Recently, I had the honor of once again attending The Bedford School March Dinner and Auction. This inspiring evening is held annually at our daughter's school for children with learning differences. It was our fifth year attending and, as always, I was not disappointed.
The theme for this year's event was "Bedford... A Lifechanging Experience."
True to the theme, this school is a life-changing experience for so many kids. These kids come in after struggling in mainstream school environments and they are transformed. Through the instruction, nurturing and teaching of organizational and academic skills the school turns out students who are confident, prepared and academically ready to go back into a mainstream environment. Honestly, I don't know what we would have done without this school. Sara Ashley has been there since the first grade and is now in the fifth. When she started at the school she had just failed to meet the requirements necessary to matriculate from kindergarten to first grade. This despite the fact that she had been in some type of academic environment from the age of three and despite the fact that she had an IEP for kindergarten and received speech services for her expressive language disability during school and after school through a tutor. Rob and I were at our wit's ends trying to figure out how to teach Sara Ashley. This school provided the answers. I consider it a TREMENDOUS unexpected gift from God.
Each year the evening starts with a silent auction. The halls are lined with donated items and opportunities for people to mingle and give their highest bids.
As the bidding ends everyone moves into the gymnasium which has been transformed into a twinkling wonderland. This year I had the honor of designing the table decor. In keeping with the "life changing" theme, I chose to use butterflies as the central decoration. On paper lanterns, we glued hundreds of patterned butterflies. These lanterns were illuminated and placed on each table, surrounded by scrabble chips and votives. It took many, many hands to make these centerpieces and I am grateful for the way it turned out. It was beautiful!
A special thanks to Kim Burgess, who coordinated the entire event from the decor and auction items to the delicious dinner provided by Contemporary Catering.
My favorite part of this evening is hearing the student testimonial. Each year a former student shares his or her life experiences and how Bedford has played a part in their success. This year Bradley Eisenberg was the alumni speaker.
I was overjoyed to hear of Bradley's successes since leaving the school. Despite his profound learning differences, Bradley is a college graduate and is now doing an internship with Disney. He has also been chosen by Disney as an intern representative for others hoping to enter their program. After his internship with Disney is completed, he hopes to be offered a full time job with the company. He has also returned to work at Bedford's summer camp, Squirrel Hollow, for the last few years serving as PE instructor.
When kids go to Bedford, their experiences there are usually so profound and nurturing that they never truly leave the school. It is not unusual for me to hear that one of Sara Ashley's teachers is a former student of the school or that an alum has come to visit for the day and share their successes with their former teachers and the current students.
Bradley credits Bedford, which he attended from first through eighth grade, for preparing him to make the strides he has been able to attain. He also thanks his parents for their intuitiveness in recognizing his challenges and making the necessary arrangements to help him. It was a joy to see Bradley speak so highly of the school and his teachers and I felt a certain peace in knowing that our daughter was following in his footsteps.
Another special part of the evening was my opportunity to give the "Make Things Happen" speech. This speech is given in order to raise money for Bedford's Scholarship program.
It's no secret that private school is expensive. But when you have a child who is challenged by learning differences, private school is sometimes the best opportunity to give them the tools they need to succeed. The speech I gave outlined our experiences with our daughter, Sara Ashley, and urged parents and guests of the dinner to contribute to Bedford's scholarship fund. I feel strongly that it's important to give so that those who could not otherwise afford the school can also receive this life-changing opportunity. This school has helped our daughter so very much, I was honored to help in this way.
Rob and I also took this chance to surprise Dr. Box, the founder and director of the school, with a special gift ~a flag flown over the Georgia State Capitol in honor of The Bedford School. This special momento and certificate were given to us by our friend and neighbor, State Representative Lynn Smith, when we attended and spoke at the Georgia School Choice Rally in January of this year.
Dr. Box is a true visionary. A dyslexic learner herself, she founded the school in 1985 after teaching under Dr. Charles Shedd and then pioneering a special education program at Woodward Academy where she taught for fourteen years. The opening of The Bedford School was the culmination of her life-long dream to help other students overcome the issues that she shares. My heart is continuously thankful for the opportunities and direction Dr. Box has provided to my child and other children with learning difference. She and her school are a tremendous blessing!