From the Archive: Powerful testimonial of success after premature birth shared at Annual Luncheon

(From left on the large screen) Rev. Marilynn Robinson, Yolanda Thigpen, Karen Harrell and Layla Thigpen talk about the work of United Way and partner organization Porter-Leath.

United Way’s Annual Meeting and Celebration hosted a number of community leaders, and one, in particular, told of how a United Way partner agency changed the life of a child.

As part of Rev. Marilynn Robinson’s presentation on Kindergarten preparedness, Karen Harrell (V.P. of Early Childhood Services with Porter-Leath) with guests Yolanda Thigpen and daughter Layla shared testimonies about the impact Porter-Leath and United Way have on young lives.

Porter-Leath is a United Way network partner agency empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyles.

Thigpen shared how her daughter was born prematurely, weighing only one pound two ounces.

“I was a professional, yet I had no one in my background who knew what to do with a premature baby,” said Thigpen. “I was at the doctor’s mercy, and I did everything they told me to do.”

Doctors told Thigpen that she would need to take care of Layla full-time for at least two years at home. Layla’s immune system was compromised, and a lung had collapsed right after she was born.

“I was at home every day for two years with her,” Yolanda noted.

Yolanda was introduced to Porter-Leath’s services by a friend and she called the agency “a lifesaver.”

“They (Porter-Leath) gave me things to think about,” she said. “I did not know what to do. They gave me things to work on that really helped me understand my child’s condition, while also giving me communication with another adult who specialized in premature births.”

Porter-Leath's program goals helping children were presented onscreen at last week's United Way Annual Meeting and Campaign Celebration.

Layla was in Porter-Leath’s Early Head Start program. As a result of her care at home and time at the agency, Layla has shown positive steps as she has grown, and she is now in the 2nd grade.

Layla graduated in the top 5% of her class in kindergarten, and her mother proudly shares that she now reads on a fourth grade level. Layla “is making all A’s, E’s and pluses on her report card,” Thigpen said.

“Porter-Leath and United Way, this is you!” Thigpen proclaimed, as she proudly pointed to her successful daughter.

Harrell noted that Porter-Leath’s partnership with United Way has helped increase the number of babies born with healthy weight births in Memphis and the Mid-South.

“We are extremely proud of our most recent outcome of a 93% healthy birth rate,” Harrell said. “We have children who have demonstrated dramatic gains from their first assessment to their third assessment that ranges from 89-100% in critical areas, including cognitive and language development, prewriting, emotional development, self-help and gross motor skills.”

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