Community Center launching TLC Town to help special needs children

Published 11:10 am Saturday, July 29, 2017

When Angie Odom sees a need in the community, she tries to find some way that the TLC Community Center can help.

After Odom and her husband adopted their daughter Isabella, she said she saw a need in the community she had never encountered before. Isabella’s birth mother overdosed on drugs when she was only eight weeks pregnant. The overdose left the birth mother in a vegetative state. During the remainder of the pregnancy, Isabella was exposed to the medical drugs used to treat her birth mother. When Isabella was born she began detoxing from those medication and was diagnosed with Neonatal Abstince Syndrome which occurs when a child is born suffering drug withdrawal. Isabella was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and she suffers from other sensory issues as well.

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“I have learned through Bella a lot about sensory issues and environmental stimulations,” Odom said.

When taking her young daughter to playgrounds, Odom said the loud noise would often overwhelm and upset Isabella. Since adopting Isabella, Odom has met other families whose children have special needs. Many of them experience some of the same issues as Isabella while others face different challenges. Odom said some families she has met are not able to take their children to outdoor parks because of heat, or air quality, or other environmental issues.

“It just opened up my eyes about what we need,” Odom said.

Odom began thinking about some of the challenges these children face and what the TLC Community Center could do to help out. The Center already had a small play area with a large hand-constructed piece of equipment featuring a slide, rope ladder, a rope ramp, hammock and climbing wall. Odom began to think of ways to utilize space at the Center to make an even larger area for the children.

That is how the idea for TLC Town was born.

When the project is complete it will feature the play area, which will be fashioned like a park, a replica of the covered bridge and a tiny town. TLC Town, or The Little Children’s Town, will feature a house, a church, a general store, a bank, a school, and a veterinarian’s office. Children will be able to go inside each of the buildings and play with toys related to each theme.

“These are children with sensory issues, or Autism, or different issues,” Odom said. “We want to make these environments like what they will experience at school or other places.”

“Every little detail we’re trying to make as realistic as we can,” she continued. “It will be designed to help in a variety of areas – gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and socialization. Some of these children are non-verbal or have speech issues and this will give them a chance to work on their communication skills.”

And, just like Elizabethton, once the children are done playing in the “park,” they can cross through the Covered Bridge and enter downtown.

Desie Gentry with Beck Mountain Corn Maze will be lending her artistic talents to the project to paint murals of the landmarks seen in downtown, such as Lynn Mountain with its three crosses and the Veterans Monument. Roger Dougherty, who built the equipment already in place, will construct all the buildings for the TLC Town with help from the men of Sunnyside Baptist Church.

The Center is currently looking for local businesses, churches, civic groups, and individuals to help sponsor the project by donating toward the cost of materials. Also, Odom said, they are looking for locals with artistic talent to help decorate the buildings for the town once they are constructed.

Once the project is complete, Odom said TLC Town would be open not only to the Center’s clients but to the public as well.

For more information on how to sponsor the project, contact Angie Odom at 423-895-8601.