August 21, 2008 (NEW BERN, NC) — The fact that supermodel/actress Shakara Ledard was coming to the RHA Howell River Bend Center in New Bern, NC, enticed a local reporter to attend a small groundbreaking ceremony for the center’s therapeutic greenhouse. But when the New Bern Sun Journal’s Matt Tessnear got there, the story of a boy with traumatic brain injuries and his devoted mother touched him so much that they became the focus of a compelling story that appeared in that newspaper on August 15.
The story is about Andrew Proffit, now 21, and his mother, Joy Roche, of Lincolnton, NC.
“In 1987, when Proffitt was seven months old, his father and another family member were killed in a car accident,” Tessnear wrote. “Roche was left on her own to raise Proffitt, who has traumatic brain injuries and whose skills are on the level of a six-month-old child.”
Tessner explains that Joy nearly destroyed her own health trying to care for her son. “I threw my back out,” she told Tessnear. “I crawled for three days to take care of him.”
By the time Andrew was 13, Joy worried that “her son would die at home because he lacked professional care.” But that’s when she learned about the RHA Howell network of care centers that serve children and adults with developmental disabilities in a residential setting.
Tessnear notes that Joy was reluctant to place her son in home, especially one so far away from her. (The closest Howell Center, in Charlotte, was full.) “But these people here are so loved,” she told him.
Roche was so impressed with RHA Howell River Bend that she sent more that 200 letters “to try to tell her story to professional basketball players, Oprah and others,” Tessnear wrote, in hopes of attracting interest and donations for the Center. “She received a response only from Curtis Martin.”
And that’s how Shakara Ledard came to know about RHA Howell River Bend and to visit on the day of the groundbreaking. As the Sun Journal story points out, Ledard is a close friend of the the former New York Jets star running back and head of a non-profit volunteer branch of the Curtis Martin Job ’ Foundation, which helps people who are disadvantaged, disenfranchised, and homeless, as well as single mothers and at-risk youth. Ledard’s group is known as the Sol (“sanctuary of love”) Foundation.
This was the supermodel’s second visit to River Bend. On the first – after Martin received Joy Roche’s letter – the two wrote a check for $20,000 to the Center on the spot.
“We fell in love instantly with the children and the people who reside here,” she told the reporter. “I was playing and Curtis was dancing with the kids. I realized then that this is a place I would be connected to long after.”
Martin and Ledard’s donation matched a grant from The Harold H. Bate Foundation in New Bern, which made the new Capabilities Greenhouse and Garden Program possible, thus prompting the ground breaking ceremony.
The Sun Journal’s story captures the dynamic combination of a mother’s love for her son, the staff at RHA Howell River Bend that cares for him as if he were their own, and the on-going generosity of others, including sports stars and supermodels, who recognize that helping those less fortunate “gives us a certain purpose of being that we can’t find on a football field, a photo shoot, or a movie,” as Ledard told Tessnear.
To read the complete story, go to
RHA Howell is an established network of centers and group homes across the state serving children and adults with developmental disabilities. Locations are in Greenville, LaGrange, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Winston Salem, Charlotte, and Polkton.
RHA Howell’s mission is to open the world to people with disabilities, and, in turn, enrich the lives of everyone they touch.
For more information on RHA Howell, visit http://www.rhahowell.org.