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>>MENTALHEALTH

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>> SPECIALIZED MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMS FOR ADULTS, SENIORS, CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES

FALL 2018

Arms wide open BY PAULA M. DUBAY, MARKETING DIRECTOR

F

errell Edmunds had a successful career as a tight end in the NFL. Remarkably, his three sons also landed careers on the gridiron.

The more impressive story, however, is about the 22 foster children he and his wife Felecia, also known as “Cookie,� have welcomed into their home. A native of Danville, Virginia, Ferrell started his professional career in 1988 when he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. He played with them until being traded to the Seattle Seahawks four years later. In 1993 and 1994, he earned Pro Bowl recognition and then retired a few years later. It was in Miami that Ferrell met Felecia, a schoolteacher and former college track star. Their three sons, Trey, Tremaine and Terrell, are all in the NFL. Terrell was drafted in the first round this year by the Steelers, Trey initially played for the Saints but recently joined the Steelers, and Tremaine was also drafted this year in the first round by the Bills. MENTAL HEALTH MARKETING, 434.200.4447

Like other professional athletes, Ferrell became involved with charities while in the NFL. However, he and his wife wanted to do more than occasionally volunteer or provide financial support to nonprofit organizations. So when they moved to Virginia, they decided to help children whose parents were not able to care for them. They began working with Alliance Human Services, an agency that places foster children with families. They started by taking in one boy 17 years ago, and since then, they have fostered almost two dozen children. They currently have three living in their home, one of whom has been a member of their family for the past 10 years. continued on page 2

To keep up with the Edmunds family, go to 3EBoyz on Facebook. CENTRA |


Arms wide open Arms wide open

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How How they dothey it do it

Ferrell are fortunate havehome, a largesohome, Ferrell says theysays are they fortunate to have atolarge they so they have had plenty of “dormitory style” space for their have had plenty of “dormitory style” space for their foster foster well biological as their biological He also children children as well asastheir sons. Hesons. also says thatsays that Cookie is “extremely organized.” A lifelong teacher, she Cookie is “extremely organized.” A lifelong teacher, she spends a lot of time helping them with reading and spends a lot of time helping them with reading and other other schoolwork. “She is like a drill sergeant,” he chuckled. They schoolwork. “She is like a drill sergeant,” he chuckled. They both realize “these kids have been through a lot, and they both realize “these kids have been through a lot, and they aretogoing to run into problems,” so they are going run into problems,” so they put plansput in plans place in place for each child. They also have tapped into the for each child. They also have tapped into the resourcesresources these workwith closely with and schools and availableavailable for thesefor kids andkids workand closely schools agencies. “It takes a community, and we are just agencies. “It takes a community, and we are just a small a small part it,” he added. part of it,” heofadded.

