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  • Writer's pictureTricia Moore

Shining the Sun on Caregivers


“Reynolds would never have been ready for his upcoming kindergarten year without his time at Sunshine School,” said Reynolds’ father, Ryan Sheedy. 

 

Sheedy and his wife, Ashley Gibbs, are raising a child with a disability in addition to their two other sons. Reynolds, who has the rare disorder Costello syndrome, has unofficially become a spokesperson for Sunshine School.

 

“Sunshine School held our hand through it all — with school, therapy and navigating a very complex system of help in the community,” Sheedy said. “We can’t say enough about our experience, and Sunshine School is at the core of this type of care for many kids in Northwest Arkansas. I want everyone to know about Sunshine School.” 

 

Sunshine School & Development Center, under the leadership of CEO Jarrod Reeves, is well known in Northwest Arkansas for the advocacy, therapy and education it provides to those with disabilities. Located in Rogers, the school was founded in 1958. 

 

“Managing the needs of a child with a disability involves navigating a labyrinth of challenges, from accessing appropriate therapy and care to ensuring inclusive education,” Reeves said. “Through our mission of shattering limitations, Sunshine School is dedicated to enabling those touched by disability, serving their unique journey through advocacy, therapy, and education. We prepare our families to shine brightly and face the future with confidence once they graduate from Sunshine School.”

 

The nonprofit is certified with Better Beginnings from the Arkansas Office of Early Child Care and holds the highest quality rating. It recently added an infant program, which accepts infants as young as 6 weeks who have been diagnosed with developmental delays and disabilities. 

 

But Sunshine School is more than a pre-school; it offers programs and services for ages up to 21. As a proven model, it is the key to success for many families who are constant caregivers of individuals with disabilities. It helps to break down barriers in the community and supports caregivers through the journey.  

Sheedy is no stranger to the complications of caregiving. “Reynolds comes with a lot of paperwork and instructions,” he said. 




 

Having to constantly tell his child’s story and describe his needs repeatedly to myriad caregivers led Sheedy to develop an app called mejo.  

The mejo app provides a place to centralize all the complexities that accompany raising a child with constant medical and therapy appointments on top of school. Moments of care happen all the time, and mejo allows users — who now include thousands of families across the U.S. — to organize, share, access, track and connect these moments in one place at no cost. By simply printing a PDF or clicking the share button, all the information is immediately in the hands of the intended person, school or clinic the caregiver is working with. 

 

Caregiving is a hard job, and mejo is intended to free up some time. For Sheedy and Gibbs, who personally know the grind of managing the coordination and care for a child with a rare disease, this was the ultimate goal. 

 

Sheedy is Reynolds’ full-time caregiver while he and Gibbs balance care for all their kids, her career, and all that comes with raising a family. When asked what it was like balancing all this, Sheedy smiled and said, “Like juggling bowling balls with razor blades.” 

 

Now, they can quickly and easily provide Reynolds’ up-to-date information to members of his care circle, such as Sunshine School. “It takes the emotional part out of communicating what our child needs from all those who touch on his care,” Sheedy said.  

 




He hopes mejo will help to alleviate the paperwork burden for caregivers such as themselves. Sheedy heard from a user of his app that it gave her such peace of mind that she was able to send her complex-needs child to camp for the first time. This testament from a parent is the reason he created the app. “He got to be a kid,” Sheedy said, grinning. “It fully takes a whole community to help families in our situation,” Sheedy said. “The collaboration we had with Sunshine School is made possible by their leadership. They also see the value of collaboration in our community for the better good. This collaboration comes from outside funders, other community nonprofits, and internally from a very caring staff.”


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