Story by Elizabeth Starr
Photo by Katie Moore
Squeals of delight echo in the game room at the Buckner Family Hope Center at Wynnewood. Small groups of children sit around several game tables. All eyes are on the Wynnewood staff members supervising the activities.
At one table, a little girl named Ava* chatters with her friends as they roll the dice and draw cards during their board game. Her contagious laughter spills out until it’s impossible for anyone in the room to ignore Ava’s joyful, boisterous personality.
It’s no surprise that Ava’s the “people greeter” of Wynnewood, according to Erika Beck, the lead life skills specialist at the Family Hope Center.
“There’s something about her that draws you to her,” Erika said. “When people meet her they automatically fall in love with her.”
It’s hard to believe this confident, friendly little girl was ever a new kid in this room. Attending the summer and afterschool programs at Wynnewood has given Ava uninhibited joy and a hope for her future.
In the summer of 2014, after attending a vacation Bible school at Wynnewood, Ava was able to build relationships with Erika and some of the other Buckner staff. She found out about the programs offered at the Family Hope Center and when the afterschool programs for the 2014-2015 school year began, Ava was in attendance every day.
“When she first came, she had difficulty with basic math and simple reading,” Erika said. “Even though she’s in fourth grade, we knew something wasn’t right.”
Erika wrote a letter and sent it home with Ava to deliver to her mother, who is deaf. In the letter, Erika voiced her concerns about Ava’s progress in school, and suggested that Ava’s mother ask the school to have her tested for learning disabilities. Soon, Ava was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and the mystery of her learning problem was solved.
“Her mom wrote me a letter back, thanking us for pushing her to get tested, so now she can get assistance in class,” Erika said.
Erika, who has a background in education, worked to find effective teaching methods specific to Ava’s needs after her diagnosis. Erika realized Ava could understand simple math if she was allowed to use checkers as a learning aid.
“I figured out she was more of a tactile learner,” Erika said. “If she can touch it, she can learn it faster.”
As for Ava, attending Wynnewood has become a source of learning, friendship and Christ-centered fun.
“My favorite things are free time and Bible study,” Ava said. “We get to hear all different Bible verses and sing songs.”
Because of the love and effort of Erika and the other staff at Buckner Family Hope Centers, children like Ava have a chance to be successful and confident with the personalities, hopes and dreams given to them by God.
*Child’s name has been changed for her protection.
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