What are Developmental Disabilities?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or developmental delays. March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and we have compiled a few facts and resources for parents.

What are developmental disabilities?

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas¹. They come in many shapes and sizes, and are not always visible. These conditions can include, but are not limited to, vision impairment, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, learning disability and ADHD.

There are many factors that can cause a developmental disability or delay, and most begin before the baby is born. It can be linked to genetics, complications during pregnancy (such as infections) and/or during birth, exposure to high levels of toxins, and parental health and behavior (such as drinking, smoking and drug use.)

What are developmental disabilities? | Root for Kids
source: Shutterstock

Why is Early Intervention important?

Neural circuits, which create the foundation for learning, behavior and health, are most flexible during the first three years of life. Because of that, early intervention is more effective when provided then. It can also reduce the incidence of future problems in their learning, behavior and health status.² As a result, children who receive services early on most likely won’t need special education when they start school.

Baby steps
source: Shutterstock

What can you do to help your child?

If your child was born with a developmental disability, seek local early intervention services right away. For Utah and Arizona, check out the Utah Department of Health and Arizona Department of Economic Security for services in your area. 

The best way to catch developmental delays is through screenings. Only 31% of children ages 9 months to 35 months received a developmental screening in the U.S. in 2016-2017.³ To make sure your child is reaching their developmental milestones, follow the CDC’s Milestone Checklist or download their app. Contact your local providers for screening information if you have any concerns.

Developmental Milestones | Root for Kids

Root for Kids serves Washington County, Utah and the Arizona strip. Contact us for free developmental screenings.

Every child deserves the best start in life. Help us serve more children and families by donating today.

Top 10 Moments of 2019

Our first year as “Root for Kids” was filled with nurturing partnerships and growth. We served 1,252 children and 58 pregnant women in Washington County and the Arizona Strip! There were a lot of memorable moments in 2019, but here are top 10:

10. Washington County Fair Baby Contest

This year, Root for Kids sponsored the Washington County Fair Baby Contest for the first time. Over 80 babies ages 3-36 months entered the contest online and 30 finalists moved on to the live judging phase at the fair. Each contestant received a Baby Contest t-shirt and an Early Childhood Activity Book created by Root for Kids.

Baby Contest | Top 10 Moments of 2019

9. Fit Kid Fair

A healthy life is a happier life! And that goes for babies and toddlers as well. In April, we hosted a Fit Kid fair event for families enrolled in Early Head Start and Parents as Teachers. Staff prepared and served a healthy dinner, planned obstacle courses for the kids and offered parent/child yoga classes.

8. Community Appreciation Day

The St. George Children’s Museum hosts a Community Appreciation Day on the first Thursday of the month. Admission is free for Washington County residents on that day. Root for Kids joined in on the fun and our staff is at the museum on that day from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. doing free hearing, vision and developmental screenings for children 3 and under.

Community Appreciation Day | Top 10 Moments of 2019

7. Alumni Event

In November 2019, we had our first ever alumni event! We invited everyone who has graduated from our programs, their families and community members that support our mission for a private screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. The event gathered over 160 people and was held at the Sunset Megaplex Theater in St. George. The Friends of TLC Foundation generously sponsored the event. 

Alumni Event | Top 10 Moments of 2019

6. New Business Partners

St. George is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. So many wonderful businesses are coming to St. George and Root for Kids had the pleasure of partnering with several of them in 2019. Hash House a Go Go, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Axiom Chiropractic are among the new businesses in town that donated to Root for Kids. 

Nothing Bundt Cakes | Top 10 Moments of 2019

5. 4th Annual Radioathon

The most wonderful time of the year is even more wonderful at Root for Kids. Our annual holiday Radioathon quickly became one of our favorite events! It’s so heartwarming seeing the community come together to donate, make financial contributions and volunteer. In 2019, we raised over $20,000 in cash and in-kind donations!

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

4. Class of 2019

We love the children we serve and there’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing them healthy and ready for Kindergarten. Over 200 children graduated from our programs in 2019 and we celebrated with two graduation events (spring and winter).

