Two Season for Caring families know what Medicaid cuts for therapy mean

Gerardo Reyes, 3, smiles at the crowd as Senator Jose Rodriguez speaks during a press conference outside the Senate at the Capitol on Thursday, September 15, 2016. Last legislative session cuts were made to pediatric therapy covered by Medicaid. Reyes has lost some of his therapy services because of the cuts. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN
Gerardo Reyes, 3, smiles at the crowd as Senator Jose Rodriguez speaks during a press conference outside the Senate at the Capitol on Thursday, September 15, 2016. Last legislative session cuts were made to pediatric therapy covered by Medicaid. Reyes has lost some of his therapy services because of the cuts. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

When the state cut $350,000 in disability services to Medicaid, it often affects families that are chosen for Season for Caring. In this story by Statesman reporter Julie Chang about the cuts, we noticed a familiar face: 3-year-old Gerardo Reyes. He and his family were part of Season for Caring two years ago. He is one of the kids who won’t have access to the same therapy he has been receiving.

Gerardo was born with hydrocephalus, the buildup of fluid in brain cavities, and hydranencephaly, which means his brain’s cerebral hemispheres are largely absent and replaced by fluid-filled sacs.

This year, Season for Caring recipient 9-year-old Raymond Martinez-Garcia also has seen his

Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9, at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9, at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

therapies cut. Raymond was born with Renpenning syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by small head size, intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. He also has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

His mother Maricela Garcia works a part-time job caring for seniors. She could not afford any of his therapies on her $8.61 an hour wage.

Their wish list: Financial assistance for child care, health care, rent and utilities; an immigration attorney; tuition to attend certified nursing assistant school; a gently used car, car insurance and driving lessons; iPad for Raymond to use for communication; gift cards to Amazon.com for therapy equipment; sign language tutoring for Maricela and Raymond; private speech, occupational and physical therapy for Raymond; eyeglasses and eye exam for Maricela; Pull-Ups for Raymond to use at school; weighted sensory blanket (Fun and Function or similar); two full beds and bedding; dressers for Maricela and Raymond; desk with filing cabinet and shelving/storage for household items (Kallax unit or similar); pots and pans; toaster; dishes; 8-foot-by-10-foot and 9-foot-by-12-foot rugs for bedroom and living room; gift cards to H-E-B, Target and Wal-Mart; clothing for Maricela (size 14 pants, large tops, size 10 shoes) and Raymond (boys size 8 pants, boys medium shirts, size 3 shoes).

Nominated by: Foundation Communities; 3036 S. First St. 512-610-7391, foundcom.org.

Watch a video of Maricela Garcia explaining what these funding cuts mean to her.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: SAFE Austin

Delilah Olais, 3, kisses her brother Noah, who is now 4 months. Parents Luis Olais, 21, and Keila Vasquez, 19, worry that both their kids may have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which Luis Olais has.    JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Delilah Olais, 3, kisses her brother Noah, who is now 4 months. Parents Luis Olais, 21, and Keila Vasquez, 19, worry that both their kids may have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which Luis Olais has.
JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) Austin: Strong Start Program has been a part of the program in recent years.

The SAFE Alliance is a structured partnership between SafePlace and Austin Children’s Shelter, two organizations that serve the survivors of child abuse and neglect, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.

Its mission is to lead in ending sexual assault and exploitation, child abuse and domestic violence through prevention, intervention and advocacy for change.

This year, SAFE nominated Keila Vasquez and Luis Olais. Olais has a rare genetic disorder that affects his joints and connective tissue. Their 3-year-old daughter Delilah has it and they are waiting to hear if 4-month-old Noah has it. Vasquez would like to better support the family by getting her cosmetology license. Read more about this family here .

Their wish list:

Rent and child care while Keila completes a nine-month cosmetology program; cosmetology school tuition and supplies; apartment furnishings, including living and bedroom furniture and bathroom and kitchen supplies; medical supplies, including colostomy bags; gift cards to H-E-B, Wal-Mart and Target; toys for the children — or a gift card to Toys R Us; beds and dressers for kids; clothing for kids sized 6 months to 12 months and 3 toddler to 4 toddler; Herbalife or other drink mix to help Luis gain weight; two laptops and wireless connection; help with medical bills.

To find out more about SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) Austin: Strong Start Program or to give an item on the family’s wish list, contact the agency at 4800 Manor Road, Building A. 512-590-3114, safeaustin.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: LifeWorks

Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, poses for a portrait in the community garden where he grows vegetables and herbs he uses for cooking at his apartment  complex. Rodolfo Gonzalez AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, poses for a portrait in the community garden where he grows vegetables and herbs he uses for cooking at his apartment complex. Rodolfo Gonzalez AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. LifeWorks has a long tradition of being part of Season for Caring.

LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency by providing counseling services, housing, access to job training and education.

