Helping children overcome challenges in speech and language disorders was a topic for discussion Wednesday at a meeting of the Harlan Chamber of Commerce.
Guest speaker Harlan Scottish Rite President Jerry Hatmaker said the Scottish Rite Foundation is a worldwide organization encompassing 35 states and Puerto Rico and their RiteCare Program is America’s largest private organization involved with remedying communication disorders in children.
“In the early 1950s in Colorado, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States initiated a program to help children with speech and language disorders,” said Hatmaker. “The results from this program led to the establishment of RiteCare clinics to provide diagnostic evaluation and treatment of speech and language disorders, as well as learning disabilities. We have a certain opportunity of time to help these children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old.”
Hatmaker said today there are 178 RiteCare clinics, centers and special programs operating or planned for children and therapists located throughout the U.S. He said two of those clinics are located in Kentucky.
“It takes approximately $2,000 per child to help these children — put them with a speech therapist,” said Hatmaker. “We’re a nonprofit organization and everything donated to us is tax deducible. We don’t apply for grants, we’re totally self-efficient. We do approach businesses for donations to help these children.”
Hatmaker said the local Scottish Rite was chartered three years ago and since that time they have been able to help one Harlan County child.
“The need is definitely there,” said Hatmaker. “There are children who don’t have insurance and even those who do, can’t afford to pay the deductibles and co-payments.We try to fill in that gap. That is our sole purpose for being in existence.”
Hatmaker said anyone who knows a child which needs help may contact RiteCare Centers: Horn, Richardson and Associates Rehabilitation, 2412 Greatstone Point, Lexington, Ky. 40504 or by phone at (859) 224-4081 or (859) 278-9216 or The Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, 350 Henry Clay Blvd., Lexington, Ky. 40502 or by phone at (859) 268-4545.
The Scottish Rite also gives scholarships to high school JROTC students who “excel academically,” and training programs for those who want to become speech therapists Hatmaker said.
“My passion in life is helping these little children. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done,” said Hatmaker. “Did you know 5 percent of the children in the world are born with problems in hearing and speech. Can you imagine the joy on a mother’s and father’s face to hear their little child say mommy or daddy. We can make that happen.”
For more information, you may contact Hatmaker at 573-2175.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org