Libby’s Friends: Family launches nonprofit to help special needs children
Parents turn personal tragedy into a way to help others
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Six-year-old Libby loves music. The Supremes make her eyes light up and a smile stretch across her face. That smile lets you see that she has lost her first tooth.
That right of childhood passage is a little different for her though. No one knew exactly when her tooth fell out, or where it went. In fact her 4 year old little brother is the one who later went searching and found it.
That’s because when Libby was 12 days old something happened that would change the course of her life forever.
“Libby was injured on her 12th day of life it was a hundred times overdose of insulin when she was in the hospital,” explains Libby’s Dad, Lane Hagan. “It was a catastrophic brain injury. They described is as an atomic bomb going off in her brain. It was a huge accident.”
Libby is now a quadriplegic, and will be forever.
“We all have such high expectations and desires. The things the doctors told us she would never do, we both fell to the ground and just cried. It was something I wouldn’t want anyone to go through,” says Lane.
“There’s plenty she can’t do, but her smile and her joy are contagious, and it makes it ok,” says her Mom Kathryn Hagan. “It makes us go on. She’s very easy to love. She has her challenges, but she’s easy to love and she’s fun and we love her.”
Her parents were told she would probably only live a few months. But she kept fighting on. Then they were told she wouldn’t make it past her 3rd birthday. But she did.
That fighting spirit, keeps her family going. It’s also part of the inspiration behind the new nonprofit the Hagan’s have just launched, called “Libby’s Friends.”
The goal, is to help financially support other families who are raising children with disabilities and need therapy and medical devices.
“I remember vividly bringing Libby home and I had to quit my job to take care of her. We didn’t qualify for government assistance so it was a huge burden trying to figure out all the equipment she was going to need and therapies that weren’t covered, so it was all out of pocket not including co-pays,” explains Libby’s mom.
The Hagans were given a settlement in a medical malpractice lawsuit after Libby’s injury. It has helped them be able to give her the best life possible.
“Her wheelchair that is vital for us to go anywhere was 15 thousand dollars,” says Kathryn. “We realized we wanted to help other families that were in the same boat that couldn’t afford therapies or equipment.”
The Hagans decided to take what happened to Libby, and turn it into a way to help others. That is why “Libby’s Friends” was launched in August.
“The more people who hear the story, the more impact she has, and our mission is growing that way,” explains Lane. “Our goal is to financially support families but we want to be as full service as we can. The more support you have when raising any children, let alone a special needs child, is so helpful.”
Families can apply on libbysfriends.org, and right now applications are open to anyone in Alabama.
“Eventually we’d like to grow and become nationwide, but for now we are just focusing on the state of Alabama,” says Lane.
“Any kind of special need, autism, down syndrome, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities. We are willing to help anyone who needs it,” explains Kathryn.
Libby’s Friends is funded solely through donations, though they hope to connect with some corporate sponsors and hold fund raising events after coronavirus allows. Donations from friends and family and T-shirt sales have helped get them started. Those shirts, are having another impact as well.
“I have had friends text me about the t-shirts. Their children see the shirts, and it’s not often that you see children in a wheelchair and that starts a conversation where you can talk about inclusion,” says Kathryn. “Libby already has so many people who love her and getting to see her front and center of an organization, I know she’s proud.”
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