Author’s note: Through funding by The Patterson Foundation, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading had a booth at the Remote Area Medical Clinic in Bradenton, Florida. The Healthy Readers Initiative of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on strategies to ensure that children from low-income families are in good health and developing on track at four key milestones in their development from birth through third grade: Born Healthy, Thriving at Three, Ready at Five, and Present and Engaged in the Early Grades.
Wendy’s husband drove from their home in Sarasota’s Kensington Park neighborhood to the parking lot of Manatee Technical College at midnight. He and his sister-in-law were sent to “scope out the situation” and report back to the very pregnant Wendy. When they arrived at MTC they were relieved that there were only about 100 people who had arrived before them. They called Wendy to let her know she could stay at home for another couple of hours, but she would need to be at MTC by 4 am.
“I didn’t want to miss this opportunity, but Billy isn’t even 1 yet, and it’s important to keep him on a routine. He’ll be getting a liver transplant within the next year or so – in fact, he has a surgery scheduled for next week. I was ready to leave the house as early as I needed to, but we did it this way so Billy could sleep a little longer.”
Wendy is trying to keep it all in balance. She and her husband struggle to make ends meet – although they have some health insurance, neither of them have dental or vision coverage. “Both Carlos and I needed to see a dentist, but other things come first, you know? When my doctor told me about Remote Area Medical coming to Bradenton, it was like the answer to a prayer.”
Wendy’s sister had two wisdom teeth pulled, Carlos had a long overdue cleaning and a cavity filled, and Wendy had her first dental checkup in over eight years. “What do people do? I mean, Carlos has a steady job, and we are very careful about what we spend our money on, but there isn’t enough money for dental care, or vision care. We want to do what’s right for our family, and I know us being healthy is part of that, but there’s not enough money for everything.”
Wendy shared her story while Billy picked out a free book to take home, and her husband downloaded an app called Vroom, which helps parents turn everyday moments into brain building moments for their children. “This is great,” Wendy exclaimed. “I mean, I dream of being able to do the right things for Billy and this little guy on the way. But sometimes I worry, you know? Everything costs money. And here you are with this tool that will make my kids smarter, and it doesn’t cost anything. This has been such a great day. I am so grateful for Remote Area Medical and what you are doing with Vroom.”