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A Christmas New York Times Neediest Cases Story

Posted on December 23, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Special Baby’s Life Transformed Thanks to Kennedy Child Study Center

For more than a century The New York Times has spotlighted “Neediest Cases,” folks facing extreme hardships, and welcomed help for them from readers. And for more than a decade as liaison between Catholic Charities NY and The New York Times I’ve had the honor to meet some of these brave folks and the dedicated case managers that help them. So this year, I’d like to share with you the stories behind The New York Times Neediest Cases stories, the courage of the people we are honored to serve and the caseworkers who plow through roadblocks to get them the services they need.

A hike up four flights of stairs to a cramped walkup Washington Heights apartment building and, I hate to admit, I’m feeling winded.  So how, I wonder, does Jose Alvarez, 63, with herniated discs and constant pain, manage these stairs alone, let alone carry his disabled daughter up and down them?

He does it as rarely as possible, he tells me as he welcomes me into his dark apartment, lights out to save on ConEd.

A boiler mechanic and welder by trade, Mr. Alvarez’ life first changed when a car crashed into him as he crossed the street on 24th Street and Eighth Avenue back in 2005.

It changed again when nurses told him his baby daughter, Kenerly, was born with Down Syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that causes developmental delays.

Because of Mr. Alvarez’ injury, only his wife can work now. So they scrape by on what she earns as a home attendant.With no funds for babysitters, Mr. Alvarez serves as Kenerly’s main caretaker. That leaves them basically trapped in their fourth-floor walkup.

It was not just the claustrophobia that got to Mr. Alvarez, he said. It was having no idea how to help his special daughter, now four years old, who could not figure out how to walk, talk or even play like other children.

Fortunately, Mr. Alvarez found out about Kennedy Child Study Center, a Catholic Charities affiliated agency that offers preschool, therapy and support for children with special needs.

Now, reports The New York Times Neediest Cases Reporter Jaclyn Peiser, “she is learning to climb stairs and can now use a spoon to feed herself.

“It takes a lot of pressure off me having the school and feeling like I’m not the only person who can take care of my child,” Mr. Alvarez said.

Catholic Charities is proud of its affiliate, Kennedy Child Study Center, for transforming lives not only of children like Kenerly but lives of their families, like the Alvarezes, as well. It serves over 1,000 children each year, providing services free of charge to all eligible families. Programs include special education preschool speech, occupational and physical therapy, comprehensive evaluations in English and Spanish family support and service coordination.

“You can’t imagine how much I love her,” Mr. Alvarez says, holding back tears.  “I have her in my heart and soul.”

Read their full Neediest Cases story in The New York Times.