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Need a break? Local organizations offer equipment, respite for children with special needs

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In January 2014, Jennifer Gottlieb was waiting for insurance to provide a shower chair for her special needs son. But when she was told it would take until May, she walked in to Clinics Can Help in West Palm Beach and got one immediately.

Gottlieb had heard about the program in 2012 from her son’s physical therapist. Now she checks with Clinics Can Help first when she needs special equipment.

“With Clinics Can Help, I [don’t] have to wait four to six weeks, or even six months like I might have to wait with insurance,” said Gottlieb, whose son, Cole, has cerebral palsy.

In addition to the chair, Gottlieb has acquired an adaptive stroller, a gait trainer and other items.

“I really believe in what they’re doing,” Gottlieb said of Clinics Can Help. “They’ve really helped me financially. They’re wonderful people doing a wonderful thing.”

Clinics Can Help is one of several programs in Palm Beach County that offers equipment or respite care for parents and caregivers who just need help caring for their child.

For example, United Community Options of Palm Beach & Mid-Coast Counties (formerly United Cerebral Palsy) in Palm Springs offers respite care, while United Way of Palm Beach County manages the Special Needs Equipment Fund on behalf of Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.

Also, people who call the 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast hotline (2-1-1) will be referred to a program that may be able to help, says Patrice Schroeder, 211 community relations specialist.

At Clinics Can Help, families can get gently used medical equipment that has been cleaned and refurbished. Owen O’Neill, a former hospice nurse, founded the agency in 2005 when he noticed there was plenty of durable medical equipment available, but people couldn’t afford it.

“We actually bridge the gap between surplus equipment and a family’s need,” says Maureen Ashe, the director of operations. “The only qualification is that you need the equipment.”

Prospective clients can call 561-640-2995 to get started and fill out an application. The agency does encourage suggested donations.

Ollie Jones IV founded Hope 4 Mobility in 2010 in Wellington when he saw a gap in services for parents with special needs children.

“I have a daughter who was born with a rare condition that caused cerebral palsy, and it’s a struggle for my wife and I,” says Jones, also the director of Hope 4 Mobility. “I started designing equipment for my daughter, and I realized there are families with disabled kids who could not afford the equipment, so I created my program to help.”

With his engineering background, Jones started Hope 4 Mobility — his 14-year-old daughter’s name is Janae Hope Jones — to find, modify or even build equipment for special needs children. He is helping at least 100 families by raising money through donations, grants from the Quantum Foundation in West Palm Beach and an annual golf tournament.

There are no eligibility requirements, Jones says. “We’re going to continue to do all we can to help people.”

For more resources for families raising special needs children, parents and caregivers can also reach out to Unicorn Children's Foundation, which runs the local Special Needs Advisory Coalition.

And for families with children who have autism, Florida Atlantic University's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities is always a helpful resource.

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