July 18, 2024

A mix of clouds and sun. High 83F. Winds light and variable..
Clear skies. Low 48F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: October 1, 2022 @ 5:06 am
2011 Little Light House graduate Keith Boyd is the founder of Keith’s Ice Cold Lemonade and often volunteers at the center.
Occupational therapist Jordan Miller, right, leads a therapy group with students, including Quinn Simerly.
Alyssa Esparza plays with therapy dog Kaiser

Marcia Mitchell, left, founded Little Light House with Sheryl Poole in 1972. Mitchell served as executive director for more than 40 years before retiring in 2013 and now serves on the board of directors. Anne McCoy, right, worked as an occupational therapist for Little Light House for 11 years before being named executive director three years ago.
the Barbour family

Nearly two decades ago, Monica and Tom Barbour were moving across the country from Georgia to Tulsa, searching for a home before their son, Sullivan, was born. While looking at houses with a Realtor, Monica felt moved to tell her about her unborn baby’s recent Down syndrome diagnosis.
“We were looking at houses and I had this overwhelming feeling to tell her,” she says. “She happened to be a volunteer at Little Light House, and she told us about it.”
Little Light House is a Christian development center for children ages 0 to 6 who have developmental or physical special needs. 
the Barbour family
“When you come into the building, you feel the Holy Spirit,” Monica says. “We’ve been blessed by the families who have come before us. You get that feeling of you’re not the only one dealing with this.” Little Light House was one of the first places where people congratulated the couple and told them about the adventure their family was about to embark on. 
Little Light House opened in Tulsa 50 years ago and was founded by two Tulsa mothers — Marcia Mitchell and Sheryl Poole — who both had daughters born legally blind and were looking for early learning and intervention services for their daughters in Tulsa but couldn’t find any.
“I was a retired school teacher and, as an educator, I knew 80% of what we learn is visual and the first six years of life is critical to learning,” Mitchell says. “I searched all over Tulsa for services, and I found nothing.”
Both girls were accepted into a deaf and blind program in Oklahoma City, and Mitchell says the amount of information she and her husband learned about raising a blind child was staggering.
She and Poole talked about how Tulsa needed a program like the one in Oklahoma City. After all, they couldn’t be the only parents seeking services for their children.
“We met with doctors and therapists, and everyone said they didn’t have the staff or space or funds needed to operate a program like the one we needed,” Mitchell says. “I was ready to give up, but Sheryl encouraged me to go to one more pediatrician. (That pediatrician) said, ‘If you want this school or center, you’re going to have to build it yourself.’” 
So that’s exactly what they did.
Little Light House opened in October 1972 with five children, five volunteers and one teacher. Within nine months, enrollment had tripled. Less than a year into operation there was a waiting list. 
Marcia Mitchell, left, founded Little Light House with Sheryl Poole in 1972. Mitchell served as executive director for more than 40 years before retiring in 2013 and now serves on the board of directors. Anne McCoy, right, worked as an occupational therapist for Little Light House for 11 years before being named executive director three years ago.
The location of Little Light House has grown and changed several times in the past 50 years, from meeting in rooms in Tulsa-area churches to its own facility on the southeast corner of South Yale Avenue and East 36th Street. 
In 2016, Little Light House expanded its facilities. Now there are 10 Developmental Center classrooms with nearly 200 children enrolled in the program with a waiting list that totals nearly 300. There also are more than 90 part-time and full-time employees. 
Mitchell served as executive director for more than 40 years before retiring in 2013 and now serves on the board of directors. Her daughter, Missy, went on to attend Holland Hall and Metro Christian Academy in Tulsa before graduating from Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in music. 
“The only reason I believed Little Light House would be here for 50 years is because of God,” Mitchell says. “If we continue to put Him first and continue to give our best to these children, it will continue into the next 50 years.”  
Occupational therapist Jordan Miller, right, leads a therapy group with students, including Quinn Simerly.
The Developmental Classroom model at Little Light House is a team approach where physical, occupational and speech therapists work alongside teachers, parents, assistive technologists, vision therapists, nurses and volunteers to help children learn how to best navigate their environment, as well as prepare them for public, private or home school.
“We all work together and collaborate. We’re all working together for the kids,” says Anne McCoy, who worked as an occupational therapist for Little Light House for 11 years before becoming the center’s executive director three years ago. “Under the age of 6, the children don’t really think they have a disability. They just want to do what their friends are doing; they want to be independent. We help them get there.”
Families with children on the waiting list can take part in the Early Intervention program consisting of weekly parent-child group classes with a team of therapists who coach parents on how best to care for their child. 
The Barbours’ son Sullivan was accepted into the Developmental Classroom program at Little Light House when he was 1 year old. 
“I never worried dropping him off, I knew he was loved and cared for,” Monica says. “Doctors told us he would never walk. (Little Light House therapists) got him walking. They saw his ability and not his disability.” 
McCoy says any child of any religious, ethnic and socio-economic background and with any kind of developmental or physical need is welcome at Little Light House. The teacher and therapist care team work together to ensure every child is getting what they need to succeed, whether that is adaptive equipment or specific and targeted therapies. 
“Each child has individual needs. They’re like a puzzle and you have to figure them out so they can be as independent as possible,” she says. “We don’t look at what they can’t do, we look at what they can do.”
2011 Little Light House graduate Keith Boyd is the founder of Keith’s Ice Cold Lemonade and often volunteers at the center.
Tom says he and his family learned just as much as Sullivan during his time at Little Light House. His teachers and therapists also worked with them so they could help Sullivan at home and know what to expect during his development. 
“They taught us what to do,” Tom says. “What they’ve done for our family, we will never be able to repay them.”
And equipping Sullivan to be more self-sufficient and independent also brought their family closer together.
“They gave us the ability to not only give Sullivan what he needed, but freed us up to be with our other kids more,” he says. “Without Little Light House, Sullivan wouldn’t be where he is now, his brother and sister wouldn’t be where they are now.”
Sullivan is now 18 and is in his senior year at Bishop Kelley High School. He also volunteered at Little Light House over the summer, and it allowed him to remember a little of what it was like when he was a student.
“Babies can learn. Little Light House taught me how to be strong and how to be smart. And I learned about God,” Sullivan says. 
The Barbours’ oldest son, Joseph, is attending Rice University and their daughter, Margaret, is attending Berklee College of Music. 
Monica says she tries to tell everyone about Little Light House and what it has meant to her family.
“I cannot count the number of people I’ve told to get their kids on the waiting list,” she says. “More people need to know what’s here and the miracles that happen here.” 
Alyssa Esparza plays with therapy dog Kaiser

