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Making miracles one child at a time

Making miracles one child at a time

Help needed to provide service to children on Jacob's Ladder waiting list

The Marvel children aren't simply marvels -- they're miracles.

When Martin and Linda Marvel, of Valparaiso, decided to adopt their foster son Jonathon almost 10 years ago, they knew they had a long road ahead of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Jonathon was in need of physical and developmental therapy but had outgrown treatment at Indiana First Steps, an early intervention system for infants and toddlers with special needs.

It was then that the family turned to Jacob's Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Porter County, a nonprofit facility started by executive director and occupational therapist Mariann Frigo after she was unable to find treatment for her autistic son Jacob.

"We've been with (Jacob's Ladder) since the beginning," Linda Marvel said. "We've been so grateful."

Today, Jacob's Ladder is helping nearly 200 families across Northwest Indiana such as the Marvels, offering occupational, physical and speech therapy to children with developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, autism and Down syndrome for as low as $40 to $50 per session.

"We do a good job at keeping costs down, but Medicaid only reimburses us $15 or $20 per visit. We need to raise the difference," Frigo said.

An unusually high number of children on the center's waiting list has Frigo appealing to the community for donations to hire more staff and help more families.

"Usually we have maybe 10 or 12 on the waiting list at a time and right now we have 65," Frigo said. "That's a lot of children. It's hard on parents."

Frigo said the plan for the center is to raise $25 per child on the waiting list to get them started with therapy crucial to early development.

"A lot of our kids have a ton of potential, and these beginning years are when they really start acquiring those building blocks," Frigo said. "It could make a difference for them being employed or not employed later in life. That $25 can get children in therapy, and we can start training their muscles and nervous systems to get them moving better."

Linda Marvel said she is amazed by the progress her son has made at Jacob's Ladder, calling her family a "miracle." Now 13 years old, Jonathon not only walks with crutches, he is the proud older brother of two new Marvels.

Inspired by Jonathon's success, Linda and Martin decided to adopt two other special-needs children, Jillian, 10, and Emily, 7.

"Once we saw how well our son was doing, we thought we could get another child," Linda said. "If you don't feel like you have good tools to use and good backup and support, you don't take a second child like that. Jacob's Ladder has made the life of each of those children incredibly better."


Jacob's Ladder is located at 332 W. County Road 806 N., about a quarter-mile west of Ind. 149 on U.S. 6. Checks can be made out to Jacob's Ladder and mailed to P.O. Box 2385, Portage, IN 46383. Donations also can be made online at


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