A recent visitor to one of Orange Grove Center’s (OGC) events in recognition of the 70th Anniversary Celebrations since its founding in a now-razed grammar school on Main Street in Chattanooga made a comparison to a newspaper article by humorist Lewis Grizzard (LG) re-printed in paperback form in 1985.
In 1953 a family still involved in 2023 placed an ad in a local newspaper asking that anyone that had children with a mental disability contact them. Out of what was initially a small response has evolved into the thousands of OGC clients and similar children (and adults) populations also being treated by other organizations with mental and physical disabilities.
One leading advocate in the newspaper industry for OGC and Special Olympics was the late writer for the Chattanooga Times Bill Casteel (BC) who published one of the first articles on the dilemma of the families and their offspring in 1953.
At least once a year prior to his retirement and death BC would put aside his caustic and often sarcastic attacks (like LG) on local politicians, other individuals, events, and organizations to make emotional public appeals for support of the two above groups.
LG also possessed on a national level the ability to combine his equally caustic and sentimental comments in 25 books that were bestsellers from 1979-1995.
In 1985 he included a previously written article “The Gift of Loving a Child” in “Shoot Low, Boys- They’re Riding Shetland Ponies” (Ballantine Books- New York).
In a writing that could also demonstrate the same high level of love and devotion similar to that of OGC parents, supporters, and staff, the noted writer spoke of the problems of a family that had two sons—the older being perfectly normal and the younger with a medical disability. When the oldest son was killed in a car wreck their story was put into print in a manner that could readily be applicable to OGC and the parents of the clients:
“Within a year after Lex's death, doctors discovered that A____'s leukemia had spread to his brain and spinal column. His medication had to be discontinued to prevent further damage. The second son was dying.
"He knew he was dying, but he wasn't afraid. He knew his Bubba would be waiting for him."
But A____ wasn't the only courageous member of his family. His mother and father were determined to carry on.
"We talked about the future. I even thought of seeing if I could have an operation that would allow me to have children again. But I'm too old for that," S_____ explained. "We also checked into the possibility of adopting, but there's a waiting list of several years. We have so much love to give, and we want to channel it somewhere. We know there are so many children who need it."
I asked S______ how she and her husband had coped through their ordeal.
"We live with one thought," she said. "That God has something else planned for us. He must. He simply must.”
(If you would like to see locally what Lewis Grizzard meant with those remarks, call 423-629-2451 to schedule a guided tour at 615 Derby St. and make your own evaluation. You might even be impressed with the experience and get involved!)
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You can reach Jerry Summers at email@example.com