left: Terrell, Tremaine, and Trey Edmunds for Virginia From left:From Terrell, Tremaine, and Trey Edmunds all played all forplayed Virginia the years, one of those resources been Rivermont Over theOver years, one of those resources has beenhas Rivermont Technow andinare in the NFL. Tech and are thenow NFL. School-Dan River. Former principal Terry Templeton recalled School-Dan River. Former principal Terry Templeton recalled metwhen Ferrell he enrolled one of their the first Ferrell andtaught Feleciatheir taught their same thing. the first time shetime met she Ferrell hewhen enrolled one of their Ferrell and Felecia own sonsown thesons samethe thing. foster children in first grade. They were strict withFerrrell them,said. Ferrrell “Ancurfew 11 pm curfew foster children in first grade. They were strict with them, “Ansaid. 11 pm meant that atit 11:05 it was the keys.” meant that at 11:05 was too late;too we late; took we thetook keys.” “This “This child andchild his and his siblings were removed to their foster children, Ferrell stressed the siblings were removed When it When comesittocomes their foster children, Ferrell stressed the from their importance of the getting right diagnosis. from their mother’smother’simportance of getting rightthe diagnosis. When a When child isa child is after of is on paper not be accurate. “You struggling, what custody custody after years of yearsstruggling, what is on paper may notmay be accurate. “You trauma and abuse, have to observe their behaviors trauma and abuse, have to observe their behaviors and thenand askthen how ask we how can we can in emotional make a so change so they have alife. better resultingresulting in emotional make a change they can havecan a better Our life. goalOur is togoal is to dysfunction and brain putinthings to help these getright on the right dysfunction and brain put things place in to place help these kids get kids on the injury,” she explained. path,” injury,” she explained. path,” he said. he said. “I was touched by the “I was touched by the gentleand nature and He added Hethat added that his coaches toand be me, and that’s gentle nature his coaches “allowed“allowed me to beme me, that’s compassion that this why I became successful.” As the Dan River High School compassion that this why I became successful.” As the Dan River High School man showed this varsity coach, footballFerrell coach, Ferrell histhe players same way. big manbig showed this treats histreats players samethe way. varsity football small child. It wasn’t “My goal is to reach them where they are and use their small child. It wasn’t “My goal is to reach them where they are and use their long before the family knowledge to discover what can they bring to our team.” long before the family knowledge to discover what can they bring to our team.” took on took someon of some this of this child’s siblings. One of crucial Ferrell’sroles crucial thetaxi family taxi driver. child’s siblings. One of Ferrell’s hasroles beenhas thebeen family driver. He is adamant about not putting their foster kids He is adamant about not putting their foster kids on the on the “This new student was bus. school bus. With their busy evening schedules of homework “This new student was school With their busy evening schedules of homework challenging,” continued and other activities, and his coaching responsibilities, he challenging,” continued and other activities, and his coaching responsibilities, he Felecia Ferrell Edmunds Felecia and Ferrelland Edmunds Templeton. “He was them. sees this daily ritual as his time to communicate with Templeton. “He was sees this daily ritual as his time to communicate with them. as oneexpect. would Mr. expect. Mr. Edmunds need attention,” angry, asangry, one would Edmunds stuck by stuck him, by him, “Kids just“Kids wantjust andwant needand attention,” he said. he said. often coming to the school several times a day for meetings often coming to the school several times a day for meetings and other concerns. As time the passed, the student’s and other concerns. As time passed, student’s anger anger Why Why they dothey it do it faded. He began to run after his foster dad get a hug faded. He began to run after his foster dad to get a to hug “Ourfinds family joy in giving,” saidfurther Ferrell, further “Our family thefinds joy inthe giving,” said Ferrell, him goodbye ‘I love you and kiss and him kiss goodbye saying, ‘Isaying, love you Dad!’ Mr.Dad!’ Mr. evidenced by that the fact that Treyan started an initiative evidenced by the fact Trey started initiative called called always reciprocated. childtobegan to always reciprocated. Soon thisSoon childthis began EdmundsEdmunds 50 Men in Suits, collecting gently worn suits from 50 Men in Suits, collecting gently worn suits from showlove others and compassion, often‘I saying ‘I love you’ show others andlove compassion, often saying love you’ businessmen in give NYCto tolocal give high to local highboys school businessmen in NYC to school for boys for to the support staff. He also began to enjoy school, to the support staff. He also began to enjoy school, and his and his college and job interviews. The entirealso family also continues college and job interviews. The entire family continues reading and skills writing skills flourished beyond expectation. reading and writing flourished beyond expectation. to support the Alliance and other organizations that work to support the Alliance and other organizations that work with children. with children. “Whenever Mr. Edmunds to ourhe school, always had “Whenever Mr. Edmunds came to came our school, alwayshehad an encouraging word for our students, especially the high an encouraging word for our students, especially the high “We constantly ask ourselves we can help change “We constantly ask ourselves how we how can help change school boys. They would run up to shake his hand or school boys. They would run up to shake his hand or give himgive him other peoples’ lives in a fashion positive by fashion bythem giving other peoples’ lives in a positive giving thethem the a high five. occasion, On one occasion, a high five. On one he came he to came speak to to speak our to our opportunities that God has us blessed usFerrell with,” Ferrell opportunities that God has blessed with,” themaway to stay away from negative influences,” students students advising advising them to stay from negative influences,” continued. “If we have atolegacy continued. “If we have a legacy leave,to weleave, wantwe to want know to know Templeton added. Templeton added. that we have an impact.” that we have made anmade impact.”

