What a Virtual Speech Therapy Session Looks Like

With most of our services being home-based, Root for Kids had to quickly adapt to a new reality when the social-distancing and quarantine guidelines hit mid-March. Since then we have moved our home visits online to ensure our staff and clients stay safe and healthy. But how does that work? Emily Sonzogni, M.S., CCC-SLP, shared a few insights of what a virtual speech therapy session looks like.

Pretend Birthday Party

Elmo has had lots of birthday parties the last few months! We get to build a cake for him, sing to him, blow out his candles, blow up balloons for him, wear party hats, and open presents to practice naming objects. I just had a family today say, “Ever since Elmo’s birthday party, he’s been talking about Elmo all the time!” Memorable activity that allows the family to carryover celebrating Elmo’s birthday all day!

What a Virtual Speech Therapy Session Looks Like | Root for Kids

Building Tower

A child will help me build a tower by saying “up… up… up!” and then when they say “wham!” I knock it over. They love hearing a big crash! It’s great to use simple toys to show families ways to practice language with toys they have at home.

What a Virtual Speech Therapy Session Looks Like | Root for Kids

Know Your Animals

We have been practicing lots of animal names and sounds the last few months. Kids will tell me to “open” this clear container, tell me which animal to get out, give me directions to put the animals “in” or “on” or “under” the container, and sing “Old McDonald had a Farm.”

What a Virtual Speech Therapy Session Looks Like | Root for Kids


I can’t get enough of reading books to young children! I love reading books to children virtually to model some simple reading strategies and give parents tips on how to engage their children in book reading more often. Teaching families about the value of reading to their children and problem solving ways to increase their child’s attention span is probably one of my biggest passions as a speech-language pathologist.

What a Virtual Speech Therapy Session Looks Like | Root for Kids

Learning Routine

Today I used my daughter’s dollhouse for a session for the first time. The child got to tell me which figures he wanted to play with, open and close the garage doors, help me feed the family, tell them to walk “up” and “down” stairs, take a bath, and go “night night.” Great way to model simple language strategies for families, and fun interactive way to engage with the child.

What a Virtual Speech Therapy Session Looks Like | Root for Kids

We are grateful for Emily and all of our wonderful staff for rising up to the challenge during these uncertain times. To support the work that we are doing, join us on September 12 for The Secret Garden Gala – Home Edition!

Root for Kids serves pregnant women and children from birth to age five in Washington County, Utah and the Arizona Strip. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, fill out our referral form.


How Root for Kids is supporting children and families during COVID-19

Our priority is keeping staff and clients safe and following State and CDC recommendations. Since March 15, we have been practicing social distancing by transitioning to virtual home visits and limiting the number of staff working in our buildings. See how Root for Kids is supporting families and children during COVID-19.

Virtual Home Visits

Our wonderful home visitors transitioned to virtual home visits back in March and we keep practicing social distancing to help protect the children and the families we serve. We are also hosting virtual playgroups and other helpful activities to support parents during these challenging times.

Families can still enroll in all of our programs! Parents and medical providers can fill out a referral form online.

Virtual Home Visits | Root for Kids

Online Collaboration

On top of virtual home visits with the families we serve, we are still meeting with our community partners online. These collaborations help us stay connected and informed while strengthening  relationships with the community.

Food Pantry Drive-Thru

Every month we host a food pantry event in partnership with the Utah Food Bank for enrolled families. Our staff had to get creative to be able to provide this important service while practicing social distancing. Special thanks to our hard-working staff for putting together food boxes ahead of time for 136 families last month! This allowed families to stay in the car while our staff loaded the boxes for them.

Food Pantry | Root for Kids

Diaper Delivery

Many young families are forced to choose between keeping their babies in dry diapers or putting food on the table, especially during the pandemic. Root for Kids brings diapers to their home visits to help families who may be struggling financially.

One Utah Child Care for First Responders

The Caterpillar Clubhouse was the only child care center outside the Wasatch Front partnering with the One Utah Child Care program, providing free childcare for first responders families April through June. The new classroom had capacity for 16 children.


We continue to have the support of many volunteers that are serving Root for Kids in different capacities. We have also provided face masks, hand sanitizer and wipes to our office volunteers who at the moment are helping us with scanning, digital filing, organizing. Our remote home volunteers are coloring, cutting, organizing pictures, making sensory books for the children we serve.

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We currently have some student volunteers  from DSU who are working alongside the home visitors with some of our programs, depending on what their skill level and academic goals are. They are volunteering within the boundaries that are available at this time. We are grateful for their commitment to make a difference in the lives of the children and families!

