DENHAM SPRINGS — Being different can be amazing and extraordinary and a local non-profit organization embraces that in the services it provides.
Launch Therapy Center in Denham Springs serves children with disabilities and their families in ways that include speech, occupational and physical therapy.
Launch provides more than just therapy services, according to the organization’s founder and executive director Chantelle Varnado.
“We do the things beyond what’s covered by insurance and Medicaid,” she explained. “That might be additional therapy. It might be adaptive equipment. It might be helping parents get enrolled in the waiver or Medicaid or other resources. Whatever they need, we just try to find a way to make it happen.”
The center engages in inclusive activities that help children with disabilities play on sports teams or have play dates at various entertainment places in the area.
“It’s our mission to help exceptional children lead extraordinary lives,” Varnado said. “So whatever that means, whether it’s parents’ support or support for the kids.”
During Autism Awareness Month in April, Launch partnered with the Town of Livingston Police Department for the department’s autism awareness campaign.
Businesses sponsored the officer’s badges, which were powder blue, the color for autism, according to Varnado. The department wrapped all of its patrol cars with autism awareness decals and set out with a goal of raising $5,000 by selling puzzle pieces for their patrol cars.
However, that goal was quickly eclipsed and a new goal was set at $10K. As of April 27, Varnado said around $9,000 was raised.
The therapy center provided training for law enforcement officers on how to interact with autistic children in a law enforcement capacity.
Varnado said the center currently has 400 kids who receive services there and there is also a waitlist of about 120. The idea of a waitlist can be discouraging but Varnado advised parents not to wait to get on those lists.
“Once you have a suspicion, the ‘let’s wait and see what happens’ is not a good plan,” she said. “By the time you identify something, if it’s six months later, it might be another six months before they’re able to start getting services. We do the best we can to get people in but it takes time to take in new patients and deal with insurance companies.”
Varnado said her organization is different because it can use other ways outside of insurance to get services for people.
“If something is preventing them from getting services, we try to find a way to make that happen,” she said. “It might be writing a grant, doing a fundraiser. We do whatever we can. We don’t make them wait to get all that worked out. We immediately get them the services as soon as we’re able to start seeing them.”
Having a village of people is important in nearly all walks of life, and Varnado said it’s no different for the community they serve.
“Each of us plays a part in helping a child and their family succeed,” said Varnado. “Parents should know they are not alone. They have a community of professionals, teachers, and individuals who have their back. There are no limits to what we can accomplish together. Please be a part of someone’s village.”
Launch is participating in the annual 225Gives fundraiser hosted by the Capital Area United Way on May 4. You can support Launch in the initiative here.