By any conventional definition, 5-year-old cousins Maddie Lightsey and Emma Tucker would be considered typical “little” girls.
But there is certainly nothing small or ordinary about their hearts.
This past June the girls organized a garage sale in Oak Grove as a fund-raiser for The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi. On Thursday, August 27, the cousins presented $500 in cash to the center on behalf of Maddie’s 4-year-old brother, Mason, who attends the unique school.
“We just wanted to help,” said Emma in explaining the idea for a garage sale. Maddie’s mother, Laura Lightsey, said the enterprising effort sprang from an episode of the popular TLC reality show, “Jon and Kate Plus 8.”
“The girls love that show and they saw the one where Kate had put together a garage sale for charity,” said Laura Lightsey. “Maddie came to me and said they wanted to have their own garage sale to raise money for Mason’s school.”
And what kind of items fetched such a handsome return? “Toys and stuff we didn’t really play with anymore,” said Maddie. “And a lot of clothes that didn’t fit us, too.”
The Children’s Center, which also receives funding from the United Way, serves as an early intervention program for youngsters from infancy through age 5. Direct assistance is provided to more than 70 children and their families from 18 surrounding counties. The program also includes training for university students in speech and hearing sciences and other allied health disciplines.
A team approach is offered to each child through speech-language pathology, special education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology and behavior therapy.
Mason Lightsey was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant. Unable to speak or walk on his own, he has nevertheless exhibited a wide-eyed willingness to learn over the past three years. Always quick with a smile, Mason communicates with a touch-pad instrument called an augmentative communication device.
“He is a very smart little boy and he has really come a long way since he’s been here,” said Mason’s teacher, Sarah Case-Price, a speech pathologist at the Children’s Center. “I think it’s been a lot of fun for both of us watching him grow and develop.”
Laura Lightsey, a math teacher at Oak Grove High School, says the center’s impact on Mason’s young life has been a blessing to her family, which includes husband, Michael.
“It has given him a place that he can feel a part of,” she said. “The education and development he has gotten from the center has just been incredible.”
And significant enough that two little girls felt compelled to show their gratitude for the work being done there.
“What an amazing and meaningful gift for two 5-year-old children to give to the Children’s Center,” said Center Director Margaret Buttross-Brinegar. “And to think that they spent part of their summer thinking of children who have special needs. It’s a very special and inspirational gesture.”
Buttross-Brinegar said the money will be used to pay for specialized equipment and teaching material that are needed for the various interventions and classrooms.
To learn more about the Children’s Center at Southern Miss, call 601.266.5222.
Mason Lightsey, 4, is flanked by his sister, Maddie Lightsey, 5, and cousin, Emma Tucker, 5, at The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at the University of Southern Mississippi. The girls raised $500 in a garage sale and donated the money to the center on Mason’s behalf. (Office of University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)
The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.