September 20, 2012
Nathan O’Dell and his parents will serve as the Patient Family at the Credit Unions for Kids Auction.
Nathan O’Dell is a four-year-old boy who loves “high-fives,” his toy piano and steering wheels.
He is also a patient with a medical condition called Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic disorder that limits protein needed for brain development. Fragile X Syndrome is an inherited condition resulting in intellectual disability and, in many cases like Nathan’s, autism.
Nathan is a happy little guy who is able to enjoy his favorite things, thanks in part to the diagnosis and the speech and occupational therapy provided through Seattle Children’s Hospital. Much of the rest has been up to his determined parents, Jeff and Michelle O’Dell of Des Moines, Wash.
Nathan and his parents will serve as the 2012 “Patient Family” for Denim and Diamonds, the Credit Unions for Kids Auction being held as part of the Northwest Credit Union Association’s (NWCUA) 2012 Convention and Annual Business Meeting. The event is scheduled to take place 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Red Lion at the Quay in Vancouver, Wash.
For Michelle, the daughter of Bruce Rouillard, former president and CEO of the Washington Credit Union League (WCUL), being part of the Credit Unions for Kids Auction is like coming home.
“Credit unions are near and dear to our hearts,” she said. Michelle O’Dell was born in Washington State and grew up in a household where her father taught the family a lot about the moral fiber of the credit union culture. “We have great passion for the ‘People Helping People’ philosophy, and it’s our turn to walk the talk.”
The O’Dells and the Rouillards are anxious to give back having gone through the long process of determining Nathan’s diagnosis and how to deal with it.
As an infant, Nathan was non-verbal, but he would clap his hands and would sit down and rock back and forth. Friends and family suspected autism, but his symptoms were not fully typical.
“You know the saying that mothers always know? It’s true,” Michelle said. “I knew something was going on. I was on a mission to find out.”
Early visits with medical professionals did not result in answers until the O’Dells started working with Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) benefitting in part from Credit Unions for Kids funding. That’s when Nathan was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome.
Michelle O’Dell said the doctors and staff are “phenomenal.” She is particularly grateful to Doctors Gwen Glew and Charles Cowan, but thanks the entire team of professionals affiliated with the hospital for helping with all things medical, stress and insurance related.
Michelle O’Dell, son Nathan and father, Bruce Rouillard.
Nathan’s ongoing speech and occupational therapy are making a difference for him and for the family.
“We use a lot of sign language and picture exchanges to communicate. We put pictures of his favorite things on Velcro and he can bring them to us to tell us what he wants,” she said. “This is critical because the children with Fragile X can get very impatient if they are not being understood.”
She said her husband Jeff is “the perfect daddy and Nathan’s best friend.”
Another favorite pal of Nathan’s is his grandfather and Michelle’s dad, Bruce Rouillard, whose expedition with a group of credit union professionals to the summit of Mt. Rainier provided the inspiration for the Association’s Summit Awards, which annually honor the Northwest movement’s brightest leaders. Rouillard and his daughter decided to go public with their story because it was determined that both are carriers of the Fragile X condition. While coping with his own diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Michelle said her father is “very much an advocate” of awareness and testing.
“This has brought our family closer together,” she said. “My dad is the most positive person in my life, always seeing the glass as half full.”
Nathan, she said, is very much like his grandfather.
“Nathan is everything the word ‘gift’ exemplifies. He is here to teach us, to teach the world to live together.”
The next step for the O’Dells will bring the family to a spotlight role at the “Denim and Diamonds” Credit Unions for Kids Auction, where a $100,000 fundraising goal has been set.
Credit Unions for Kids was established by a group of Oregon and Southwest Washington credit unions in 1986. Their model was copied nationally a decade later, and today, the credit union movement’s “charity of choice” has raised more than $100 million for children’s hospitals.
Wednesday, Oct. 3, has been dubbed Miracle Jeans Day at Convention, a day for the Northwest credit union community to band together in support of Credit Unions for Kids. For just a $20 donation, attendees will receive a custom-designed fundraising T-shirt—along with the opportunity to spend hump day at Convention in their favorite pair of jeans, building on the national Miracle Jeans Day effort that took place in early September.
The T-shirt was designed by Jennifer Ream of SnoCope Credit Union in Everett, Wash., and will be available from now through Convention.
Complete registration information for Convention can be found online, along with the full agenda, details about speakers, presenters, sessions and networking opportunities, and information about participating in the tradeshow.
Questions? Contact Foundation Development Associate Josalyn Alston: 206.340.4814, firstname.lastname@example.org.