Los Angeles, CA – “When you have kids with a disability, there are so many issues and so much frustration for the parents,” said Dr. Cheryl Bryant-Bruce founder of the Gregory Center for Exceptional Children and Families, which she created in Atlanta in 1997.
Bryant-Bruce knows first-hand about the frustration and problems because of her own son Gregory, who died in 2003 at age 10 as the result of Alagille’s syndrome, a rare liver disease that causes retinal scarring.
The center served basically as a support resource for the entire family offering medical attention, social activities and even food for those in need. There were dance classes that integrated disabled children and their non-disabled siblings as well as holiday parties and more.
“We had huge social events, because families (with disabled children) really didn’t get to go out because they were strapped to these children. So we developed big formal parties where mom and dad dressed in their finest and the munchkins got dressed up in their finest.”
The center–which Bryant-Bruce said initially focused on children with physical disabilities but quickly attracted many parents whose children had autism and cerebral palsy–was an actual location until her own son began to take a turn for the worst.
“I had about a year where I was only able to work half a year, and it became very financially tight,” explained the medical doctor who opened the center with her own money and a grant provided to her by Evander Holyfield and his family.
When her son got sicker and she was struggling financially, Bryant-Bruce was advised to close the clinic and sell her house.
“But I wasn’t going to sell my house because I had two other kids. I said I will hold onto my house,” recalled the doctor who went on welfare, used food stamps and visited food pantries to keep going.
And while she did close down the physical clinic, Bryant-Bruce could not leave the parents who had come to depend on her.
“I made an agreement with the families. When Gregory was well, I would come to them. When he was not feeling well, and they were in severe need, they could come to me.”
That virtual treatment gave rise to the new business Bryant-Bruce is growing in Los Angeles, where she relocated in 2006.
“This (Elite Personal Physician Services) is a concierge medical practice that provides personal physicians to people. For the most part it is retainer medicine,” said Bryant-Bruce, who said she has now opted out of the insurance-based practice.
Taking care of her patients by going to them, was the impetus for the new business, and now the medical professional is working with a number of athletes and entertainers.
But she continues to provide the virtual support to her families with disabled children, and donates 10% of everything her company makes to the Gregory Center.
In addition to providing services to those in need, the Gregory Center provides an educational program to schools and the corporate world that helps develop sensitivity to people who are disabled.
“These are people who should be part of your community. They have something extremely valuable to offer the community. We’re asking you to see their abilities and rejoice with us in the ability as opposed to looking at the disability and seeing them with fear,” Bryant-Bruce said of their philosophy.
While she is still able to provide virtual services to people around the world through the Web site (www.gregorycenter.org), Bryant-Bruce would eventually like to recreate the Atlanta physical location. To do that, she is in the process of developing fundraisers to earn the money.
To make a donation or find out more about the center, visit the Web site or call (310) 280-3100 or (877) 451-8111.