Friday, February 15, 2019

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to thank the awesome kids, teachers, and administrators at Ryan Elementary School in Lafayette. For the second year in a row, they are raising funds to support Imagine!’s Out & About program, specifically so O & A can purchase a hand controlled adaptive bike. The bike will allow more children with disabilities served by Imagine! to experience the joy, freedom, and independence that comes from riding a bike.

Go Rhinos!



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Where Are Your Champions?

Misheard lyrics from popular songs have been a source of entertainment for years. You can find many YouTube videos dedicated to this very topic.
  
Recently I had my own version of a misheard lyric. It wasn’t technically a misheard lyric, but rather, my brain filled in an incorrect lyric when I was listening to a song while thinking about the State of Colorado’s system of funding and delivering services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The song? "We Are The Champions" by Queen. My misheard lyric? “Where are the champions?”

Now, of course I know the real lyrics. But as I was listening, I was thinking about a revelation I had come to recently: why doesn’t Colorado consider itself a champion of people with I/DD? Of course, Colorado supports those individuals, but is it possible the State champions a different master? Specifically, the Federal government and Medicaid?

That’s perfectly understandable. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are essentially the customer, telling the State what to do and how to do it with their Medicaid dollars. So of course, the State looks to its customer in order to determine if it is doing a good job delivering customer service. 

And guess what? By CMS standards, Colorado probably is doing a good job. The State is focused on homogenizing and cutting costs at the behest of CMS and has made nice work of it. The State is the champion of Medicaid. That is not the same as being a champion of people living with I/DD in Colorado funded by Medicaid, or any other group of Medicaid beneficiaries.

Here’s a comparison. Think about a hypothetical athletic director at a major university; similar to an Executive Director of a State Department. That person should select and hire champions of each sport at the university; coaches who are experts in their event, who in turn select student athletes who are good performers in their event.

Why? That is what the fans and supporters want; the best coaching staff and players of each individual sport, be it swimming, track and field, or football.

What you wouldn’t do is hire a champion of uniforms to cost effectively outfit all of the teams with the same uniform because it would save money. It doesn’t matter that the swim team was wearing a football jersey when they dive in the pool. It matters that the champion homogenized the uniforms to cut costs. Or imagine a champion of balls; insuring there are adequate game balls, but not necessarily assigned to the appropriate game. Why? The champion isn’t and expert on the game – just that the balls are inflated properly.

While the AD needs to respond to and pay attention to his or her budget, and to NCAA rules and regulations, that shouldn’t be the primary drivers for champion roles. Winning more games draws more attention and revenue, the desired outcomes. Wearing the same uniform in all events will not accomplish the same, any more than a football on a golf tee. I think the results would be average athletics at best.

The AD wouldn’t be looking for the best coaches or players, they would be looking for the most affordable transactions in the athletic department. They wouldn’t be stretching the limits of the teams and what they could do, they’d be limiting their ability to stretch. They wouldn’t be trying to make teams stand out, they would want them to all look and play the same. The school’s athletic teams would regress to the middle at best, and the bottom at worst, because the desired outcome in sports – performance – wouldn’t be part of the policy making process. Have you seen the trends reported by the 2019 UCP Case For Inclusion?

In our State, I wonder if, by successfully being a champion of Medicaid, have we have lost the winning performance we once knew? Rather than being a champion of people and selecting performers in specific fields of expertise, we have homogenized transactions and outfitted providers with uniforms that say, “Go Medicaid!” and players with I/DD blended on teams of people with a variety of other health care needs.

I’d argue (and have argued before) that for providers, what I think should be our version of winning – positive outcomes for those we serve – isn’t a big part of our State’s policy making process. State providers are like the coaches and players for the hypothetical college mentioned above that makes all of its decisions based on budgetary and regulatory concerns.

(Cue the music) We are Champions of Medicaid; promoting cost cutting and homogenization. Again, have you seen the 2019 UCP Case for Inclusion? We don’t have an I/DD champion, and our team needs one.

(Cue the music again) Where are their champions?

Then again, what do I know?
 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to offer a big shout out to the South Boulder Lucky’s Market. Thanks to many of you voting online, Imagine! was selected as one of this quarter’s (February 3-May 25) Lucky’s Bags For Change partners!

For my readers who live in the area, I’d sure appreciate it if you were to make a shopping trip or two to Lucky’s (located at 695 S Broadway St. in Boulder) over the next couple of months so you can participate in this fun and environmentally friendly way to support our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Here’s how it works: when shoppers bring in their reusable bags, they can choose to receive $.10 back per bag credit or donate that amount to one of the three Bags For Change partners, including Imagine!. Even better: when a shopper donates, Lucky’s Market will match the donation and double the giving to the nonprofits! Make sure you bring in your reusable bag so you can start dropping dimes to support the three partners.

Thanks Lucky’s for your demonstrated commitment to your community, and thanks in advance to all of you who help out by shopping at Lucky’s South Boulder!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Not Preaching To The Choir

As I mentioned last week, our most recent Imagine! Celebration was a success by almost any measure.