This year, LifeWorks nominated Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria. Zuñiga-Echeverria became an orphan when he was 2 and became part of the foster care system when he was 9. He is hearing impaired and found himself homeless. He made his way to Austin and found LifeWorks. Read more about him here .

His wish list:

Two hearing aids, size 13; hearing-impaired alert devices (flash door signalers, flash smoke alarms, bed shakers); eye exam and possibly glasses, contacts or laser vision correction; green moped scooter to get school and work with driving course and protective gear; gas cards; bicycle; comprehensive allergy test; employment as an overnight stocker position at H-E-B Riverside or Hancock Center or similar position; college fees and books for Austin Community College not covered by tuition; laptop; shoes, size 10 1/2 or 11; clothes: large or extra large shirts, pants 40 waist; culinary classes and tools; casserole dishes; gardening classes and tools; gift cards to Half Price Books, Macy’s, Target, GameStop and H-E-B; Softball Austin membership with glove, bat and cleats; piano keyboard with stand.

To find out more about LifeWorksor to give an item on the family’s wish list, contact the agency at, 3700 S. First St.. 512-735-2473, lifeworksaustin.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: Interfaith Action of Central Texas

Issa Noheli, 61, looks down at his 1-year-old granddaughter Vanessa during a walk with his family outside of their apartment in south Austin. The Noheli family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resettled in Austin. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Issa Noheli, 61, looks down at his 1-year-old granddaughter Vanessa during a walk with his family outside of their apartment in south Austin. The Noheli family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resettled in Austin. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. Interfaith Action of Central Texas has become an important part of the program.

Interfaith Action of Central Texas exists to build healthy relationships between the faith communities of Central Texas. In addition to creating a dialogue between communities, iACT connects communities through assisting refugees and through its Hands on Housing program.

This year, iACT nominated Issa Noheli and his family, including eight children, his wife and his granddaughter. They lived in a refugee camp for 17 years after their home in Democratic Republic of Congo was destroyed. Noheli lost his leg and was left for dead when his camp was attacked. He relies on crutches to get around.  Read more about this family here .

Their wish list:

A prosthetic leg and rehabilitation counseling and support for Issa; an electric scooter for Issa; vocational counseling and training for Colette and her two adult daughters, Mwiza and Gentile; washer and dryer for their apartment; four laptop computers for schoolwork; a gently used car, car insurance, gift cards for gas and driving lessons for Issa and Colette; child care or preschool for granddaughter Vanessa so her mother and grandmother can work during school hours; English learning software and one-on-one tutoring support for the parents and older daughters; bicycles or tricycles for six children ages 16, 14, 12, 9, 5 and 1; gift cards to H-E-B, Wal-Mart and Target; rental assistance; assistance in renting a four- or five-bedroom house inside Austin and close to a Capital Metro bus route; help in repaying costs of air travel to move to U.S.; interpreter services for Issa’s medical and rehabilitation needs.

To find out more about iACT or to give an item on the family’s wish list, contact the agency at921 E. 17th St., Building D, Suite No. 3. 512-386-9145, ext. 7 interfaithtexas.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet the Season for Caring partner agency: Hospice Austin

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles.  Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles.
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. Hospice Austin has been integral to Season for Caring for many years.

Hospice Austin was established more than 30 years ago by a group of doctors and concerned citizens for the sole purpose of serving families. Since then, it has provided end-of-life care to any person who needs it, regardless of the complexity of the illness, cost of care or a patient’s ability to pay. It remains a nonprofit hospice.

This year, Hospice Austin nominated Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez. He lost his wife to cervical cancer in August and is raising 4-year-old Emely. She has Down syndrome. Read more about this family here .

Their wish list:

A lawyer for a will; an insurance agent to help him select life insurance; help with rent and utilities; educational toys, such as wooden puzzles or blocks with the alphabet; children’s books; English tutoring to help Jacob improve his English and obtain his high school equivalency degree; a laptop to help him take language and GED classes and practice writing in English; 5 toddler girls clothes, including dresses and play dresses (especially princess); girls dresser and bedside table; girly curtains for Emely’s room; professional-grade painting supplies and tools, including sprayers, brushes, rollers and poles; a work truck; special car seat for children with Down syndrome; high chair and a stroller large enough for Emely; gas cards to visit family in McAllen; gift cards to H-E-B, Wal-Mart and Target; carpet cleaning; money for a contractor’s license; secure employment; a gift card to Amazon for an urn for Adriana’s ashes.

To find out more about Hospice Austin or to give an item on the family’s wish list, contact the agency at4107 Spicewood Springs Road. 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: Family Eldercare

Terry Markland, 65, is living in an independent senior center after recently being homeless. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Terry Markland, 65, is living in an independent senior center after recently being homeless.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families.

