Welcome to TLC Town: Local nonprofit organization dedicates program for children with sensory issues

Published 3:08 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

A vision formed last summer turned into a reality with the start of a new year.

The TLC Community Center held a special ceremony recently to cut the ribbon for and dedicate their latest project: TLC Town.

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During the summer of 2017, TLC Community Center Founder and Director Angie Odom saw a small play area designed like a village that helped to serve children with sensory issues by allowing them to experience things such as going to a store or to church but on a smaller and more controlled scale. Having a young daughter who suffers from sensory issues herself, Odom saw the need for something similar here locally.

Odom then began trying to think of ways she could create a similar village at the TLC Community Center. The center already had a play area with a custom built piece of play equipment designed to help children work on their motor skills and physical and occupational therapy exercises.

Looking at what she already had in place coupled with her vision for what she would like to create, Odom began forming an idea of creating a mini “Elizabethton” with the project. The existing play equipment would become part of a “park” that leads into the town.

As she began discussing the project with others, Roger Dougherty, who designed and constructed the existing play equipment, stepped up once again to help by offering to build the different buildings for the town. They decided upon six buildings: a school, a church, a diner, a house, a grocery store, and a veterinarian’s office. For the park, Dougherty built a replica of two of Elizabethton’s most iconic landmarks — the historic Covered Bridge and the Veterans Monument in front of the Carter County Courthouse. The wall of the Center that serves as the backdrop for the park features mountains topped with three white crosses and a sign proclaiming “Jesus Is Lord,” which are also notable landmarks for the town.

“I’m just totally amazed at how it all came together,” Dougherty said.

Once all the buildings, the Bridge and the Monument were completed, Dougherty estimated there were probably hundreds of hours of labor that went into it all, and he thanked two of his friends for helping him with the project.

With plans for the village coming to life, Odom began looking to the community to help raise funds and solicit donations to bring the vision into reality.

A local businesswoman and her family stepped in and provided most of the funding needed to create TLC Town. Jackee Johnston and her husband Jason Johnston decided to make a donation to the project in memory of their son Jackson whom they lost.

Jackee is a State Farm insurance agent, and she submitted the project for a matching grant through State Farm, which decided to match her donation to create TLC Town.

The Johnstons and their other son, Jayce, were on hand for the dedication of TLC Town.

“This is just a huge tribute to Jackson and a way he can live on,” Jackee said of the project.

“It’s truly an honor to be a part of this,” Jason added.

Jayce said he really enjoyed watching the project come together, particularly when he thinks about his brother.

“I hope kids really enjoy this,” Jayce said. “It’s an awesome tribute to my brother, and I hope his spirit will live through this, and the kids will enjoy it as much as he would have.”

For the dedication ceremony, Odom had some surprises in store for the Johnstons and Dougherty to thank them for their support of the project.

The “park” part of TLC Town was named Jackson Neil Johnston Park in honor of the Johnston’s son, and a painted sign shows his name for all to see.

At the dedication ceremony, Odom presented Jayce with a special plaque and badge proclaiming him the Police Chief of TLC Town. She presented Dougherty with a special plaque naming him Mayor of TLC Town and her daughter Isabella Hope gave Dougherty the Key to the City.

TLC Town will be available not only to clients of the TLC Community Center but to the entire community as well.

For more information on TLC Town or the TLC Community Center, contact the Center at 423-543-4673.

Welcome to TLC Town

Local nonprofit organization dedicates

program for children with sensory issues