ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — More than 400 items are up for bid in the 26th annual Chuck Long Charity Auction benefiting the Children's Therapy Center of the Quad Cities. The online auction closes on May 20.
The annual event has raised nearly $2 million over the past quarter century. All of that money goes right back to the center as its largest fundraiser of the year.
"We're one of the few centers that takes all kids, regardless of health insurance," said Angie Peterson, the center's president and CEO. "75% of the therapy that we do provide is not reimbursed. So fundraising is really important."
All children are accepted at the center, regardless of insurance, needs or geographic location.
While the center typically schedules between 600 and 750 appointments per week, the demand is growing.
Prior to the pandemic, the wait list for children seeking physical, occupational, feeding or speech therapies hovered between 50 and 75 kids at any given time. Today, that number has ballooned to more than 200 children as Covid-19 forced some families to lose jobs and health insurance.
"The only thing that keeps us from helping more and more kids is funding," Peterson pointed out.
And that's where you can help.
The Chuck Long Charity Auction is an online bid open from May 11 through May 20. You can check out autographed sports memorabilia and collectibles, dinners at Quad City restaurants, designer handbags, cookware and more. A night with our own News 8 sports director shooting Friday night football for The Score is also up for grabs!
Twice a week, a familiar faces visits the Children's Therapy Center.
6-year-old Alina Garcia is one of thousands of kids that have received therapy from the center. As an infant, her family noticed she wasn't hitting developmental marks. After years of testing, she was finally diagnosed with TBR1, an extremely rare genetic disorder.
At the time of Alina's diagnosis, she was one of only three people in the world known to have TBR1. Even today, that number has only increased slightly to an estimated 40 individuals.
There's not much known about the disorder. While Alina was in utero, the electrical currents on both sides of her brain were unable to connect. As a toddler, she was unable to talk, walk or sit up on her own. Doctors told her family she might never progress past that point.
But that's when the Garcias discovered the therapy center.
Alina has been going for years and has worked with a variety of therapists on her muscle strength, coordination, speech skills and more.
Her grandfather, Joseph Garcia, brings her to nearly every appointment. He says it's been amazing watching her get stronger.
"She's doing really great. My granddaughter's quality of life, I mean, it's vastly improved just from being here," Garcia said. Today, she's able to better communicate in her own ways, even pushing out sounds to certain words, such as 'movie.' "From not being able to sit up to standing, telling you she wants something to drink. She's just happy all the time!"
He says not only is Alina surpassing expectations, her hard work is giving the family hope that someday she might be able to talk or even walk on her own.
Garcia also says Alina lights up when she sees her therapists - something he's noticed in other children at the center as well.
"They give you a feeling that your child's the most important child here," Garcia said, getting emotional. "When I seen them with other kids they convey that too. That everybody's child is the most important. So that made me happy."
Beyond the financial help the center gives families who can't afford therapy, it also works to connect children and their families with donors who can provide some of the much-needed, expensive equipment.
For the Garcias, that meant getting put in touch with the Eldridge Rotary Club, which helped pay several thousand dollars for a bike specially made for Alina's mobility.
"If you come here on a regular basis like I do, you see some children and some people that aren't as well off. But the center tries to take care of everybody. They don't want to turn anybody away and I think they improve everybody's life for that," Garcia said.
Again, if you'd like to check out the items up for auction and benefit the center, you can peruse bids here and register here.
You can also check out our story on Jobari, another child whose life is being changed by the Children's Therapy Center.
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