After a star-studded opening ceremony, the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón USA (CRIT USA) opened its doors to hundreds of children, parents, friends, and supporters Thursday. Actress Eva Longoria joined Univision and Teletón representatives on stage to usher in a new era for children with disabilities in the United States.
Univision Board Chair Haim Saban and CRIT Board President Alonso Ancira solidified the event’s success by announcing $1 million pledges from Univision Communications Inc. to CRIT USA.
Donations like these – as well as the much smaller $25 pledges made during the drive that make up a majority of Teletón funding – keep the doors open, staff paid, and bills extremely low for patients.
Iris Urrútia came all the way from New Jersey with her 10-year-old daughter, Sofia, to enroll at CRIT USA.
“I don’t have the words,” Urrútia said, holding back thankful tears. “She has never hugged me or kissed me … she has never said ‘mom.’ (I hope) this is the place where she can say ‘mom’ for the first time.”
The outpatient facility, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers completely free – or “pay what you can” – health care for children with neuromusculoskeletal disabilities. It, like the 20 other CRIT facilities in Mexico, operates almost entirely on donations gathered during annual Teletón fundraising marathons. These 27-hour broadcasts packed with celebrities became popular in Mexico, and in 17 years, Teletón has gone from broadcasting on 70 networks to 500.
“We need more organizations like Teletón USA,” said Earl Anthony Wayne, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. “It means the difference of a child spending a life in a wheelchair and being able to run and jump and play with friends.”
It was an emotional day for many attendees and speakers.
“Here, love and science will combine to make miracles,” said Creator and President of the Teletón Mexico Foundation Fernando Landeros. His voice cracked as he continued, “Love is the only universal language.”
The $15-million, 45,000-square-foot CRIT sits on a hill adjacent to Morgan’s Wonderland and Monarch Academy, offering children with disabilities recreation and education, respectively. Gordon Hartman, founder of the neighboring facilities, lent a major hand to Teletón in acquiring the property, and the CRIT will offer a number of collaborative volunteer opportunities to Monarch students.
Enrollment is limited to 600 children per year and more than 480 have enrolled so far since registration opened on Oct. 1. These children and their families hail from more than 35 states, including five families from Coahuila, Mexico. Interested families are encouraged to call 1-844-206-4512 and find out more at www.teletonusa.org. The facility will begin services on Monday, Nov. 10.
Teletón’s philosophy at CRIT doesn’t simply begin and end with medical care for patients – it intends to be there for entire families, with lounge areas, classrooms, a cafeteria, a small chapel, and counseling for loved ones whose children are in physical therapy sessions.
“It’s easy (for parents to) believe that they are alone,” said Univision CEO Randy Falco. While doctors and staff are critical, sometimes being in the presence of others that are going through the same struggle helps the most. “They are not alone. We are here.”
*Featured/top image: Actress Eva Longoria poses for a photo with a family during the CRIT USA grand opening ceremony. Photo by Iris Dimmick.