About this iReport
  • Not verified by CNN

  • Click to view ricacevedo78's profile
    Posted November 5, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Raising a special needs child

    More from ricacevedo78



    Somewhere in between our heart and dreams exists a special place. We don't quite know what to call this place but we feel it's a woefully idealistic place, where we are all equal without regard to color, belief, or hierarchical structure. During days of clarity we don't acknowledge it because in today's jaded existence the thought of an almost utopian place is rather unwelcome.


    Today I discovered that place that we all long for, where life is a beautiful journey and where we are all friends, it exists. The place, as I know it, is The Russell Home for Atypical Children. This incredible place is located in a quiet corner of Orlando, Florida. I went there to talk to Vantrease Blair, the Executive Director. My journey to the home came with a purpose, to aide the them in whichever way, be it humble or grand. I knew of this place because of a news story that had been run nearly eleven years ago. From that point I felt a closeness and very real need to help, something about this place was special to me. Several years after I first became aware of the home I went there in order to do a school project, my desire to help only became stronger. Today was the day and the place my journey took me was a paradise.


    The Russell Home started over 63 years ago, it was the work of a grand lady by the name of Vantrease Russell. This tiny southern lady deemed this home as her mission in life, it started with one special needs child and over the last six decades it has housed and aided over 1700 children, many of whom have grown there, with atypical conditions.


    In the 1950's when this home began operations atypical conditions were wrongfully blanketed under the term of mental retardation. Considering that there are twenty one types of down syndrome, it's hard to imagine such archaeic thinking existed back then. Families would drop their kids off there, often times because they could not handle their conditions. Some kids were children of addicts, alcoholics, or a result of congenital defects that were not readily understood.


    As I spoke to Vantrease Blair, Mrs. Russell's grandaughter and a third generation worker in the home, I realized that Mrs. Russell was a true heroine whose cause was simple, to make the world a wonderful place for those in need. As I interacted with Vantrease Blair I learned of the very real sacrifices Mrs. Russell made to create this type of paradise.


    By the early 1960's Mrs. Russell was housing 45 kids not in addition to her seven children. Mrs Russell did not turn anyone away and she had a special connection with the kids, she understood their pain and understood their constructs.


    I was shocked to learn that in this day and age those very special children are rarely ever treated in Hospitals because nurses and physicians are not equipped to handle the needs of these kids. I was blown away by the fact that this home survives on donations from the community because it's a privately run facility. My problem was the word survives, because a place like this deserves more. I learned that Mrs. Russell never sought money out, never sought donations out. It was Mrs. Russell's belief in community and her unshakable faith that made this place a staple of the community.


    What stood out to me was the attitude of the kids in this home. As I toured the place I realized that all of these kids were happy, they did not see life like we do. The way these kids saw life was with sheer joy, happiness, concepts that we fail to grasp as we grow older. One kid in a wheelchair told me his father was in heaven, I said "mine is too" we pointed up together and he said that my father and his father were together in heaven. It was at that very moment that I realized that the chief difference between them and the rest of the world is their ability to see the beautiful simplicity in life.


    I heard stories of the kids dancing, performing karaoke, giving their takes on life and how death meant you were going to heaven and you could do things that maybe you couldn't do in life. These are people with heart defects and extreme difficulty walking and performing certain everyday functions. I thought it incredible how in spite of their issues they were so level headed.


    Emotionally I was brought to my knees and could barely hold back tears. Joy, love, brotherhood, it all exists, it can exist, if we let it. It's all the wonderful aspects of human nature that allow this place to thrive as a bastion of humanity. Maybe I am an idealist, perhaps I have a soft spot but today I learned that between our heart and dreams that place that we see often but rarely acknowledge really does exist.

    Add your Story Add your Story