Friday, December 9, 2016

Good News Friday!

I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: Imagine! is fortunate to be have so many generous supporters who help us in a variety of ways in creating a world of opportunity for all abilities. Today, I’d like to share just a few recent/upcoming examples of that generosity.

Some people support Imagine! by digging into their wallets to provide financial assistance. 

As I mentioned earlier this week, Colorado Gives Day was Tuesday, and I am so thankful to our wonderful donors! On that day of giving, Imagine! received 140 donations totaling $28,570! This total doesn’t include Imagine!’s portion of the incentive fund, meaning Tuesday’s gifts will go even further in supporting the potential of all.

While some people support us with their checkbooks, others do it with their muscles!

MOOV is hosting its Second Annual Kettlebell Swing-a-Thon tomorrow, Dec. 10, 2016, to raise money for Imagine! in this fun and challenging way.

Last year they raised over $4,150 for Imagine!, and you are encouraged to help them reach their goal this year.

Learn more and sign up to participate here.

So we’ve got checkbooks and muscles covered, but here’s one more way our community supports us: with their brains. 

We’ve always been fortunate to have University of Colorado administrators, professors, and students who support our mission. I already shared a blog post this week about the latest round of assistive technology projects created by CU Engineering students (if you missed it, it is well worth it just to see some of the pictures).

And then, on Thursday, a group of CU Leadership Studies students gave their Leadership Challenge presentations to an audience of community partners.

The Leadership Challenge is the “capstone” experience for students completing the Leadership Studies Minor (LSM) at CU. Students work in teams to understand the work of partner organizations, identify a leadership challenge facing an organization (with guidance from the organization), and propose a strategic plan to address that challenge. These challenges are authentic, meaning that they represent real goals or challenges organizations face.

Students Tyler Chittick, Gianna Fitzsimmons, and Lauren Huggins worked over the course of the semester on ways of improving communications between Direct Support Professionals and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists working at Imagine!’s Out & About department in order to improve the quality and effectiveness of their services. The trio offered fresh insight and workable, sustainable solutions, and we were so happy to be able to benefit from their hard work and thoughtful input.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Technology Tuesday

A group of University of Colorado students in Professor Melinda Piket-May's Fall 2016 Engineering class worked on adaptive equipment projects for individuals served by Imagine!. We have worked with Professor Piket-May on projects like this for more than seven years, and are always delighted by the results.

This year’s class demonstrated their projects this past Saturday, and below are some photos and descriptions of some of them.

Two student groups created Wheelchair Umbrella Attachments. These were designed to be attached to wheelchairs and easily opened and closed, protecting individuals who use wheelchairs for mobility from inclement weather, therefore increasing their independence. Learn about how one such umbrella attachment has worked for an individual served by Imagine!.

Another student group created a Can Hole Punch. This one take a little explanation. Our good friends at Oskar Blues Brewery provide employment for individuals served by Imagine! who make Oskar Blues “Can Bling” – necklaces with a beer can with the top removed for use at events such as beer festivals. This can hole punch ensures that the cans don’t have sharp edges to protect the folks creating the bling, and can assist those with poor motor skills in threading the beads in to the can.

Another student group created a Laser Harp, which uses lasers that can be “plucked” to make musical notes. The laser beams can be calibrated for people with different range of motions, so even those with limited range of motion can create their own music. It is a great tool for range of motion exercises and for making music more accessible. In the darker picture below, the lasers are seen through the green smoke.

Below you will see the student group project The Runner, which is a walker designed to remain stable during more intense exercise. This is great for physical therapy and to allow people who use walkers for mobility to increase their options and make greater strides toward not needing the walker at all.

One student group worked on a project they called the Helping Hand.This was designed specifically for individuals who struggle with tremors, making the use of finger controlled smart devices such as iPads challenging. The Helping Hand was created to stabilize the person’s hand, making it easier to use the device independently despite the tremors.

And finally, the group pictured below created a Foldable Communication Device Arm. This was designed to be attached to a wheelchair and to hold heavy communication device. It is easily foldable so it can be put out of the way when not in use.

As always, we thank all of the students for their time, their efforts, and for their role in creating a world of opportunity for all abilities. And of course, we thank CU Professor Piket-May for this ongoing and very beneficial collaboration.