In the post linked above, I listed several measures of success. But today, I’d like to share another measure of success – how many people in attendance were not part of the I/DD world.

I have often found that at fundraisers for non-profit organizations (not just those that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities), the audiences tend to be primarily insiders – that is, those whose lives are closely tied in with the needs of the organization itself. In the I/DD world, this may mean family members, services providers, regulators, etc.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Of course the people who have the biggest stake in a non-profit’s work are likely to be the ones who most vigorously support that work. However, if part of an organization’s goal is spread the word about their work and its importance in the community, the risk of a segregated and insider audience is that there is an element of preaching to the choir, and it is likely that the message is not getting beyond those who have already heard, received, and believe in the message the non-profit is sending.

I have always said that the work Imagine! does is essentially a community building endeavor. That community can’t be built if only one segment of the community is part of the construction crew. It takes a village. That is why I was so excited to look out across the ballroom during the Imagine! Celebration and see so many unfamiliar faces. It’s the people I didn’t recognize that I was happiest to know that they were joining us. Many of the new attendees were young professionals or business and community leaders from different sectors who weren’t very familiar with our work. They weren’t the choir – they were new to our message, and to our mission.

The message we shared at the event was one that I think resonated with an audience that wasn’t comprised mainly by those already aware of our work. We didn’t describe the individuals we serve as “vulnerable.” Using a word like “vulnerable” doesn’t emphasize possibilities. It doesn’t highlight strengths. It promotes what people are not. It doesn’t do anything to move us forward in the effort to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Instead, during the entire evening of the Imagine! Celebration we emphasized what people with I/DD can do.

That message was no more clear than in the video debuted that evening telling the story of Shelly, who accepts services from Imagine! (I’ve shared the video below). Despite the many challenges in Shelly’s life, in this video you won’t hear words or phrases describing how sad it is that Shelly uses a wheelchair or that her disabilities prevent her from leading a fulfilling life. Instead, you’ll hear phrases like “no stranger to danger” or see clips of her schussing down the slopes of a local ski area. 

To be clear, I deeply appreciate the support of the people who have been part of the Imagine! family and the Imagine! Celebration for years. And I hope it continues for many more. But they already know that people like Shelly can, and do, live fulfilling lives of meaning and purpose. Sometimes folks outside of our little bubble aren’t as aware of the capabilities of a person like Shelly. If we can share that lesson with them, we can get ever closer to truly creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Then again, what do I know?
 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Good News Friday!

The preliminary results are in, and by almost every measure last Saturday’s Imagine! Celebration was a huge success! Between sponsorships before the event, and the money raised at the event, we raised a total of $462,087! This is $30,000 more than last year!

Below you will find videos from the amazing evening.

To introduce the crowd to Imagine!, a short overview of our work started the evening off right.
   
A little later in the program, a short video was shown to demonstrate the impact of Imagine! donors and how those funds are used to help create fulfilling lives of possibilities among the people we serve.
   
The last video was certainly not least. As is the case every year, the evening featured the debut of a video highlighting an individual in Imagine!’s services. This year the person highlighted was Shelly, who lives in Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont and accepts services from CORE/Labor Source. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after the video was shown, and Shelly received a lengthy standing ovation when she came up on stage.


Now, some “thank yous” are in order.

Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors President Don Brown served as the MC for the event, and he nailed it! His hard work and preparation showed in his smooth and passionate delivery of a very mission-centric program.

Imagine! Board of Directors member Bella Larsen joined Don on stage at the beginning of the program, and her speech, full of joy and humor, won the crowd over instantly.

Elena Ciaravino, Program Director for Imagine!’s Out & About department, spoke to the crowd on a very personal level about how the support of Imagine!’s many generous donors helped to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Auctioneer Gary Corbett kept the evening flowing and the bidding rising.

Katie Hawkins and the Imagine! Celebration Committee have clearly hit their stride – the time and effort put into the pre-planning of the event clearly showed throughout the evening.

Imagine!’s PR of Fred Hobbs and Scott Wendelberger were heavily invested in the creation of the program, and were instrumental in its success.

Imagine! IT Director Kevin Harding ran the show, switching frequently between videos and PowerPoint presentations without ever missing a beat.

Elizabeth Hill and Caroline Siegfried served as trouble shooters for the evening, and both handled the role with amazing calm and aplomb.

Heather Sabo was the hero of the behind-the-scenes night. She and the staff volunteers faced some unforeseen challenges and she, and they, handled it with grace and perseverance, always keeping the guest experience front and center.

Speaking of staff volunteers, close to 30 Imagine! employees gave up their Saturday evening to volunteer at the event, a powerful testament to their commitment to Imagine!’s mission.

And of course, Imagine! Foundation Executive Director Patti Micklin, who begins work on next year’s Imagine! Celebration almost immediately following the conclusion of the previous year’s event, was the mastermind behind a record setting year in terms of money raised, but also in terms of sharing Imagine!’s mission and awareness of the amazing contributions people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are bringing to our community every single day!

Finally, thank you to the more than 480 attendees at the Celebration. They gave and gave, and I am so appreciative of their support of our mission and of our fellow citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.