3. Kindermusik

Our Music & Play Studio became Kindermusik® certified in 2019 and gained a brand new room! On June 3, we invited the community to the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate with us. Kindermusik classes are open to the public and classes are open enrollment.

Kindermusik Ribbon-Cutting | Top 10 Moments of 2019

2. U of U Physician Assistant Program

Every year we provide free dental clinics to children and families enrolled. In 2019, we were able to expand our health services reach thanks to a new partnership with the U of U Physician Program! They provided oral cancer screening at the dental clinics and Well Child exams at the 2nd annual health fair. Early Head Start parents also received a variety of screenings such as blood pressure, BMI, vision, hearing and depression at the health fair.

2nd Annual Health Fair | Root for Kids

1. The Secret Garden Gala

Our biggest fundraising event of the year was a magical night in the Secret Garden. We had a record of 25 sponsors and we were sold out more than a month before the event. Over 240 people attended the gala and between sponsorships, silent and live auctions, and ticket sales, we raised over $100,000. The gala keeps getting bigger and better every year, and we cannot wait to see what the 2020 event will be like.

Root for Kids Gala

We are grateful to be part of an incredible community and provide essential services to the little ones and their families. Thank you for another amazing year and helping us nurture strong beginnings.

4th Annual Radioathon raises over $20k for Root for Kids

Giving is the best way to kick off the holiday season. With that in mind, Root for Kids offers the perfect giving opportunity every year! On December 16, 2019, Root for Kids partnered up with Red Rock Broadcasting to host the 4th Annual Radioathon for children and families.

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids
Thank you Red Rock Broadcasting!

From 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Mix 103.1, Kool 98.9, Coyote Country 102.3 and Zion 104.1  were broadcasting live from Root for Kids. The djs encouraged listeners to donate, and interviewed sponsors, staff and families. We also invited the public to come volunteer and be part of the fun! 

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids


The Radioathon raised $13,050 in cash (over $1,000 per hour!) and $7,570 in in-kind donations. Donations included diapers, books, adaptive materials and items from our wish list

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

Throughout the day, 60 volunteers worked on variety of walk-in projects. They put together newborn kits, created activity packets for young children and bundled hundreds of diapers. 

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

4th Annual Radioathon | Root for Kids

Thank you to all who were a part of this incredible day! It takes a village to take care of the youngest and most vulnerable in our community. We could not do our work without you! For more Radioathon pictures, check out our Facebook album.

To support Root for Kids throughout the year, join our Garden Club and receive a free t-shirt!

2019 Christmas Map Supporting Root for Kids

Guest post by HedgeHog Electric

Part of the fun of the holiday season is piling into your car all bundled up, warm drinks in hand, and enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights and holiday displays. Yet, it can seem like a real hit-or-miss on finding those homes who go above and beyond with their decorations.

Here at HedgeHog Electric, we love the holiday season and wanted to celebrate it by doing something special for the community. After some brainstorming, we introduced the community to the St. George Christmas Light Spectacular Christmas Map.

St. George Christmas Light Spectacular | Root for Kids

What is the St. George Christmas Light Spectacular

For the last few years, HedgeHog Electric has developed a Christmas lights map—called the St. George Christmas Light Spectacular. On this map, we pinpoint the best Christmas-decked houses with lights, decorations, and sometimes even music, that will make your night magical.

Whether you prefer to print out our Christmas light Google map or follow along on your smartphone, you are in luck. We have developed our Christmas lights map so that you can choose to download and print it out or simply allow your phone to open the map up in your Google maps app and will enable it to direct you from one amazing house to another.

Beyond just making an excellent Christmas lights map, we wanted to embrace the holiday season more completely. So, every year, HedgeHog Electric chooses an exceptional charity to donate to as part of our Christmas Light Spectacular.

This year, for every Facebook like our Christmas map receives, HedgeHog Electric will be donating $1 to Root for Kids. Also, for every new Instagram follower we receive, HedgeHog Electric will also donate $1 to Root For Kids. This donation promise will go from November 29 through December 31.   

