A golf tournament this Thursday is an opportunity to enjoy a day outdoors and help a cause that helps children with disabilities: "Friends of Tennessee's Babies with Special Needs."
Looking at Liam now he seems like any other 2 year old walking with his father. But Liam is special.
"We had no idea about Liam's diagnosis of Down syndrome before we had him," Michelle Caswell-Hibbs said. "It was just a real scary time for about a good week we were really scared."
His parents Michelle and John did a lot of research and started early intervention strategies while they lived in Atlanta.
"We didn't know what to expect. After we started reading more about it and realizing there was so much more out there for kids with special needs these days it was more of a relief," John Hibbs said.
They moved to East Tennessee last year and were not sure about resources here. They discovered Friends of Tennessee's Babies with Special Needs and took advantage of one of the group's programs: respite day.
"It was the first say I ever left Liam with anyone. I was crying but I made it. The employee there, Laura, made sure to call me and tell me everything was great. So that was our first outing with them," Michelle said.
"You cannot always find a babysitter who can meet the needs of some of the children who have very medically involved conditions so that's a big help," Don Thompson said.
Don Thompson founded Friends of Tennessee's Babies with Special Needs in 1995 and volunteers as Executive Director.
"We serve families in the 16 county Knoxville area primarily but we also have a hearing aid loaner bank that serves families on a statewide basis so some of our services are broader based than others," he said.
Tennessee's Early Intervention System refers families like Liam's. FOT Babies supplements what isn't covered by state programs including outings, transportation, adaptive toys, and more. Donations and grants cover expenses.
John said, "Really shown us how to educate him and teach him progress him the way he needs to."
Don Thompson especially enjoys connecting new parents with parents whose children are a little older.
"Just watching the moms and dads talk and seeing the sense of calm that comes over the parents of a new child," he said.
Michelle said, "Sometimes when you have a child with special needs you can feel excluded and alone and as soon as you get in an environment with Friends of Tennessee's Babies with Special Needs you just feel like you're part of a group."
Liam may have special needs but his parents just consider him special.
"He is amazing. So Amazing. If I could go back in time and talk to the two year ago Michelle and say things are going to be this great it would have calmed me down a lot more. I mean, he's walking, he's signing he knows about 20 signs, he communicates with us, he gets into trouble just like any other toddler. We're loving life," Michelle said.
The Lindsey Nelson Memorial Benefit Golf Tournament is Thursday August 22 at Willow Creek Golf Club. Proceeds support F-O-T Babies and the Orange Grove Center.