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In Memory Of Son A Mass. Family Has Supported Special Needs Kids For 10+ Years

In Memory Of Son A Mass. Family Has Supported Special Needs Kids For 10+ Years

(Photo courtesy of Debby Higgins)  

Ten years ago, Brian Higgins, then 9 years old, died. He had contracted meningitis when he was 3 weeks old, and he suffered from developmental and respiratory problems for the rest of his life.

Since his death, Brian's family has been on a mission to help other kids with special needs and their families. They've bought children medical equipment that insurance won't cover;  they've helped build a tot lot designed for kids in wheelchairs; the've paid for respite care so parents of special needs kids can have a night off.

"Debby never says no," said Mary DiGuardia, assistant director of special education in the Somerville public school system, speaking about Brian's mom's efforts to help families with special needs kids.

Debby Higgins, who also works in the special education department—a career path she chose based on her experience with Brian—said they'll help "anyone who needs something," whether it stems from "small disability to huge."

It's all done through the Brian Higgins Foundation, which passed a milestone on March 22 when it hosted its 10th annual trivia night, the foundation's annual fundraiser.

About 800 people attended the trivia night this year, and the event has gotten so big the Higgins' need to hold it in the Tufts University gym (they used to hold it at Good Time Emporium before it closed). The event typically raises about $30,000 for the foundation, all in one night, Debby said.

A foundation in Brian's memory funding tangible, local causes

With the money its raised, the Brian Higgins Foundation has made donations to the Special Olympics of Massachusetts, the Make a Wish Foundation, and the Federation for Children with Special Needs, according to the foundation's website.

They especially like to help out right here in Somerville, perhaps because both Debby Higgins and her husband, Steve, come from families that have lived in the city for generations.

DiGuardia remembers one of the Higgins' first projects. "She"—Debby—"started out giving us car seats," DiGuardia said, explaining that many children with special needs require car seats to take the bus to school. (more)

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Article by Chris Orchard, Sommerville Patch | Read full article here

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