Why HedgeHog Electric chose Root for Kids

It is always a tough process to decide what local St. George charity to dedicate our Christmas Light Spectacular map toward. In past years, we have chosen the Dove Center and the local Habitat for Humanity branch here in St. George. This year, we wanted to focus on a nonprofit that is dedicated to serving our most vulnerable population, and Root for Kids does just that.

Root for Kids provides an array of services for children from birth to age five as well as their families. These services include individualized home visits such as early intervention to help children develop critical speech, motor, and learning skills with the help of trained specialists. Root for Kids also provides health services for children and pregnant women enrolled in Early Head Start. 

Since 1993, Root for Kids has served over 16,000 children in Washington County and the Arizona Strip. Currently, they serve 600 children every month. With the help of donors, they are able to reach more children and provide extra support and services to the families enrolled.

So, if you can, you can choose to donate directly to Root for Kids or join them on Monday, December 16 for their 4th Annual Radioathon. If you are not able to at this time, simply following HedgeHog Electric on Instagram and liking our Christmas map on Facebook will help facilitate a donation. For every new follower or like on the Christmas Map, we will donate $1 to Root for Kids!

Be sure to check out Root For Kids, from their history to the programs they offer. That way, when you go to like our Christmas map on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, you know just who is benefiting and feel good about giving back this holiday season.

Thank you Hedgehog Electric for partnering with us this year!

The Secret Garden Gala Raises over $100k for Root for Kids

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, approximately 240 friends of Root for Kids (formerly The Learning Center for Families) packed the Sun River Community Center Ballroom full for the second annual Root for Kids Gala. Over $100,000 ($88,000 net proceeds) were raised to help fund services provided by Root for Kids that benefit over 600 children every week throughout Washington County and along the Arizona Strip.

Root for Kids Gala

The theme of the event was “The Secret Garden”. Beautiful live planter centerpieces and decor, a floral photo backdrop and a garden arbor entry into the ballroom created the perfect mood. The arbor was decorated with greenery and hanging keys. Guests could select a key as their ticket to the Opportunity Drawing for a chance at winning a Vegas vacation.  A committee of volunteers and staff members and over $13,500 in in-kind donations helped to create the magical feel of the venue that guests were raving about throughout the evening.

Root for Kids Gala

The program included a cocktail hour and silent auction, dinner catered by Katering Koncepts, and the presentation of six annual community awards including:

  • 2019 Outstanding Volunteer: Dixie Sunrise Rotary Club
  • 2019 Outstanding Health Partner: University of Utah Physician Assistant Program
  • 2019 Outstanding Community Partner: Utah Food Bank
  • 2019 Outstanding Donor: The Kahlert Foundation
  • 2019 Outstanding Business: Litehouse Foods
  • 2019 Debbie Justice Legacy Award: Ellen Arch
2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Dr. Ellen Arch, Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board President)

The Debbie Justice Legacy Award is presented in honor of Debbie Justice, who founded the nonprofit in 1993. The recipient receives a piece of artwork donated by a local artist. This year, Dr. Ellen Arch received the award for her meaningful and impactful contributions to Root for Kids and children in our community.

Local opera singer Tennile Coello sang classic Broadway tunes during dinner to add even more magic to the evening. Following Tennile, a video reminded guests of the purpose of their support. It featured Representative Lowry Snow discussing the importance of early childhood education, as well as family stories.

Guests also heard from Joy Davis whose daughter Emery participated in Root for Kids’ Early Intervention program last year. Kendyll Barber, an alumni of the program who received services as a toddler over 20 years ago, also spoke.

Root for Kids Gala
Tennile Coello
Root for Kids Gala
Nick and Emery Davis

One of the more touching parts of the evening included Root for Kids CEO Suzanne Leonelli pointing out the reserved empty seat for long-time donor and volunteer St. George City Councilman Joe Bowcutt who passed away unexpectedly the week prior. Joe was actively involved with Root for Kids and frequently brought in groups of volunteers.

