OLD ORCHARD BEACH – As part of a year-long civics lesson and to help out one of their own, the students at Jameson Elementary School in Old Orchard Beach will be baking and selling cookies this Friday, March 8, to help raise money for the Robbie Foundation.
Two years ago, Jameson kindergarten teacher Lynn Gierie and her husband, Bob, a teacher at Old Orchard Beach High School, started the foundation, named for their son Robbie, 13, who has cerebral palsy. The organization helps families like themselves purchase the adaptive equipment, assistive technology and therapy treatments necessary to children with developmental disabilities.
Robbie was diagnosed at birth. He is both non-ambulatory and non-verbal, but has attended public schools his whole life. He is an eighth-grader at Scarborough Middle School and is mainstreamed a large part of the day.
He receives occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech services at school, as well as at home.
“He’s a very social boy and is always looking for fun things to do with friends, though it’s sometimes challenging because of accessibility” issues, Lynn Gierie said.
She said the idea for the cookie fundraiser came from Terri O’Donnell, an educational technician at Jameson. The plan is for the students to both make and sell a variety of sugar and chocolate chip cookies to faculty and staff, as well as to other students at the school during their respective snack times.
Gierie said all proceeds would go directly toward helping other children like her son.
Some examples of the assistance provided by the Robbie Foundation includes adaptive bikes, all-terrain wheelchairs, iPads, communication software such as Touch Chat and Proloquo2Go, aqua therapy lessons and social skills therapy.
Unfortunately, the Gieries have learned there are lots of families like theirs in Maine in need of equipment for their developmentally disabled children, which is not covered by insurance.
In fact, in the last quarter, Gierie said, the foundation received $23,000 worth of requests, but was only able to give out $12,000, or less than half.
“We are only scratching the surface as a funding resource for children with developmental disabilities,” she said. “We hope to bridge the gap for unmet needs. These children deserve a little normalcy in their sometimes not so normal lives.”
While Gierie would be happy with whatever money the cookie sale brings in, O’Donnell said it’s her goal to raise at least $1,000 and as much as $1,800. As a special incentive, Jameson teacher Sean Moore has agreed to shave his beard if the cookie sale raises at least $1,000.
O’Donnell said with that amount of money, the foundation might be able to grant three to four wishes for developmentally disabled children.
“I was at the February presentation of the Robbie Foundation. It was amazing to see the excitement on the children’s faces and the relief on the (faces of the) parents,” she said.
O’Donnell said Jameson holds a community fundraising event every year. This year the committee at the school decided it wanted to focus on the Robbie Foundation, not only because it’s a Maine-based nonprofit and because Gierie works at Jameson, but also because one of the students at the school received assistance from the foundation.
As an educational technician, O’Donnell works with kids like Robbie every day. What they’ve taught her, she said, is appreciation – “to appreciate a kind, gentle voice, to appreciate a hug when you are in pain or having a bad day, to have patience, to smile and to be non-judgmental.”
Principal Mike Flaherty wouldn’t say just how many cookies he intends to buy, but he’s all for the fundraiser.
“At Jameson School, our overarching question for this school year, is: ‘What does it mean to be part of a community?’ All projects and events are tied to this common theme,” he said, which is why the cookie sale fits right in.
“The goal is to make learning more meaningful,” Flaherty added. “Providing safe opportunities for our students to be involved in charitable work helps to grow citizenship, compassion and empathy for all. Beyond this, the Robbie Foundation has ties with Jameson and (it) has made a positive difference in the lives of some of our current families.”