May 10, 2013 | Matt Kucinski

On Sunday, May 12, most moms will be receiving a lot of cards, flowers and attention from their kids as they celebrate Mother’s Day.

But, three moms from west Michigan will spend their day on the White Pine Trail—showing support for their sons who suffer from Apraxia, a disorder of the brain and nervous system. Tricia Phinney, Nicole McKay and Kelly Rice have organized the first-annual Apraxia Awareness Walk/Bike.

“We started talking about what can we do. So, we decided to do a walk,” said Phinney. “In two weeks, we threw this together.”

Helping the community

Jill Bates, clinical director at Calvin College, will be spending part of her Mother’s Day walking alongside these families. They’ll also be joined by a number of other Calvin faculty, staff and students who work with Apraxia patients at their clinic on Calvin’s campus.

“This is a way for us to raise awareness of childhood Apraxia and for our program at Calvin College,” Bates said.

Calvin is one of a few clinics in west Michigan that work with underserved and uninsured families with a family member who has been diagnosed with Apraxia. And, the college provides this valuable service at a minimal cost.

“It’s hard to see older kids that are so impaired in their speech development,” said Lindsey Holtrop, who is one of 24 students graduating in the inaugural class of Calvin’s masters degree program in speech pathology and audiology (SPAUD). “It would be great to see more research on how to help them and to make people more aware of what they have and what it means.”

Giving back to Calvin

Phinney, the mother of six-year-old Connor—who was diagnosed with Apraxia back in 2009—said she had heard great things about Calvin’s clinic from other moms who have sons with Apraxia. She, McKay and Rice decided that all the proceeds from this year’s walk will be donated to the Calvin College Speech Pathology Clinic, “so, they can continue helping all these children,” Phinney said. Those proceeds includes the sale of t-shirts and raffle tickets, in addition to walk donations.

Most insurance companies do not recognize developmental Apraxia as a disorder, Phinney said, and so they don’t cover it. She added those affected by Apraxia need at least three to five hours per week of speech therapy, something that is not affordable for the average person. What Calvin is doing, she said, is providing children with Apraxia with an opportunity to get the help that they so desperately need.

Phinney said that kids with Apraxia are sometimes bullied by other children who don’t understand their disorder. “The whole family struggles with it. If people are aware and are patient, they will see that these kids are absolutely so special.”

Raising Awareness

The walk was planned after the announcement last month, that for the first-time, Congress is recognizing May 14, 2013, as Apraxia Awareness Day.

The walk begins at 11 a.m. at Trailside Treats Ice Cream in Belmont and will continue along the White Pine Trail. For more information, visit the West Michigan Apraxia Facebook Page or contact Phinney at

Calvin College will be graduating its first SPAUD class next weekend. Calvin remains the only Grand Rapids-area college to offer students the opportunity to gain experience in both adult and pediatric speech pathology and audiology services right on campus. 

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