Another highlight of the evening included watching guests raise their paddles in support of Root for Kids programs. The children at the Caterpillar Clubhouse decorated the paddles, which added an extra touch. The paddle raise generated a total of over $18,400 as the auctioneer started by requesting bids of $5,000 all the way down to $25. It was followed by a live auction emceed by local comedian Ed Tracey.

Root for Kids Gala
Suzanne Leonelli, Root for Kids CEO

This fundraiser was made possible by a total of 30 sponsors including Red Rock Broadcasting, Litehouse Foods, America First Credit Union, Snow Jensen & Reece, and The Kahlert Foundation among others. The silent auction used a paperless bidding system with guests bidding from their cell phones and bidding stations placed around the room. Items included a 70” 4K Sony Smart TV, Utah Jazz Swag basket, homemade quilts and treats, hotel stays and a Zion Helicopter Flight for 4. The live auction included a Crazy Cash Grab and vacation packages to New Orleans, San Francisco, a 7-night stay in Cabo San Lucas and the 2020 U.S. Open Golf Tournament, just to name a few.

Root for Kids Gala
Live Auction | Ed Tracey, Auctioneer

Root for Kids is grateful to everyone who was part of The Secret Garden Gala. We could not do our work without the support of an amazing community of donors, volunteers, advocates and friends. Join us for our next fundraising event on December 16, 2019

2019 Root for Kids Awards

Every year, Root for Kids recognizes key partners and individuals in our community who go above and beyond to support our mission. Meet the 2019 Root for Kids award recipients –

2019 Outstanding Community Partner: Utah Food Bank

For over 115 years, Utah Food Bank has stayed true to one objective: fighting hunger statewide.  Last year, the Utah Food Bank distributed 43.3 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 36.1 million meals through a variety of programs they offer. Currently there are more than 1,000 homeless students in the Washington County School District, and even more unacceptable is 1 in 5 Washington County children are unsure when their next meal will be.  Household food insecurity has insidious effects on the health and development of young children, including increased hospitalization, developmental risk and behavior problems.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Linda Trujillo (Utah Food Bank), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board President)

Linda Trujillo, with the Utah Food Bank, understood that children ages 0-3 cannot learn as well because chronic under-nutrition harms their cognitive development during this critical period of rapid brain growth and can actually change the architecture of the brain and central nervous system. Linda knew that Root for Kids did not fit their typical partnership requirements but did not let that stop her in her quest to help us feed the 700 families we serve every week. 

Through innovation, she crafted a hybrid program that allowed Root for Kids to distribute 21,172 pounds of food in this past year, which is equivalent to 17,644 meals. This is just one example of why the Utah Food Bank is our outstanding community partner for 2019.

2019 Outstanding Business: Litehouse Foods

Many of you have probably purchased Litehouse’s delicious dressings, dips, dried herbs, cheese or cider. But did you know they have a big new manufacturing facility in Hurricane that employs over 300 people? Root for Kids was fortunate to have met them at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and subsequently was the recipient of a generous gift during the grand opening of the Hurricane facility last year.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Ken Kaneversky (Litehouse Director of Operations), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board Director)

The founders of Litehouse believed that all of the people who make Litehouse great deserved to benefit in its success. That is why they transferred 30% of the company’s ownership to its employees in 2006 and by 2014 it was 100%. Together, Litehouse employees share the hard work and rewards of building their company, and they also share in the decisions of how the company spends its philanthropic dollars.  We are grateful to Litehouse and the employees who work at their Hurricane plant for choosing Root for Kids as one of the nonprofit organizations they support.

2019 Outstanding Health Partner: The University of Utah Physician Assistant Program

The Utah Physician Assistant Program at The University of Utah School of Medicine is one of the oldest PA programs in the country and has held continued accreditation since 1971. Their PA program has consistently ranked as a Top 10 program in the country by US News and World Report. In April 2018, accreditation was given for a distant campus in St George in the Russel C. Taylor Health Science Center at Dixie State University.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Jacqueline Murray and Rayne Loder (U of U PA Program), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board Director)

Our Health Services team learned of this exciting news and knew there had to be an opportunity to partner and help meet both of our missions. Last spring, we had the PA students join us at the Root for Kids and Dixie State University Dental Hygiene Day where we provide free oral health services to children and pregnant moms enrolled in our programs. In June, they joined us for our 2nd Annual Health Fair for kids who are enrolled in our Caterpillar Clubhouse childcare program. Having the PA students there made it possible for us to invite our Early Health Start families to receive free health services, which were unable to the year prior.

