Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mississippi River Apraxia Challenge (MAC Ride) and Tom Welge Solidify Choice of Speech Language Pathology Careers

by Ellen Groh & Lindsay Croegart

In the beginning hours of daylight on Sunday morning, September 20, 2009, a brave and driven group of men hopped on their bicycles to begin a 585-mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for childhood apraxia of speech. Being the parent of a child with apraxia, Mr. Tom Welge made a commitment to bring support to a cause very close to his heart.

The students and faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois wanted to welcome Mr. Welge and his crew to our campus for fun, food, and a little time away from their already-muddy bicycles. Mr. Welge’s cause is also one of our own causes and we had a desire to show our support. Students welcomed the Mississippi River Apraxia Challenge (MAC) Riders and presented them with not one—but two—checks. With the help of many students, $600 was raised to donate to CASANA in honor of Mr. Welge and his crew’s expedition. Augustana students were not the only ones to donate; the Benisch’s (whose young son attend the Augustana Center for Speech, Language, and Hearing) also raised $510 for CASANA.

After receiving our donations, Mr. Welge asked if he could speak to us and began to warm each of our hearts by providing thanks and appreciation to professors, advice and support for parents, and a certain validation for each student standing in the crowd. Mr. Welge thanked the 100+ Augustana CSD majors not only for the picnic and donation, but also for choosing a self-less vocation. His gratitude (for our participation in the MAC Ride ‘09 event and our career choice of CSD) was expressed as he thanked the students, mentioning his own family’s positive experience with speech-language pathologists. As he began to well with tears, so did many of us. Mr. Welge generously expressed his excitement of having the Augie students standing there on the picnic lawn as representatives of the upcoming generation of professionals in the field of CSD.

Making decisions that affect the rest of your life is daunting; choosing a major and future profession is no different. When I (Lindsay Croegaert) began my first CSD class at Augustana College, I realized my interest in the field. Despite my passion for CSD, worry began seeping into my mind: What if there is a better profession out there for me? How will I ever know whether I chose the right career path? Although I felt anxiety over choosing CSD as my one and only major, I was still excited to finally start my classes in the department. I jumped at the first service-learning project opportunity—MAC Ride ’09. During Mr. Welge’s emotional speech expressing his thanks and gratitude to the students, my doubts disappeared. I was no longer worried about my intended major—I no longer had any reservations. In addition to completely removing doubt about my choice as a major here at Augustana, Mr. Welge also reminded me that the education I’m currently receiving isn’t just about earning a degree. My preparation and education here at Augustana are stepping stones that will help me help others. The career and the life that I’ve chosen for myself benefits so many more people than just me. I can’t thank Mr. Welge enough for his thoughts and words. He and his team inspired and validated each of us through their motivational message more than they’ll ever know.

I (Ellen Groh) am a senior this year at Augustana. Amid the stress of finishing my undergraduate degree and applying for graduate school, I rarely am able to imagine my life outside the world of education. Yet listening to Mr. Welge speak, I became able to envision the life I will lead when my last three years of school have been completed. Mr. Welge helped remind me how powerful my job will be as a speech-language pathologist. I will care, teach, love, and help individuals every single day in my profession. After meeting the MAC Riders, I again could see the bigger picture. We really will make a difference—students, SLPs, families, professors, and professionals working together as one. The MAC Ride event helped to instill the idea that we are one big team, reaching for an even bigger goal. As CASANA’s motto states, “Every child deserves a voice.” I am touched and truly blessed to be part of a team that makes the voices of children heard.

Ellen Groh and Lindsay Croegart

Augustana College, Rock Island, IL

Communication Sciences and Disorders Classes of 2010 & 2012

Photos of Mississippi River Apraxia Challenge Bike Riders with Communication Sciences and Disorders Students at Augustana College, Rock Island, IL