Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mandy’s New Book – “Mandy’s Magical Christmas Story”

Our friend Mandy has published another book! This one is called “Mandy’s Magical Christmas Story.” Learn more, including how to purchse the book and support this talented author, by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Out & About New Participant Feature

Entering a new school year, Out & About has a few new participants in the After School Program. Joining the group this year is Jordyn, a happy 11-year old with a wonderful smile. Searching for a new program since she aged out of her previous situation, her parents found Out & About. “As with any new schedule, it was a challenge at first getting used to the different activities every day, but everyone has been so understanding and patient, and Jordyn is enjoying herself,” said Frank, Jordyn’s father.

Jordyn attends the After School Program every day, which gives her an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. From splashing in the pool, to cruising around the dance studio to the latest pop tunes, to bowling a strike, Jordyn consistently gives us her contagious smile and has high spirits and energy for each activity.

“Jordyn has always been a very social girl, but I think she has become even more so by getting to interact with all of the other kids in the program at the various activities outside of school,” said Frank.

A big welcome to Jordyn and her family to the Out & About family!

We’d like to send out a big "thank you" to Scott Wendelberger who works with Imagine!'s Out & About program for sharing this story with us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Night of Elegance

On November 3, 2014, Innovations and the Innovations Advocacy Council hosted a Fall Formal at the Imagine! Coal Creek Building.  Guests received formal invitations to the event, and the event was widely attended by many folks with Innovations and Imagine! staff.
As individuals arrived for the event in their ball gowns, suits, and formal attire, they were greeted by a lighted entryway, sprinkled with red and white rose petals.  The event, which was held from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, hosted a live band made up of 19th Street Group Home staff members Russ Christiansen and Scott McDermott. The band was an instant success. Their version of “Brown-Eyed Girl” made everyone dance and swing.  There was a craft table where people could make personalized picture frames and a photo booth with derby flair.  There was a raffle and an award for the best derby hat, and everyone sampled dessert of all varieties.  A bouquet of flowers which adorned the dessert table was donated by Lafayette Florist. All the tables were packed with eating, laughing, and good times.  All of the lights were donated by staff members and a special thanks to Brittany Huston and Leeann Danielson for creating all of the fabulous decorations.  Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source participants created paper flowers that were hung all over the room and the desserts were donated by staff members, providers, and family members.  Overall, the event was an amazing success and everyone had a splendid time.  At the end of the night, the only question that people were asking was, “When is the next one?”.
A special thank you to everyone who donated to this amazing event, as well as Brittany Huston, Leeann Danielson, Anna Knott, CORE/Labor Source art class participants, Chris Holder, Russ Christiansen, Scott McDermott, Christina Marshall, Larie Handlin, Dustin Cart, Lafayette Florist, Toni Mowry, and Merribeth Price.

Thank you to Lou Ella Price for sharing this great story!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Talking Leadership with Renee Pietrangelo, ANCOR CEO

The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) is a national, nonprofit trade association representing more than 800 private community providers of services to people with disabilities.

While at the ANCOR Technology Summit on October 10, Imagine! Director of Operations Greg Wellems was kind enough to introduce Cassandra Rogers and me (Meagan Rountree) to Renee Pietrangelo retiring ANCOR Chief Executive Officer, who generously allowed us to interview her. We’d like to share with you what we discussed.

First, we asked her where she got her start and a bit about her career. Renee got her start in the medical field, worked a lot with non-profit associations, and then worked for ANCOR. She will be retiring in a month, and when asked what she’s planning next, she stated she wants to work with the National Disability Institute, with funding from private or special interest groups to expand research and intervention regarding families in poverty and disability. We then asked her about poverty, and how it impacts families with children with disabilities. She indicated that the rate of incidence of disabilities is higher in low income families, for many reasons, yet they are the least equipped to navigate it. Even those families who do not start out in poverty when they have a child with disabilities, may end up in poverty due to the incredibly high cost of disability care. Additionally, there is very little funding available to these families, and that funding is ever dwindling. Of the roughly 54% of funding available to families with children or adults with disabilities, only 7% of this funding is allocated to family caregivers. Renee stressed that the states and federal government need to take a close and critical look at how funding is distributed.