Family Eldercare has been serving Central Texas since 1982. It wants to ensure that all older adults receive the care they need to remain independent and living in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. It supports caregivers with services and education that allow them the opportunity to have balance in their lives and to maintain good health. Its rates are on a sliding fee scale based on the client’s income. Today, Family Eldercare provides a continuum of services on a sliding fee scale to more than 6,000 elders, people with disabilities and their caregivers annually in Travis, Williamson and Hays counties.

This year, Family Eldercare nominated Terry Markland. Markland injured himself on the job 30 years ago and his feet never healed. Eventually his awkward walk caused him to damage his knees and he could no longer walk or support himself. He became homeless and crawled around his campsite until a peace officer brought him to Family Eldercare.   Read more about this Terry Markland here .

His wish list:

Knee replacement surgery; motorized wheelchair; in-home physical therapy; dentures; side-by-side washer and dryer; a couch and coffee table; utilities assistance; plastic floor mats; chain extension for ceiling fan; eye exam and new glasses; exterminator services; Capital MetroAccess booklets, H-E-B gift cards; Denny’s gift cards; winter coat; other men’s winter clothes: extra-large shirts, 36-inch-by-32-inch pants, size 38 sweatpants, size 11 wide men’s dress shoes; Longhorns sports tickets; Dallas Cowboys gear; movie theater passes; assistance in transportation to church.

Find out more about Family Eldercare  or give an item on the family’s wish list by contacting the agency at 1700 Rutherford Lane. 512-450-0844, familyeldercare.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: Foundation Communities

Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9,  at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9, at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. Foundation Communities has been with Season for Caring for several years.

Foundation Communities is a local, homegrown nonprofit. It provides affordable homes and free on-site support services for thousands of families with kids, as well as veterans, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. It also provides help securing access to health care, tax preparation and education.

This year, Foundation Communities nominated Maricela Garcia and her son Raymond. Raymond is 9 years old and has Renpenning syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. Many of his therapies have been cut because of a lack of funding. Garcia works part-time caring for seniors for $8.61 an hour and wants to become a certified nursing assistant so she can get a full-time, better-paying job.  Read more about this family here .

Their wish list:

Financial assistance for child care, health care, rent and utilities; an immigration attorney; tuition to attend certified nursing assistant school; a gently used car, car insurance and driving lessons; iPad for Raymond to use for communication; gift cards to Amazon.com for therapy equipment; sign language tutoring for Maricela and Raymond; private speech, occupational and physical therapy for Raymond; eyeglasses and eye exam for Maricela; Pull-Ups for Raymond to use at school; weighted sensory blanket (Fun and Function or similar); two full beds and bedding; dressers for Maricela and Raymond; desk with filing cabinet and shelving/storage for household items (Kallax unit or similar); pots and pans; toaster; dishes; 8-foot-by-10-foot and 9-foot-by-12-foot rugs for bedroom and living room; gift cards to H-E-B, Target and Wal-Mart; clothing for Maricela (size 14 pants, large tops, size 10 shoes) and Raymond (boys size 8 pants, boys medium shirts, size 3 shoes).

Find out more about Foundation Communities  or give an item on the family’s wish list by contacting the agency at 3036 S. First St. 512-610-7391, foundcom.org.

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: Caritas of Austin

The Fazal Ahmad family -- Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar, 19, left, Feroza Abdul Jabbar, 12, Palwasha Abdul Jabbar, 17, Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, Nazi Abdul Jabbar, 15, and Nisar Abdul Jabbar, 16 -- arrived from Afghanistan last summer. They are enjoying  a meal at their apartment  in Austin.   Rodolfo Gonzalez/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Fazal Ahmad family — Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar, 19, left, Feroza Abdul Jabbar, 12, Palwasha Abdul Jabbar, 17, Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, Nazi Abdul Jabbar, 15, and Nisar Abdul Jabbar, 16 —
arrived from Afghanistan last summer. They are enjoying a meal at their apartment in Austin.
Rodolfo Gonzalez/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. Caritas of Austin has been part of Season for Caring for the past three years.

Caritas serves thousands of families and individuals who do not have a stable place to call home. Through comprehensive, relationship-based services, Caritas of Austin turns crisis into stability and empowers people toward the life they want. It believes that a thriving community derives its strength from providing all members the opportunity to be self-reliant.

This year, Caritas nominated Uliya Fazal Ahmad and her five children. Fazal Ahmad fled Afghanistan after the death of her husband. Family fighting over a proposed marriage for her then 14-year-old daughter ended in Fazal Ahmad being pushed and sustaining a broken ankle. After a stay in Pakistan, the family was able to secure refuge status in the United States and came to Austin in July. Now they are working on learning English, going to school or getting job training. Read more about this family here .