Since its earliest years, Little Light House has been tuition-free for the children attending its programs.
“The children are so deserving of every opportunity, and these families are my inspiration. They dedicate themselves 24/7 to these kiddos,”
Mitchell says. “Little Light House is a testimony to the love and power of God. It’s also a testimony of the love of people. We are sitting in the most extraordinary community.”
The $15 million building expansion more than five years ago, and the annual budget this year of $4.2 million, which will grow with more students, shows the kind of support the community has for Little Light House.
“What it says is our kids with special needs are worth it. They’re worth the time and effort and money,” McCoy says. “The community support is really amazing and humbling and needed. It means so much and makes a big difference. I feel so much gratitude to the Tulsa community. Without that support we wouldn’t be able to offer the services we offer.”
Little Light House receives funding through contributions from individuals and foundations, donated materials and services, and several fundraising events including the Garden Party, the Miles for Milestones 5K, Links for Little Ones golf tournament and Mini-Laps.
This year’s annual gala, A Night of Legacy, will honor and recognize Little Light House’s 50th anniversary on Oct. 8 at the Mabee Center.
“This has been a fun year celebrating our 50th anniversary. We had a big alumni reunion and 600 people attended,” she says. 
And McCoy and the rest of the leadership team and board are already looking toward the next 50 years.
“There’s so much room to grow. I’d like to see a Little Light House in every state,” she says, noting the existing Little Light House affiliate programs in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and Jackson, Mississippi. 
The Little Light House model also is being taught and recreated in countries across the world through the organization’s Global Classroom program, which sends teams to countries and communities to help train and equip parents, caregivers, teachers and professionals with the educational and therapeutic tools they need to care for children with disabilities. Little Light House also welcomes international delegations to come and train at U.S. centers. Operating donations are not used for international training or centers — only those earmarked to benefit its international programs, Mitchell notes.
Everyone at Little Light House is certified or licensed in their respective areas or has the appropriate degrees. “We have week-long trainings, so employees and volunteers are versed in our teaching approaches and safety procedures,” McCoy says, and throughout the year Little Light House also holds training and education conferences for further professional development.
College students studying speech, engineering, nursing and other health-related fields from 33 different colleges and university departments (including the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University) also come to work and train at Little Light House. 
McCoy says looking forward, Little Light House will focus on training and affiliate development, building and developing international partnerships, and expanding Little Light House’s footprint in Oklahoma with possible additional centers in north Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
“We want to be a model, a center of excellence,” she says. “We want to be the ones who change the paradigm of how children with disabilities are taught and cared for.”
{{description}}
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
Your comment has been submitted.

Reported
There was a problem reporting this.
Log In
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

source

About Author