Foodie Mom Trish Verfurth Advocates for Special Needs Kids

It’s highly likely that the last name Verfurth sounds familiar to North Texas foodies. That’s because the family owns two popular area restaurants – The Village Grill and Life’s a Beach – and takes an active role in Highland Village (and beyond).

Yet, besides their community activism, you might recall hearing the family’s name on the nightly news after the youngest Verfurth, 3-year-old Eric, fell gravely ill with bacterial meningitis. Now, after her son’s rare survival of the illness and throughout his current battle to regain independence, mom-of-three Trish Verfurth stands as a shining example and advocate for moms of special needs children.

Trish Verfurth admits that she knew little about the restaurant business before agreeing to partner with her husband. The Verfurths – who at the time had just one child, James (now age 13) – combined their growing interest in the community with husband Jim’s experience as an executive chef by starting The Village Grill. Besides opening the doors to their new restaurant, the family welcomed their second child, Emily (now age 11; not photographed above).

While the couple focused on getting the restaurant off the ground, the new mom logged hours at home with the kids while her husband worked on location. Verfurth admits that starting their family business was exhausting – but, she adds, they had bigger challenges to face, particularly when the couple’s 3-year-old came down with a severe ear infection.

“He said to me, ‘Mommy, my neck hurts.’ And I took him to the emergency room,” Verfurth says. “It was within hours that the situation became more serious and Evan began having seizures. We later learned that he had bacterial meningitis.”

Surprising many doctors and nurses, little Evan survived his deadly bout with bacteria. Yet, the illness badly damaged Evan’s brain and regressed many of his motor and speech skills. Now, with the help of his mom and a network of physical and occupational therapists and doctors, Evan is retraining himself to walk, talk and view the world as child.

During Evan’s illness, Verfurth stayed by his hospital bedside day and night. “I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband worked full-time, so when I was pulled away to help Evan, every member of our family had to chip in and pull their own weight,” she affirms, adding that many neighbors and friends helped aid the family when they were in need of support. “We were used to helping other people, so it was hard to be on the flip side and accept help from others.”

With this help, however, Verfurth was able to bring Evan home in April. Now, she’s regaining a balance between juggling her preteen children’s carpool schedule, as well as shuttling Evan to therapy sessions and preschool classes specialized for children with disabilities – all while her husband keeps the family businesses humming.

Today, Verfurth says that every activity with Evan has turned into therapy, whether it’s crawling, eating or laughing with his brother and sister. “It was certainly an adjustment – even for the dog – to have Evan back at home. There’s still mourning in our family for ‘the old Evan,’” Verfurth adds.
But, despite these sometimes-painful changes, Verfurth energetically answers her children’s (and her children’s friends’) questions.

“It’s had a rippling effect of learning amongst our children and their friends – they have tons of questions about Evan and I’m happy to answer,” she says. “It’s amazing how adaptable children prove to be – to Emily and James, Evan is not a special needs kid, he’s just their brother.”

This article was first published in the October 2008 issue of NorthTexasChild.