'I Pinky Promise' founder wants more awareness of children's disabilities

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com
Teena Bradley, founder of "I Pinky Promise," a support group for families of children with developmental disabilities and brain disorders, says she wants more public awareness of children's disabilities.
Bradley says needs include more respite programs, more participation in the school system, and additional recognition of "I Pinky Promise" and similar support groups by other professional agencies and organizations.
Bradley began "I Pinky Promise" about two years ago. "Since then, the support group has ventured into many, many other areas as far as advocacy, including being placed on various councils, and one of many is the Region 1 Mental Health Planning Council," she said.
"I am a voting parent member of this organization. You have to be appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to be a part of this committee. I would like to see more parent participation in this particular council, especially the Children in Youth Committee Council." Bradley was recommended by Jim Griffin, coordinator of the Region 1 Council in the Tri-Cities.
"I Pinky Promise" is two or three different organizations combined into one. Tennessee Voices for Children is the sponsor of "I Pinky Promise". Project LINK (Leaders in Education Networking for Kids), of which Bradley is chair, is an affiliate of the Association of Retarded Children of Tennessee. Bradley said she would like to see more Project LINK organizations formed in the Tri-Cities area.
"My involvement is educating myself to be an advocate to help other families of children with disabilities. We participate in workshops. We travel to Nashville. We bring professionals to speak on various disabilities pertaining to one of the family members or to teach us on how to be advocates to help other parents going through the same or some troubling issue within the school system with their mental health.
"We're parents educating parents, and we share that information with other individuals, other agencies. We want to learn how to help ourselves and other families."
In June, Bradley attended an advocate training meeting in Nashville, and, in March a "March on Nashville has been planned.
"We're hoping to get at least about 1,500 participants," Bradley said. "This is for families with children with disabilities and mental retardation."
The support group meetings are open to parents, professionals, and representatives of various agencies. "We've got to work together to change the system, not only for children with disabilities, but for children without disabilities," she said.
The support group meets at First Presbyterian Church, Elizabethton, on the last Friday of each Monday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. A second meeting place is being established at Girls, Inc., Johnson City.
"We were able to get a grant to provide respite for parents wanting to attend these meetings and workshops, so they can bring their children, and daycare will be provided for them at the meetings," Bradley said.
Local residents, business owners and representatives of local civic organizations are invited to attend the support group meetings. "Speak on what you offer to the community," remarked Bradley, who said the support group can provide speakers to local organizations.
For more information, call Mike or Ellie M. Hjemmet at 772-4146 or Bradley at 547-0517. You may also e-mail the Hjemmets at hjemmet@wireco.net or Bradley at talishiabradley@earthlink.net.