Renee also touched on Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and discussed the massive wage disparity that is currently keeping DSPs out of the middle class, a huge barrier when trying to find and maintain quality staff. When the role of DSP is such a physically and emotionally versatile one, it’s very hard to incentivize staff to stick around when their wages are so low nationwide. Although healthcare is the fastest growing field in the US, wages are not keeping up. Renee would like to focus on training, education and improving wages for Direct Service Professionals.

Finally, we asked Renee how we might be able to follow her activity after retirement, with some of the big plans she mentioned to us as potential prospects. On this she was fairly cryptic, though she did reiterate the things she feels passionate about that she may pursue in the world of direct care and disabilities.

Cassandra and I were both very thankful to have an opportunity to talk with such an incredible leader in the field of technology, and of course, a “selfie” was in order, in the spirit of technology and a “Selfie Advocacy” presentation we watched, which we’ll discuss more in our next newsletter submission.

We’d like to say a sincere thank you to Meagan Rountree for sharing this story.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Horsin' Around

Imagine!'s Out & About Catalog program participants are on their last month of Horsin’ Around at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC) in Longmont. For the past two months, participants have built relationships with specific horses at the ranch week by week. Learning to start, stop, turn, trot, mount and dismount his/her horse, participants have gained an appreciation for the commitment and skills needed to ride.

CTRC is a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) a Premier Accredited Center, which certifies a high level of excellence in quality of service, program deliverables and administration. “This center really has their stuff together and the weekly lessons are productive and well thought out,” said Scott Wendelberger, Out & About Instructor. “The volunteers and instructors at CTRC build rapport with our participants and it’s been really neat to see the relationships blossom.”

The instructor at CTRC assigned to our group, Britany Johnstone, has adapted the weekly lessons to each participant. For example, participant Elise is an experienced rider, and Britany challenges her to ride on different saddles and trot in circles. While participant Dillion is not new to horses, he is still learning the basic steps to riding. Britany gives him drills to exercise these specific steps. “I want the students to learn basic horsemanship terms and skills. We always strive for increased independence while steering, stopping, and trotting,” said Britany.

“When a participant gets on a horse they have control which is empowering to them and is an element they can apply to other areas of their lives,” said Megan McKean, Catalog Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. “Week to week, participants build trust with their horse and gain confidence in their ability, voice, and control.”

CTRC also offers a grounds keeping program which allows participants who do not ride to still interact with the horses. Such activities include grooming, brushing, hoof cleaning, and leading around the arena.

It’s been a great ride this Fall and we hope to continue this great relationship with CTRC in the future!

We’d like to say a sincere thank you to Scott Wendelberger for sharing this story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Daytrip to Acres of Opportunity Ranch

Last week, several folks from Imagine!’s Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome took a daytrip out to visit the Acres of Opportunity Ranch (AOR) to visit the farm, brush, feed, and of course pet some of the farms animals.

John, pictured above, said that his favorite part of the trip was, "getting close to the horses and getting to pet them and feed them. It was exciting!!! I liked seeing the pig on the farm, too."

AOR is an Equine Learning Center that offers several unique programs to the communities in Northern Colorado. Working in partnership with the horse, each participant is given a chance to create a relationship of understanding and respect in order to achieve their ultimate goals.
The AOR provides a variety of programs, which are educational, recreational, and therapeutic. Offering both private and group sessions for all ages, as well as volunteer opportunities, AOR is able to serve the community with a wonderful horse experience. Although participants that come to Acres of Opportunity Ranch enjoy riding our beloved horses, the programs are not only riding focused. AOR recognizes the importance of education and life skills. Entrusting one of the most brilliant teachers of all, the horse, AOR provides a safe container for participants of all ages to learn.