people.”
Tu says Andy has blossomed socially since being on his own.
“I think he’s doing a lot of good for other people in the community,” she says. “He does volunteer work, he helps others. He takes cookies to the [University
of Arkansas] sports teams.”
Bost hasn’t only benefited Andy. Tu says she and her husband are experiencing a freedom they have not experienced until now.
“I can go to classes, swimming classes, things like that, I can do all kinds of things I’ve never had a chance to do,” she says. “With these good services, we have our freedom, and we’re able to enjoy our life and travel and do what we always wanted to do in our golden years.”
Montgomery says that Bost recently expanded its housing to Rogers and now offers housing for six adults near the Pinnacle Hills Promenade. Those six units filled up before construction was complete, and Montgomery says such housing opportunities are in great demand. Bost hopes to continue expanding living facilities — provided the funding is available. That makes major fundraisers — like the upcoming
“Grape Escapes: A Vine Affair” — vitally important to the organization.
“We began Grape Escapes because we have all of these needs for people with disabilities that may not be funded by the Medicaid they have. The housing, for example, is not really covered. We don’t get any additional grants; the government doesn’t say, ‘Here’s some money, build a house.’ We do it on our own because it’s the right thing to do.”
This is Bost’s 15th year of the Grape Escapes fundraiser and, says Montgomery, its success is made possible because of the generous community sponsorships it receives, including ones from Owens Corning, Regions Bank and BKD, the three “Premiere Partners” this year.
“The vendors do it for free, the caterers do it for free, the wine makers do it for free … they’re all so wonderful,” enthuses Montgomery.
“Fifteen or 16 local restaurants are providing food, and we’ll have wine from all over the world — around 375 different kinds of wine.”
The wine pull will allow guests to purchase a cork for $40 — “and they might get a $200 bottle of wine,” says Montgomery. A live auction featuring vacation packages and a silent auction contribute to the excitement of the evening.
Montgomery has high hopes that the event will raise enough funds that Bost will continue expanding services, which, says Tu, are so needed in the Northwest Arkansas area.
“Thanks to Bost’s help, Andy is a productive member of society, and so happy,” she says. “So many people need this kind of support that we’ve received but don’t have access to it.”
Andy Tu, pictured with Bost employees, has been working with Bost for 10 years to improve his independent living skills.