We are excited about what the future holds for this program here in our community and we have already planned events for October and beyond.

2019 Outstanding Volunteer: Dixie Sunrise Rotary Club

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change -across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. The Rotary Club motto is “Service above Self” and this was demonstrated repeatedly by this club in our community and with an intentional focus on Root for Kids. 

If you ever want to be entertained stop by our office when the Rotary Club is helping us make developmental kits for our families. Watching grown men meticulously cut out card stock fish, gracefully glue on eyes and proudly hold up their one creation as the women shake their head and roll their eyes as they have completed 10 in the meantime.  

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Dave Higbee and Dave Nelson (Dixie Sunrise Rotary), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board Director)

In addition to making developmental kits, these Rotarians could also be found at our agency bundling diapers, making newborn kits and delivering diapers. Most impressive was their help with our Community Food Distribution program here they were instrumental in handing out over 39,011 pounds of food at Coral Cliffs Elementary and through the Washington City Mobile food bank which is equivalent to about 35,000 meals.

2019 Outstanding Donor: The Kahlert Foundation

The Kahlert Foundation was established in 1991 by Bill Kahlert who was the co-founder of Evapco Inc. – a worldwide manufacturer of evaporative cooling products with corporate offices in Maryland. Bill was a very giving and generous man with a passion and desire to make a difference in the communities where he lived and worked. This compassion was passed down to his granddaughter Heather, who lives in Lehi with her three young children and manages their philanthropic efforts as Vice President. When Bill passed away in 2011, he left a generous gift to the foundation that has made it one of the largest private foundations in Maryland and Utah.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Heather Kahlert (Kahlert Foundation Vice-President), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board President)

Through a chance meeting on social media, Heather and Janie – our Chief Development Officer – connected immediately and bonded over their love for The University of Utah, the nonprofit sector, their special relationships with their dads and being working moms raising 3 kids. Heather is unlike any other philanthropist or foundation director we’ve met. She uses social media to share her experiences and goals as a philanthropist and lets the reader experience what it’s like to be on what Janie likes to call “the other side of the grant curtain.” The style and vulnerability that comes through in Heather’s posts about the organizations she supports here in Utah is beautiful to read. Root for Kids has recently been the recipient of some very generous grants, sponsorships and branding advice from The Kahlert Foundation.

2019 Debbie Justice Legacy Award: Ellen Arch, MD

Well-behaved women, seldom make history and Dr. Ellen Arch is definitely one of these women. As a Pediatric Geneticist, her role goes far beyond the role of typical Doctor. Dr. Arch meshes the compassion of a Counselor and the knowledge of a Scientist with the ability to diagnose and treat patients as a Doctor. We are so fortunate to have a someone of this caliber in our community and thankful she has dedicated her time and talent to our organization as a Board Member for 6 years. 

As Board President this past year, her word for the year was “persistence”.  Recognizing that over 40% of our pregnant moms do not get prenatal care (2nd in the state of Utah), 4th in the state for low birth weight babies and 5th in the state for having the most uninsured children, she led us on a crusade for community accountability and breached the equality/difference dived for children with special needs by establishing critical relationships with medical providers and ensuring the highest quality of care for our most vulnerable population.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Dr. Ellen Arch, Ed Tracey)

Dr. Arch has an 18-year-old son Evan who is the light of her life, second only to her husband Karl Ashliman.  She has a fierce passion for children and adventure. Some of her most wonderful adventures have been with her in-laws, DL and Patricia Ashliman. She is truly one of the most brilliant women we know, and a wonderful friend and mentor.

Get involved with Root for Kids today! Donate, volunteer or learn more about what we do.