Friday

April 11, 2003

 

Branson Project

is a labor of love

Kerri Branson of North Aurora shares a playful moment with Luke after a therapy session.  Luke and his twin brother, 5, have cerebral palsy.

 

Photo by Jeff Knox/Daily Herald

Occupational Therapist Heather Foerster holds Zach Branson as his mother, Kerri, blows bubbles to him.  Zach is to break the bubbles, improving his hand-eye coordination.  Zach and his twin, Luke, have cerebral palsy.

 

Physical Therapist Megan Boyle, right, and volunteers help Luke Branson during his hippotherapy at Blazing Prairie Stars stable in Maple Park.  Luke and  his twin brother, Zach, attend therapy sessions there once a week.

North Aurora family needs help to provide therapy for twin boys


By Sammi King

This is a story about a mother's love. It's also a story about the love that mothers share.

Kerri Branson is the mother of four children, a baby, a toddler and 5-year-old twins. That brood would keep anyone busy.

Her twins, Luke and Zachary are a lot like other kids their

age.

They like to watch "Blues Clues" and "Dora the Explorer" on TV. They love to be cuddled and get excited when Grandma and Grandpa come for a visit.

Luke and Zach are not exactly like other kids their age. Both were diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy at 9 months of age, the result of premature birth. 

 

King: Fund-raiser to help pay costs to obtain therapy


They must use wheelchairs, and are unable to hold a cup or say "I love you" to a mother who loves them so dearly.

Kathy Freedlund, or "Teacher Kathy" as many in town call her, was a neighbor to Kerri and Scott Branson when the twins were born.

 

 

Occupational therapist Heather Foerster coaxes a smile out of Zach Branson during a hippotherapy session.  The 5-year-old has cerebral palsy, a complication of premature birth.

 

"I'm not exaggerating here," said Freedlund. "But in the 16 years I've worked with the park district doing mom-and-tot programs I have seen a lot of different parenting techniques. None can compare with Kerri and her love for these special little boys. If there is such a thing as a perfect mom, she would be it. She is always cheerful and optimistic. Just being around her makes you want to be a better person."

Do you recall holding your first child for the very first time? I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember promising to love him, to protect him, to care for him every waking hour.

For Kerri and Scott Branson that promise meant getting up with the twins two or three times a night. It meant having a cup available at all times because severe reflux caused the boys to vomit three to four times a day. That problem alone kept them homebound, and they had the added worry of the boys developing esophageal cancer.

Kerri Branson prayed for, hoped for something that would make her sons' lives easier and happier. She found her answer in hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The treatment delivers 100 percent pressurized oxygen to the parts of the brain that are just "idling"

and not really functioning. After 169 treatments, the boys are sleeping through the night, not vomiting, have gained some cognitive skills to be able to form words, and drink from a sippy cup.

"I remember when I was over visiting and Kerri said, 'Say 'Hi' to Kathy, Zach.' He lifted his hand slightly and was able to say 'hiiii' I tell you it was really something," Freedlund said.

Knowing the treatments were expensive, Kathy and Jim Freedlund decided to hold a fund-raiser two years ago to try to pay for one treatment.  "We thought if we could raise $2,000 then it would be worth it," she said. "We were absolutely overwhelmed when the community of Batavia responded and helped us raise $45,000."

Now "Teacher Kathy" is at it again. She has another fundraiser planned for 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Eastside Community Center, Van Buren and Wilson streets.

What a party it promises to be! There will be pizza and pop if you want to come for dinner. There will be carnival games, run by the Batavia cheerleaders, for kids to play - complete with prizes. There will be musical entertainment.

Kathy Freedlund has even arranged for some lucky 

Kerri Branson gives son Luke a big hug after he worked hard riding a horse and walking during physical and occupational therapy Wednesday afternoon.

individuals to win big. There will be silent auctions and raffles. You can win a $5,000 arcade game or a $3,000 diamond-and- sapphire bracelet.  A ruby and sapphire American flag pin will also be raffled off.

That's not all. There will be raffles and auctions for handmade quilts, total bed ensembles, a gourmet fish basket from Alaska, gift certificates from restaurants and grocery stores, oil changes, toys and free electrical work.

Your kids can walk home with a Giant Miss Piggy, Kermit or Winnie the Pooh. Or if you have a little guy who might want to spend some time at a fire station, the North Aurora Fire Department is offering a tour of the station AND a dinner at the station prepared by the firefighters.  If you can't make it to the fund- 

raiser, it's not too late to go to the Branson Web site:  theBransonProject.com, and bid on some of the items. You can even use Visa or MasterCard. You'll also find a complete accounting of all of the money that has been raised and how it has been spent.  "When I'm around Kerri, I just am in awe of all that she does," added Freedlund. "We all need to be a little more helpful of one and anther and show a little more compassion."

If you'd like to help a family who just wants to make the best lives possible for the little boys that they love, drop by the fund-raiser Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

It will be a special time for you, your family and two very special little boys named Zach and Luke.

 

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*this website was designed and is maintained by Luke & Zach's, mom, Kerri Branson.

www.theBransonProject.com
Copyright 2002 All rights reserved.
Revised: September 16, 2009