CARROLL COUNTY, TN — The 63rd Lions Club/WPSD Telethon of Stars benefits three local centers that help children and adults with special needs. When you give to the Telethon, you make it possible for them to have access to vital services.

Jerry Telethon 1

Jerry smiles at Local 6's Jennifer Horbelt.

Jerry is on of those children. He receives support from University of Tennessee at Martin Infant Stimulation, a program that works with babies and toddlers with special needs or delays in six northwest Tennessee counties.

He's also the second child Local 6 is profiling this year for the Telethon with a diagnosis of NAS, neonatal abstinence syndrome. To learn more about NAS, click here. Essentially, it means Jerry was born addicted to drugs, particularly opioids, that caused severe symptoms he continues to live with today.

The future was once uncertain for him. Now, the future's looking brighter every day.

Jerry is as sweet as he looks.

"Just a smile that lights up the world," UTM Infant Stimulation Early Interventionist Sandra Taylor said. "I've seen a ton of difference."

Taylor is a coach, of sorts, to Jerry and his family. She's a big part of the reason Jerry is doing so well.

"He knows her, and he loves her," Virginia Douglas said. "And we love her."

The road here hasn't been an easy one.

Jerry Telethon Baby

Jerry was born premature, weighing just three and a half pounds.

She remembers the first time she saw him. "He was so tiny," Douglas said. "He was three and a half pounds when he was born. And he was just such a small, small, little, tiny child. My heart just melted when I saw him."

Douglas and her husband Gary didn't expect Jerry to coming into their lives. They'd already raised their three children. "We had plans!" Douglas said. But sometimes life has plans of its own. 

Jerry Telethon Gary

Gardy Douglas hugs and kisses Jerry.

Jerry was born two months early and diagnosed with NAS. He couldn't go home right away. He spent weeks in the NICU.

"All of the drugs that were in his system when he was born, he had to go through the whole withdrawal process," Douglas explained.

Douglas isn't his birth mom, but they're family. So, she took him home from the hospital when they got the call.

Jerry's had a lot of challenges.

"We were afraid that he wasn't gonna' be able to walk. We were afraid he's not gonna' be able to talk," Douglas said.

"Jerry did a lot of shaking," Taylor said. "They had a time with him — a lot of inconsolable crying at first. I think they probably had a lot of long nights."

Taylor came into the picture about two months into Jerry's life. Her job allows her, an expert in helping children with special needs, to travel to the homes of families like Jerry's.

"He's achieved like 16 of his goals," Taylor said of all he's accomplished so far.

She brought knowledge, of course. Also, something less tangible, but just as real.

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Jerry and UTM Infant Stimulation EI Sandra Taylor play with a yellow and blue ball.

"Hope is one of my favorite things that I think we bring in," Taylor said. "Because sometimes they hear words and it's not, not fun words to hear and not fun news to be dealing with. But I think we bring the families hope."

"When he first started crawling, he would just drag his back legs, he wouldn't crawl," Douglas said.

They weren't sure he'd ever crawl. But he did, and Jerry wasn't done beating the odds.

Jerry Telethon walking with jennifer and virginia

Jerry practices walking with the help of Douglas and Horbelt.

"Now this week, he's pushing his toy with his little legs, and that is another yay!" Douglas said. "Everything is a yay now. Everything!"

It's the Telethon of Stars that helps gets Taylor to the Douglas's home, week after week.

"She uses what we have. Whatever it may be. How little, or small, or whatever," Douglas said, referring to toys, furniture, and other items around their house that may help Jerry meet his goals.

"I consider this like extended family, all of these families," Taylor said. "When they get that aha moment and they've done something, it's just, it's fun to watch."

Jerry Telethon Family

Virginia and Gary Douglas stand with their adult daughter and Jerry.

Jerry has stirred things up around the Douglas home, that's for sure.

"It's been an adjustment. I mean, there's still days that we would love to just hop in the Jeep and take us for a ride. But you know, it's OK. God has a plan," Douglas said. "Whether we know what that plan is or not, God has a plan for us, and God has a plan for Jerry."

A plan made possible with this family's unconditional love and your generosity to the Telethon of Stars.

To learn more about UTM Infant Stimulation, click here

The 63rd Lions Club/WPSD Telethon of Stars airs live starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday Sept. 14. The concert, featuring local talent at Paducah's Carson Center, is free to attend. Click here to learn more details and to donate