Colorado Gives Day Is Today

Today is Colorado Gives Day, and I would like to encourage you to make your online donation now to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

By giving your donation online through Colorado Gives Day, Imagine! will be eligible for a portion of the 1stBank and Community First Foundation incentive fund. Best of all, you’ll be supporting Imagine! in creating a world of opportunities for all abilities.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Click here to donate.

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Good News Friday!

Today, I have the privilege of introducing the 2016 Imagine! Employees of Distinction.

Each year we ask all employees to share with the Secret Employee of Distinction Selection Committee nominations for Imagine! employees who exemplify the mission, values, and principles of Imagine!, who inspire the individuals we serve to be their best, and who perform over and above every expectation anyone could have of them.

This year, we received 79 Employee of Distinction nominations for a total of 39 people. So it is fair to say that even among the talented and dedicated crowd of Imagine! employees, the 2016 honorees truly stood out.

Laura Ball, Andee Bauer, Shannon Bundy, Anh-Hong Huynh, Maria Klickna, Brodie Shultze, Victoria Thorne, and Scott Wendelberger were all identified by their coworkers as employees who go above and beyond even the above and beyond we see every day at Imagine!. Their recognition is well deserved, and I am honored to call them my colleagues.

Check out the video below to learn a little more about these exceptional Imagine! employees.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Highs And Lows

For those of us living here, the following statement shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Colorado’s economy is booming.

Click on image for larger view. 

According to’s findings in “2016’s States with the Best & Worst Economies,” released earlier this year, Colorado has the 5th best economy in the nation, and ranks in the top 10 across three key dimensions: Economic Activity, Economic Health, and Innovation Potential.

But do you know where Colorado doesn’t rank high? In what I’m going to call our human service infrastructure.

For example, let’s look at education spending. Colorado ranks 42nd in per-pupil spending when adjusted for regional cost differences. Or how about looking at spending on mental health? Colorado ranks 27th in state per capita mental health services expenditures.

And of course, as I have discussed many times before, Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in terms of fiscal effort for intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) funding.

So the economic rankings and the human service infrastructure rankings for our state don’t match up very well. That also should not be surprising to our state’s residents. Colorado, thanks in large part to TABOR, has some of the most restrictive tax and expenditure limits in the nation, making the State’s budgeting process an exercise in fighting over crumbs.

Believe it or not, this post isn’t about complaining about our lack of human service infrastructure in Colorado.

Instead, today I’d like to focus on how we are using the meager funds that are available to us.

There are many government officials and regulators in our State who care deeply about people with I/DD and work hard to make their lives better. When faced with an un-budgeable budget, some of these well-meaning folks have looked to find splashy, aspirational programs that make it appear as if we are moving forward and improving services. And while I don’t question their motives or their hearts, I fear that some of these programs divert our attention and resources away from where they are needed most.

It sometimes seems like we are trying to add bells and whistles to cover up major deficiencies in the funding and delivery of our services. You can add racing stripes to a 1971 Ford Pinto, but it is still a 1971 Ford Pinto underneath.

Perhaps it is time to take a step back and think about how we are spending our I/DD funding and why. It is unlikely that the human service infrastructure in Colorado is going to change any time soon, so we better be very smart and thoughtful about how we are using those funds. We need to be looking for real outcomes that benefit those we serve, not programs that make us feel good about ourselves while not really changing lives for the better.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Shelly, who lives in Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome and participates in Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source program, is pictured here using an app called “Kahoot” and an adaptive switch with an iPad to play an interactive quiz with her peers. The iPad auto detects the choice options and then Shelly is able to choose which ones she thinks is the right answer!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Volunteer Program officially began five years ago (of course, we had volunteers before, but it was a loosely organized effort).

In the spirit of yesterday’s holiday, and to celebrate five years of volunteerism at Imagine!, today I am sharing short videos highlighting five volunteers who have truly made a difference at Imagine!.

Of course, choosing just five volunteers was very difficult – last year 379 volunteers donated 8,784 hours of their time to support Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities!

We are grateful to them all, and hope that the five we highlight serve as a great representation of the many generous folks who so kindly give back to their communities.

Inna Chang

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Patrick McCue

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Zoe Polk

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

The Rusk Family

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Leona Stoecker

  Can’t see the video? Click here.