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A new world of language

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hen Sophie (not her real name) arrived at Rivermont School–Tidewater, she was inattentive and behaved poorly in class. At her public school, she had often needed behavioral stabilization and emotional support. Sophie was deaf and unable to communicate effectively.

Influenza had stolen Sophie’s hearing in early infancy, robbing her of the critical developmental years of learning speech and language. No one knew sign language at home and because public school education is more auditory than visual, Sophie found it difficult to keep up and was left to figure out her young world in silence. Intervention services are important to children with any type of hearing loss, but they are critical to those with severe hearing impairment. Without intervention, progression beyond the third grade level is unlikely, according to the American SpeechLanguage Hearing Association. Rivermont School offered Sophie an environment that was smaller in size and could help with her emotional/behavioral responses in a therapeutic setting, using those interventions to improve her academic performance. Interpreters from the public schools initially helped the staff communicate with Sophie, and Rivermont School staff members were trained in American Sign Language and were made aware of the unique needs of hearing impaired students. “It was eye opening to see how difficult it is for an individual who is unable to express her wants and needs,” Heather

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Pinzon, MEd, vice principal, said, “Sophie expressed herself through behaviors until we could communicate better with each other. It wasn’t long before she was excited and eager to come to school, inspired to learn sign language and communicate with others. As language developed within our world, she began to grow in her world, expanding and excelling both academically and behaviorally.” Winnie Woods, mental health associate, added that once Sophie found she could communicate with others, her social skills improved. She learned to be respectful, and she could accept “no” for an answer without responding with physical or verbal aggression. Sophie “loved having friends and developed a sense of belonging among her peer group,” said Marianne Stinson, school therapist. “She was the student who often encouraged her peers to make good choices and excel in the classroom. She eagerly participated in Rivermont’s work experience program, which helped her develop life and work skills.” Sophie created goals, including her desire to attend the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB). She is now a resident there where she has continual exposure to language and socialization with hearing impaired peers and adult role models plus direct instruction from teachers who are fluent in American Sign Language. Pursuing an applied studies diploma, Sophie has worked as a teacher’s assistant and in the cafeteria on campus. continued on the back

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MENTALHEALTH

MATTERS FALL 2018 | VOL. 32 ISSUE 3

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A new world

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“She is very well liked by the staff,” said Sharon Ernest, transition specialist at VSDB, “She is cooperative, respectful and quite mature. Students who are working on campus, like Sophie, need to prove themselves before they can work off campus. I have no doubts about her work ethic, performance or behavior, and I am confident that she will soon be ready for a job off campus. She’s a great kid.” Once a troubled child who lived in silence, Sophie has found a new world thanks to language, communication, and those who helped her learn coping skills in order to achieve emotional and behavioral health.

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Ackerman named director of Rivermont Schools

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eth Ackerman, EdD, has been named director of Rivermont Schools. Her passion for children with disabilities is evident in her professional career and studies. Her first job after college was as a special education teacher at Rivermont School in Lynchburg. She later became principal of the Chatham Rivermont School, Beth Ackerman and then the Lynchburg school. While at Rivermont, she earned her master’s degree in special education at Lynchburg College and her doctorate in educational leadership at the University of Virginia. After a decade at Centra, Dr. Ackerman left to start the special education program at Liberty University where she served in administration and as faculty during the ensuing 15 years. She replaces Lloyd Tannenbaum, EdD, who retired after 31 years as the founding director of Rivermont Schools. She sees it as an honor to carry on Dr. Tannenbaum’s legacy of care for this unique population alongside her dedicated team of Rivermont teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff. MENTAL HEALTH MARKETING, 434.200.4447

Mental Health Matters - Fall 2018  
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