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Every Child Deserves Commendation: Comprehensive Therapy Center Celebrates Students at Annual Read to Me Tea

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Comprehensive Therapy Center’s Read To Me Tea, a celebration of artistry by children with special needs, gives every one of their students a chance to shine.

Comprehensive Therapy Center

Through an award-winning summer outreach program, Therapy and Fun, and school-based special education services, Comprehensive Therapy Center offers the West Michigan community speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, sensory integration and motor therapies. Accredited by CARF, their mission is to provide therapeutic and advisory programs to individuals through skill building, academic enhancement, and social and emotional support.  Comprehensive Therapy Center helps people walk, talk, learn and play – so they can read, write and work. Visit them on the web at

After school on a Monday in late April, the Women’s City Club was full of children and parents excitedly milling around. The space was set up as an art gallery and activity center, with drawings up on poster board and craft supplies on tables. A few local celebrities such as Mayor George Heartwell, Benicia Kyle with West Michigan Molina Healthcare, and storytellers from Story Spinners of Grand Rapids were getting ready to read picture books to the children.

It was Comprehensive Therapy Center’s annual Read To Me Tea, and all the art on display had been made by the children being honored at the event. They were the winners of the annual coloring contest, where this year’s subject was Cars, Trucks, & Things That Go, and each of them showed a proud smile as they stood near their own artwork to get their picture taken.

March is Social Worker Month, April is Occupational Therapy Month, and May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. To celebrate, CTC, a local non-profit agency that provides social work, occupational therapy, and speech therapy in sixteen area schools, puts on a contest as an opportunity for their students to be winners. All sixty-five of the young artists who entered the contest receive services provided by the agency, and all of them won.

JoeAnne Peterson, a retired GRPS teacher, was the coordinator for this year’s Read to Me Tea. She has worked with children for many years and has a passion for encouraging every one to excel. “I believe winning a contest can be an important moment for a child. Recognition of children who often go unrecognized is a powerful motivator in their lives," Peterson said.

This was the reason CTC started the annual contest, and Executive Director Jean Silbar, who recently won a Lifetime Achievement award from Family Futures for her work with children with disabilities, agreed that the students they work with deserve accolades. “They will not be the ones to win academic contests or star in sports, but they have such a passion to excel in the therapy they receive. We are excited and pleased to honor their work.”

At the event, the young artists had a chance to show off their talents at the craft tables, making monsters, and the reading circle was always busy with one of the special guests entertaining those who wanted to listen. When the mayor sat down with a book about animals, a large group of children pulled up chairs to listen. Heartwell’s engaging reading style had everyone interested.

The children seemed pleased and honored to be celebrated for their artistry. One young man, dressed in a shirt and tie with a little flag pin, was so excited to meet the mayor that when Heartwell arrived he walked right up and said, “I dressed up just for you.”

Each of the young winners received a prize of three books and a set of six notecards especially printed for the event, three of which had their own contest-winning drawing on the front, and three which had designs from fellow winners. CTC prints enough of these notecards to send them as thank yous throughout the year, showing off their students’ talents to donors and volunteers alike.

The Read To Me Tea was and will continue to be a wonderful way of celebrating the achievements of children with special needs who receive therapies in West Michigan schools. To see the festive atmosphere, the proud parents, and the smiles on the young winners faces was a powerful reminder of the fact that everyone shines when they are put in the spotlight.

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