This is a guest blog from Heather Withrow, a successful Mightycause fundraiser.

Heather Withrow wanted to help her son, Orion, who is DeafBlind. Orion uses an intervener, Nanette, to help him communicate. Heather started her fundraiser on Mightycause to help cover Nanette’s tuition costs for her intervener classes. With help from Mightycause, Heather raised $1,349 in just three weeks — double her original goal of $670. Here’s her story:

I gave Nanette a t-shirt that I added colorful braille dots onto it, spelling her name. This was to commemorate her working with Orion for 6 months via the DeafBlind with Multiple Disabilities (DBMD) waiver program.

I chose Mightycause because it’s a Withrow Family household name for crowdfunding: My husband, Thomas, supports Deaf and Hard of Hearing track and field athletes as they fundraise their way to the 2017 Summer Deaflympic Games. Thomas is the head coach for the USA Deaflympic Track and Field team for these games which were hosted in Melbourne, Australia (2005), Taipei, Taiwan (2009), and the last one in Sofia, Bulgaria (2013).

When I realized we had to step in and support our youngest son’s DeafBlind Intervener, Nanette, picking Razoo was an easy decision for us.

The fundraiser set-up wizard helped bring important components together in a simple, pain-free way. The process only took only minutes on top of the length of time it took me to compose the purpose of my fundraiser. Composing was easy because I was typing from my heart. Once I finished that section, the set-up was fast and I was fundraising right away.

Our goal was to fundraise $670 to cover Nanette’s part of her practicum tuition. We were not the first to recognize she was totally worth it. Nanette received a scholarship to pay for her Intervener courses and half of her practicum tuition via Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas’s (DBMAT) Intervener Scholarship Fund. She passed her Utah State University intervener courses last spring.

Like DBMAT’s goal, my passion here is that there are not enough DeafBlind interveners in the United States for DeafBlind children and adults with additional disabilities. The latest National DeafBlind Child Count showed 9,574 DeafBlind children from birth to 21 in a “snapshot” count on December 1, 2015.

Nanette is signing “finished” in American Sign Language while Orion is feeling everything- the sign and the plate that was just put into the “finish” box.

I wanted to do as much as I could to increase the number of interveners – not only for my DeafBlind son, Orion, but for other children like him as well. Many congenitally DeafBlind individuals have developmental delays that impact physical, communication, conceptual and social skills. This is where interveners come in and make a difference because the qualified ones take courses and are trained specifically in deafblindness. And one intervener can go beyond one DeafBlind child and make a difference in many DeafBlind peoples’ lives.

Now, Nanette is able to receive a certificate of completion from USU after her practicum (which she is currently doing at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired,) made possible from the contributions from our fundraiser. The next step is to get the national intervener certification.

Once I set up the fundraiser, I shared it extensively via social media, including my personal Facebook page, Orion’s Facebook page, my Twitter account, and my blog, “A Mom’s Musings.” I used hashtags such as #DeafBlindKids, #Intervener, #internship, #Mightycause. I asked family and friends to share my fundraiser posts. I returned to my posts and thanked our generous contributors.

Photo of Orion taken on 10/13/2016

I made sure to share my thoughts and my gratefulness often during the active fundraiser period. I shared updates on Orion and discussed interveners in a video I made. This video had to be 100% accessible to my community and beyond, since I used American Sign Language in the video, I also subtitled it in English and my hearing daughter, Anastasia, jumped at the opportunity to do the voiceover. It definitely was a family project!

Sometime during the fundraiser, I doubled the goal to $1,340 so I would be able to support a second intervener’s practicum fee.

The Mightycause support team was a huge help! Ashley made very valuable suggestions and I used most, not all, of them and surpassed my original fundraising goal! Imagine that! The updates allowed me to express my gratefulness for the donors who’d contributed, it allowed me to elaborate on interveners and Orion beyond his DeafBlindness and that he’d had surgery. In the updates, I also posted a link to a YouTube video in which I discussed via American Sign Language our need for more trained DeafBlind interveners in the United States, with 9,133 documented DeafBlind children from birth to 21 years old in 2014. (FYI, the National Deaf-Blind Child Count went up to 9,575 in 2015. The 2016 numbers will be ready in 2017.) I was also thrilled to share Mightycause’s interest in our worthy cause- that added more oxygen to the flames of motivation!

Orion is only 6 years old and we have friends in the community, and who knows, there may be others observing from afar who have a little fire burning within them to work with DeafBlind children and adults. I would encourage them to take the path Nanette has and we’ll be right here, ready to support them and in turn, we will be supporting Orion and other DeafBlind children and adults.

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