How You Can Help

  • Attend The Secret Garden Gala – Home Edition
  • Help us continue to provide important programs and items such as diapers, wipes and formula to families by making a donation online or via Venmo (@rootforkids / verification code: 9494)
  • Donate an auction item or double your impact: support a local business by purchasing a gift card and then support a local nonprofit (us!) by donating it to our Secret Garden Gala – Home Edition coming up this September! You will receive a tax deduction for the gift card amount as well as the satisfaction of knowing that you helped TWO local businesses through this difficult time. We are happy to arrange a “socially distant, porch-friendly” pickup of your gift card anytime or gift cards can be mailed or delivered to:

ATTN: Monica Jones

Root for Kids

2044 S. Mesa Palms Drive

St. George, UT, 84770

Thank you for supporting Root for Kids and the children we serve! Stay up to date on all things happening around here through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you, volunteers!

We could not do everything we do without the service provided by our wonderful volunteers. April 19-25, 2020 is National Volunteer Week and we are celebrating by highlighting different group of volunteers. Our volunteers come in all ages and types! The impact of volunteering with Root for Kids benefits hundreds of young children in Washington County and the Arizona strip.


We love when families visit us and join in a project such as bundling diapers, painting blocks and coloring matching games. We have projects for all ages! It is very special to have one family support another family.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids


We have individual volunteers that have been with us for many years. Brad Hafen has been volunteering with us for over 20 years, Naomi has been with us for nine, and Susan joined us just last year. These dear friends of ours have given countless hours to support our mission.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

We also have committees you can join to help with our community impact and plan our annual fundraising events, such as our Secret Garden Gala. You can read books & rock babies in our Caterpillar Clubhouse, bundle diaper packages for our enrolled families, create matching games and activity books for the children, and more.

School & Youth Groups

Our hallways are always buzzing with activity when we have a school or youth group on campus. They are active and willing to do just about anything! We’ve had boy scout and girl scout troops, WCSD Youth Leadership, and numerous church youth groups join us for an afternoon of service. We’ve enjoyed their work in our garden and yard area, our playground and fencing, and assembly projects such as building sensory bottles and fishing games.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Local Businesses

We are so grateful to the many businesses that donate to us each year. Especially those who also donate their time volunteering with us. Some of the businesses we’ve had volunteer with us are American Family Insurance, Enterprise, and our dear friends at Guild Mortgage. As part of our Early Head Start grant we are committed to offer volunteer opportunities. We have an average of 15,000 volunteer hours to meet each year and businesses like these help us match this commitment year after year.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Community Groups

Three hurrah’s for the best community! We are so grateful for the many community groups that join us throughout the year. They tackle tasks like our yard work, painting projects, and building and coloring educational toys. We’ve enjoyed partnering with AUCH, Rotary Club, SUHBA, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, AGC- and many more.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

University Students & Athletes

Our partnerships with university students are some of our favorites. When they volunteer, they are always eager with wiling hearts to giving all they can to our mission. Last year we enjoyed having the DSU football team come by to help with our yard work and creating puzzles for our graduating children.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Each semester we have DSU nursing & dental hygiene students, U of U physician assistant students and students in leadership from RVU join us at our various family events. Many of our families primarily speak Spanish, and we often need Spanish Interpreters. The DSU Spanish Club has been helpful at our dental days and other family events. We also have student interns each semester. Last year we had Abby join us as a health communication intern and Ashleigh as a community involvement intern.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Health Heroes & Clinicians

We love our health partners! They each provide a service that greatly impacts the families in our programs. Last year at one of our parent nights our enrolled parents enjoyed learning from Danyelle Evans, a Registered Dental Hygienist in our community, about the importance of oral health for their families. We are so grateful for the DSU dental days each semester with the DSU dental hygiene program. Each semester, a local Dentist from our community volunteers his time to oversee the dental days. Alongside the DSU students the Dentist provides free dental checkups for our enrolled families. The U of U physician assistant program provide free well child exams & immunizations for our Early Head Start families.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

We have an ongoing partnership with Stefani Watson from USDB to provide hearing testing, and Dr. Joshua Schliesser offers vision screenings for our program children. Our partnership with Stapley Pharmacy provides our staff with flu shots and necessary immunizations.

Thank you, volunteers! | Root for Kids

Lastly, we are so grateful for our Health Services Advisory Committee that is comprised of a dozen or so local health provides that meet twice a year on their own time to discuss the health of our families. Without the donation of these clinicians’ time, our families would continue to fall between the cracks in necessary health services which can lead to effects on the child’s development.

We are thankful for our volunteers’ dedication and desire to improve the lives of hundreds of children. Interested in volunteering with us? Call our Volunteer & Community Partnership Coordinator to get started! (435) 673-5353, ext. 123

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!

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