Single-mother Julie Phillips, alongside her daughter Sunny

A photo of single-mother Julie Phillips, alongside her daughter Sunny who's enrolled in the Peace Place program. Sunny looks like a regular 8-year-old, but her mom says she's struggled with mental conditions for much of her life. Image from Julie Phillips.  

GREAT FALLS - One in six kids across the U.S. have some sort of special healthcare need for mental or physical conditions, according to the national Department of Health and Human Services. In the Electric City, a local program has continued giving free help for those kids since 2011.

The non-profit Peace Place Respite Care has helped countless kids for reasons ranging from behavior to mental and physical health. For single mom Julie Phillips and her daughter Sunny, Peace Place gave them the tools and lessons they needed to better understand and work out their own situation.

On the surface, Sunny Phillips looks like a regular bubbly, bright and energetic eight-year-old girl. But Julie said she’s struggled with several conditions for years, including bouts of anxiety, sensory overload and insomnia.

Sunny started her time at Peace Place in August 2019, and while her struggles still continue, her mom said she has made progress in getting better under the program.

"If I tell Sunny that we're in a conversation and you need to wait your turn, she does not handle that well,” said Julie. “Through Peace Place she has now. She's learning how to regulate her emotions, learning how to interrupt a conversation."

Sunny is just one of several kids going through the program, and Peace Place staff are asking for your help. They need volunteers and community donations to help with the program's operations costs.

They've partnered with Cafe Rio to host a fundraiser on Wednesday. Anyone who picks up a fundraising voucher from either the Presbyterian Church or Skyline School and presents it at the restaurant, will have 20% of any meal order go towards Peace Place's mission of helping kids with special needs.

If you'd like to donate anonymously, you can do so online at Peace Place Respite Care’s official website.

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