Virginia “Ginny” Brydges knew in second grade she wanted to help others in the same way a speech pathologist helped her.
“I thought, ‘That is just what I want to do when I grow up,’” Brydges said.
For years, she did just that as a speech pathologist who worked with the Kenosha Unified School District, the United Hospital System and the Visiting Nurses Association.
Her passion blossomed into a desire to help children of all abilities be better understood and help parents find the appropriate setting for their children to thrive.
“There is such joy and such hope in being understood, and there is such frustration and so much anger when a child is not understood,” Brydges said. “I saw that some parents had to give up their jobs to make sure their medically fragile child, or uniquely abled child, would be able to get the services he or she would need throughout the day.”
She envisioned a place where children — as young as six weeks and as old as 12 — could have their educational, early childhood development, and speech, occupational and physical therapy needs met in the least restrictive environment possible — a place filled with loving, cognitive and behavioral support.
Fifteen years ago, with help from her friend Margie Kugler, Brydges pitched the idea to Gateway Technical College, which welcomed Every Child’s Place Language and Learning Center onto its campus on 30th Avenue in Kenosha.
For her commitment to the countless children who have found their way to the learning center, Brydges, the center’s executive director, is being honored as the recipient of this year’s Susan B. Anthony Arts/Education Award at the 29th annual Women of Influence Dinner on March 8.
In nominating Brydges, Mary Jane Lypert, of Kenosha, said families have found comfort in knowing “their children are in such loving care” and highlighted Brydges forward-thinking approach, which also includes employing people of all abilities.
“There is an unspoken bond between the adults who are uniquely-abled and the children they help teach every day,” Brydges said. “It really is beautiful.”
Brydges said she is “humbled to be among the beautiful women of influence” being honored.
“These are amazing women,” she said. “There are so many women of influence in my life — my mother, my aunts, my sisters, my daughter and my daughter-in law, and most definitely those mothers with uniquely abled children. They are the ones who inspire me every single day.”
She said she also draws inspiration from the children and the staff.
“They learn from one another, they grow with each other,” she said. “There is so much love and patience and acceptance and guidance and willingness to grow together, alongside one another in this place that it continuously amazes me every day.”