“If you believe in angels, you all must know that Charity
was given to us from God, and she is our Angel.”
– Pam Oswalt, Charity’s grandmother
As her family gathered around her to congratulate her accomplishments as a 2020 John Paul II Center for Special Learning (JPII) graduate, Charity’s smile shown bright. But for those who know her, that’s not unusual at all. While today that beautiful smile rarely leaves her face, when she first came to JPII at the age of 8, things were quite different.
Charity was born with a cleft lip and was later diagnosed with Optic Nerve Dysplasia and Cerebral Palsy. Her family did not know the severity of her blindness until she was older and could communicate what she could or could not see. As a young child she used a wheelchair to move around.
When she was old enough to begin school, Charity was “mainstreamed.” According to her grandmother Pam, children and even teachers were not kind to her, and even bullied her for her differences. Charity didn’t want to go to school.
Recognizing that Charity needed more assistance than her school could provide, her family searched for a better option. It was then – when Charity was 8 – that they found JPII.
“When Charity went to school, she basically sat in her wheelchair in a corner,” remembers Pam.
Once she arrived at JPII, things changed drastically for Charity and her family.
“When Charity came into my classroom, she was in a wheelchair, but with physical therapy she left my classroom no need for her wheelchair,” explains Mary Maher, her first teacher at JPII. “Also, she was a non-reader, but with the help of her Vision Itinerant, I was able to get the materials I needed to help her start learning sight words.”
“She didn’t feel like she was being bullied anymore,” Pam says. “She spent two years in Mrs. Maher’s class where she was shown compassion. John Paul II was the best place for her to thrive as a young child with the physical, occupational and speech therapy that she received.”
Charity had many surgeries through the years for the reconstruction of her nose and lip, and Pam praises the support that she received from JPII during this time.
“John Paul II gives so much to the children with special needs, making them feel important with the community surrounding them,” she says.
JPII introduced Charity to a whole new world as JPII’s Job Coach exposed her to a variety of possible job experiences at the DoubleTree, Freedom Auto Group, Park Road Café and Berks Catholic.
“Through the years, Charity and I have completed so many lessons and assignments, but what stands out in my mind is that we have been on EVERY big trip together – Harrisburg, Lake Tobias, Baltimore Aquarium, Philadelphia Zoo, Lancaster Farm Tour, Washington D.C., Jim Thorpe, and we’ve seen every Sight and Sound Production,” shares Rene Berkhammer, Secondary Teacher. “She’s always trusted me to be there for her both physically and visually. Charity gardens, works in our kitchen program, and completes school-wide jobs. She is truly an inspiration and I will miss her. She brings a light to all those she meets. She shall always be the face of JPII, standing for all that we are. We are a safe place to grow, and become a beautiful, loving human being that has found their home.”
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. May God bless you and keep you safe. Charity will surely miss all of you. JPII will always be home to Charity,” Pam says.
View the premiere of our Legacy Gala video that shows how JPII’s staff quickly responded to distance learning, turning a scary time into one filled with possibilities and hope. After seeing firsthand the impact that our staff had in the lives of our students and adults, we invite you to support our Emotional Appeal to provide the necessary funding to continue this outreach while offering more scholarships to assist our families who are struggling at this time.