Making a Big Impact on Little Lives

Local non-profit assists families caring for kids with disabilities

Written by Clare Jensen | Photography courtesy of Big Little JC Association

Cypress, TX News - Not many phone calls have as much impact as the one Franz and Yvette Carstens received following a routine ultrasound appointment. Their doctor informed them that their baby boy was unlikely to live through the pregnancy, and that if he did, he would be born with severe disabilities. Today, that phone call echoes a blessing in the lives of many due to the Carstens’ initiative in founding the Big Little JC Association.

Big Little JC Association is a local non-profit organization that assists families with
special needs children

A Birth and a Beginning
Following the doctor’s prognosis, the Carstens family prepared themselves for the challenges ahead. When Jesus Carstens was born on September 1, 2010, he was diagnosed with acampomelic campomelic dysplasia syndrome, severe scoliosis, tracheobronchomalacia, and a gene mutation never before reported. Most people require a medical dictionary for understanding of these terms, but for Jesus and his family, they became part of everyday life.

With these conditions came financial challenges in addition to the emotional ones. Family, friends, and even strangers helped the Carstens through these difficult times, but Yvette began to reflect that other families were not necessarily as blessed by these “angels.” These experiences inspired her to found a non-profit organization to help other families caring for children with severe disabilities. The result was the Big Little JC Association.

Yvette Carstens with her son Jesus, the inspiration behind the Big Little JC Association

Helping Families in Need
The organization assists families in a variety of ways. Monthly support groups held in Spanish provide valuable information through guest speakers. Maria Cristina Zavala, vice president of public relations for the organization, says, “Support groups are not something that Hispanic families frequently find in their own language, but they do seek and need them.” In order to assist families financially, the association holds fundraisers throughout the year, including a Christmas effort and an annual 5K in the spring. The latter is their signature event, and includes a kids’ duathlon, which sets them apart from other 5Ks in the Houston area.

According to Zavala, the families assisted by the Big Little JC Association “are often families that struggle moneywise to have the means to live a life with basic needs, even more so with having the challenges of a child with severe disabilities.” The organization provides alternatives for those they cannot help directly. Zavala says, “We can’t physically help everybody, but we don’t say, ‘no’ to anybody that comes to us for help.” In the future, the Big Little JC Association looks to develop family sponsorship programs, which would allow people to financially adopt a child in order to help the child’s family cover basic needs.

Ligia and her son Luis are a Big Little JC assisted family

Touching Lives
Dianne Orsot and her family are just one example of the assistance the organization brings to those in need. She is a single grandmother who, in addition to caring for her two granddaughters (one with Down Syndrome), adopted and cares for a young girl named Alexandria. Alexandria requires a ventilator, which in turn necessitates a generator given the possibility of power outages. The Big Little JC Association donated the proceeds from a dance recital fundraiser toward this generator.

Zavala describes the moment when the Orsots received the donation. “The minute the presentation was over, the owners stood on the stage in front of the public to announce the total amount of the donation to that family. It was a moving moment filled with love, and even the public felt directly involved in helping them. That deserved the standing ovation!” Thanks to the Big Little JC Association, Orsot is able to focus on other needs without worrying about power outages. She praises the organization as a “group of people with hearts that you just can’t even imagine. They are so kind and think about everyone else but themselves. I thank God that they still have people in this world like this.”

Three years ago, a phone call completely changed the lives of the Carstens. Jesus’ tiny existence has had a large impact through the echo of that call. Today, the phone calls of the Big Little JC Association change lives, too. They bring hope to families who are struggling, and in need of a helping hand. CFM

CLARE JENSEN is a junior at Rice University majoring in English and history. She enjoys keeping in touch with the community.