Statewide tour kicks off raising awareness for people with disabilities

(WMC-TV) - Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is kicking off a statewide tour to promote awareness of people with disabilities.

The tour is not only to promote the places that help those with disabilities but also to help raise the funds necessary to keep helping the organizations stay afloat in a time when state funding is tight.

One of the schools being highlighted in this kickoff is the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf.

The sidewalk leading up to the school is lined with bricks of donors with deep pockets.

And now, this school and hundreds of others across the state just like it are looking for more donors because state funding to help places like this has been cut.

"It costs $40,000 per child per year to go here, that's the cost to us," says Executive Director Teresa Schwartz.

The Memphis Oral School provides preschool-aged children with hearing loss the ability to learn, listen, and speak.

Teresa Schwartz has been on staff there for 30 years.

She has seen state funding at its best and worst.

She says they rely on any funding source possible.

"We had a mom the other day bring in $900 from a lemonade stand that she has in Mississippi at her school where she teaches," Schwartz adds.

State Commissioner of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Jim Henry has seen cuts to his department for years.

He says it is emotionally and financially draining for families who have children with special needs.

His goal is to encourage citizens in the community to support exemplary agencies providing services to persons with disabilities.

"We've got over 7,000 people on our waiting list for services and serve about 8,500 people so the magnitude of the problem is huge and government is never going to be able to supply all that money," says State Commissioner of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Jim Henry.

"We talk about finding the good and praising it and that's what these folks are doing so we want to brag on those Tennesseans who are doing so much for so many and encourage them to encourage others to do likewise," adds Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris.

Commissioner Henry and other officials continued visits to Hope Church on Tuesday.

Wednesday, he will visit Ryan's Place in Collierville and West Tennessee Family Solutions.

This statewide tour will continue through the fall.

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