Their wish list:

Sewing machine; air conditioner repair training for Mukhtar; a bigger kitchen table and six chairs; medical care for Uliya; a laptop; taxi vouchers; drivers’ education for Mukhtar; English and school tutoring for the children; additional living room furniture, such as a couch, chairs and a coffee table; TV; pillows; dishes; pots and pans; a pressure cooker; a microwave; lamps; a cellphone; gift cards to H-E-B; gift cards to Payless ShoeSource, Wal-Mart and Ross Dress For Less for winter clothes and shoes.

Find out more about Caritas of Austin or give an item on the family’s wish list by contacting the agency at P.O. Box 1947, Austin, Texas, 78767-1947. 512-646-1277, caritasofaustin.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet Season for Caring partner agency: Care Communities

Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin's Christopher House. Rosalba Martínez-López, who has stage IV cervical cancer. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin’s Christopher House. Rosalba Martínez-López, who has stage IV cervical cancer.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. Care Communities has been in the program for many years.

Care Communities provides free non-medical practical and emotional support to those living with cancer or HIV in the greater Central Texas area.  Care Communities recruits and trains volunteers to provide this support.

This year, Care Communities nominated Rosalba Martínez-López. She is a single mom of four children ages 21 to 13, plus a 1-year-old granddaughter. Martínez-López has stage IV cervical cancer and was given six months to live in June. She worries about what will happen to her children after she is gone. Read more about this family here .

Their wish list:

A trailer for them to live in, or help with rent for an apartment; college scholarships for the four children; an attorney to help with will and guardianship; cellphone service for the children; laptops for the children; a gently used car, car insurance and car seat; a caretaker for Rosalba while children are at school; transportation for Alex and Kimberley to get to and from school; child care for Amy’s baby; help with tuition for ACC classes; bus passes for Ana to get to Austin Community College classes; beds for the three children living with Rosalba; queen bed for Rosalba; bed sheets, duvet covers and pillows; gift cards to a furniture store; new Nike Air Max shoes and a new volleyball for Kimberley, who plays sports; tennis shoes for Alex, who is on the football team; a tablet for Rosalba; a printer for homework; gift cards to H-E-B, Wal-Mart and Target; diapers for Sofia; 6-9 month baby girl clothes; clothing for Ana, women’s size small and women’s size 6 1/2 shoes; clothing for Amy, women’s size medium and women’s size 10 shoes; clothing for Kimberley, women’s size small and women’s size 7 shoes; clothing for Rosalba, women’s size medium and women’s size 7 1/2 shoes; and clothing for Alex, men’s size medium and men’s size 11 shoes.

To find out more about Care Communities or to give an item on the family’s wish list, contact the agency at 314 E. Highland Mall Blvd. No. 495. 512-459-5883, carecommunities.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Meet the Season for Caring agency: Wonders & Worries

Ashley McGill and her two children Alyanna, 10, and Preston, 8, pose for a family portrait. Rodolfo Gonzalez/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Ashley McGill and her two children Alyanna, 10, and Preston, 8, pose for a family portrait. Rodolfo Gonzalez/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Each year, Season for Caring partners with local nonprofit agencies and invites them to nominated up to three families. Wonders & Worries has been a partner agency for many years.

Wonders & Worries works with families in all stages of survivorship, who are affected by any serious or chronic physical illness. Wonders & Worries provides individual and group support services for children ages 2-18 and parenting support for parents and caregivers. Services are offered free of charge in a variety of school and community-based settings, with program services provided by professional child life staff in both English and Spanish.

This year, Wonders and Worries nominated Ashley McGill and her two children. After she was rear-ended in January 2015, Ashley McGill began having horrible headaches. Doctors found two neurological problems, but she has not had any relief. Now, the single mom of Ayanna, 10, and Preston, 6, unable to work and living on long-term disability. Read more about this family here.

Their wish list:

Help with rent, car insurance, medical bills, credit card bill and student loan debt; dental care and mental health support for Ashley; car repairs including brakes and rotors, a new battery and new tires; sectional for the living room; home computer; an adjustable bed that will allow her to sleep with her head raised to relieve some of the pressure in her head; small stand-alone freezer to buy food in bulk; a shower chair; kitchen basics including cups, bowls, pots, measuring cups, knives, spatulas and plastic containers; gift cards to Target, H-E-B and Wal-Mart; new glasses for Preston; board games; Legos; a soccer ball; a basketball; a motorized bike; a guitar and lessons; boys size 7/8 clothes for Preston; gift cards to stores like Charming Charlie, Claire’s and Forever 21; art supplies; chapter books; violin lessons; beauty supplies for Alyanna; family experiences including roller-skating, arcade, bowling, movie tickets, children’s museum and cooking classes.

To find out more about Wonders & Worries or to give an item on the family’s wish list, contact the agency at 9101 Burnet Road, Suite 107. 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org

To give a monetary donation, go to the donation page at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.