Learn why the United Ability Vino & Van Gogh Wine and Art Event on Thursday, August 23 is more than a party

United Ability
The Hudson family, Brad, Emily and April. Photo courtesy of Brad Hudson.

The upcoming United Ability Vino & Van Gogh fundraiser is one of the best events this summer in Birmingham. It is also the most important cause you can support to help families in need.

First, details about the event.

Get your tickets today

On Thursday, August 23, 6:00 at the Haven (2515 6th Avenue South), the United Ability Junior Board will be hosting the annual Vino & Van Gogh.

A lively fundraiser, the event features wine tastings, hors-d’oeuvres, live music, and silent and live auctions. There will also be a friendly competitive raffle between Alabama and Auburn football fans. It is a “can’t miss event.” Tickets are $45 for individuals and $80 for couples.

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More than just a fun party, Vino & Van Gogh has an inspirational purpose

All proceeds from Vino & Van Gogh support United Ability’s  life-changing services that give children and adults living with disabilities – and their families – hope. This  includes scholarships at United Ability’s Hand in Hand Early Learning Program – a childcare program, where children who have delays in one or more areas of development work together side by side with typically developing children in a compassionate, nurturing and loving learning environment.

Meet Brad Hudson and his daughter Emily
United Ability
Emily Hudson at United Ability. Photo courtesy of United Ability.

Recently, Bham Now interviewed Brad Hudson, a parent of a child that has benefitted from United Ability’s programs and services and about his family’s personal experience with the Hand in Hand programs.

Brad’s daughter Emily is currently a kindergartener in the Pelham school system. Today, when you see her, she giggles, enjoys Disney cartoons, loves new shoes and loves playing outside on the slide.

When Emily was a couple of weeks old, the Hudson family went to their pediatrician and the words that came out of his mouth were “something is not right.”

The medical professionals soon discovered that Emily has a very rare genetic disorder. In a nutshell, as Brad described it, the human genome is a billion characters long, and she has a mutation on one of them. She has been the only person found to have this kind of mutation.

The family was stunned.

The Hudsons are a working family. In the beginning, they had Emily in daycare, but after a while, the people taking care of her came to the family and told the Hudsons, “We love you but we don’t have the means to keep up with your child. She needs more love and attention,” they said.

At the time, Emily could barely walk or hold her head up straight. It took a lot of work and the people at the daycare were not trained or prepared for it.

The Hudsons didn’t know what to do. They were looking for answers. That is when friends told them about the United Ability Hand in Hand Early Intervention and Early Learning Center.

Complete support
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Emily with United Ability staff. Photo courtesy of United Ability.

Hand in Hand was a godsend. The Early Learning Program integrates special needs children with typical children. Emily had loving and caring teachers and classmates from all walks of life working with her.

On top of the childcare, the Early Intervention Program had specialists onsite; physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. In the Hudson’s case, Emily needed all three.

The program is immeasurable, according to Brad.

“My daughter is almost six now. She has still been unable to tell her mom she loves her. She has only been walking for a couple of years, but she is making up for lost time. She is crushing it right now. Occupational therapy, that’s tough, we are still not potty trained and working on feeding ourselves, the little things we all take for granted. This school, Hand in Hand, provided the opportunity for her to get that therapy.”

The costs. Why Hand in Hand scholarships make a difference

Brad explained, “Parents of special needs kids will tell you, it is extraordinary expensive when you are looking for answers to help your child. You’ve got copay after copay. Specialist visits. It can add up. The school was too good of an opportunity for us to pass up on. We learned there was a scholarship available, and like any parent, you go for it. We were grateful for Emily to get a scholarship.”

That scholarship has made all the difference in Emily’s life, and according to Brad, it has enriched the community as a whole. He describes how the integration of the special needs children with typical classmates make us all better people.

“Hand in Hand provided the opportunity for these children (Emily’s classmates) to work together and now they are all pulling for my daughter. For someone who is in my spot, as a parent, that is invaluable. These are children who are going to take this experience to their next school. They are going to take this home. They are going to take it out into the world. They are going to be better leaders and caregivers to their friends that need it. It really puts into perspective what truly is important.”

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Making a difference everyday. Photo courtesy of United Ability.

In his closing comments to us, Brad told us how dearly the family misses United Ability now that they have transitioned into the Pelham School System.

“We miss everyone in that building. From the people who greeted us when we sign in, to the people who help clean, the people in the lunchroom, the teachers and therapists, it is an extraordinarily special place. And I will continue to work for that place – because there are parents out there in similar situations seeking answers.”

The Vino & Van Gogh fundraiser makes attending Hand in Hand possible for so many families. That is why Thursday night August 23 is so important. Have fun and make a difference.

Get your tickets today for United Ability’s Vino and Van Gogh.

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Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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