Friday, October 19, 2018

Good News Friday!

Today we’d like to thank the good folks from Rosetta Stone, who recently did a company volunteer project with Imagine!. The group joined our Out & About department for their Healthy Living activity on Wednesday, and they supported soccer skills camps and some gym/recreational activities.

Imagine! is a community-based organization, and we can’t do what we do without the support of our community. This is a great example of that community support in action, and we are deeply appreciative of our Rosetta Stone friends.





Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source department uses the TAPit, an interactive computer station designed for individuals with disabilities. It recognizes the difference between an arm resting upon the screen and a finger or assistive device intentionally tapping an image, provides full access to those using wheelchairs, and tilts 0 to 90 degress and adjusts up and down. Imagine! is always striving to seek out cutting edge technologies that will help us create a world of opportunity for all abilities!
 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Good News Friday!

Congratulations to Mandy Kretsch, who lives at one of Imagine!'s Group Homes and accepts services from our CORE/Labor Source department. She recently published her new book, "Mandy's Collection of Short Stories," and it's for sale on Amazon. Click here to purchase a copy.



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What’s In Your Cabinet?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend, and present, at the 2018 Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology.

While I enjoyed presenting, my key takeaway from the day came at the very beginning, as I listened to John L. Martin, Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, give the Plenary Presentation, discussing how Ohio became the very first “Technology First” state in the nation.

I’ve already discussed how, while I’m delighted that Ohio has made this step, that I’m extremely disappointed it wasn’t Colorado leading this charge.

But Martin’s speech brought some more clarity to the issue of why Ohio was the first state to officially recognize that the time to wonder about the benefits of incorporating technology into the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is long past, and that the time to act is now.

Just look at Martin’s title: he is a cabinet level official in Ohio’s state government.

Quick quiz: do you know who the state director of the Colorado Department of Developmental Disabilities is? 

It’s a trick question. There is no state level department for developmental disabilities in Colorado. There’s not even an official office for developmental disabilities in our state. Nor is there even a division for developmental disabilities within an office of a department.

I applaud Ohio’s recognition of the importance of I/DD services. Their attention to working to create opportunities for our fellow citizens with disabilities is one to be admired.

And I share the unknown status, administratively speaking, of services for people with I/DD in our state a little less than a month before an upcoming election intentionally.

I encourage individuals in services, families, and others concerned about the future of services in Colorado to reach out to candidates and ask them about the future status of services for people with I/DD. Perhaps share that some states elevate the status services for people with I/DD to the Governor’s Cabinet to ensure people are given every opportunity to live a fulfilling life of possibilities.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Avenues to Independence, a similar organization to Imagine! based out of Park Ridge Illinois, toured Imagine!’s SmartHome last week. Guests included Robert Okazaki, Judy Okazaki, Joni Kraft, and Janice Valentine.


Friday, October 5, 2018

Good News Friday!

Staff members at Imagine!’s Manhattan Group Home are spending the next few months focusing on creative and sustainable ways to build skill acquisition, as well as developing targeted solutions to promote independence.

Each opportunity for skill acquisition is determined with the full participation of the individuals in services, and with the goal of supporting individuals to live the lives they want to live. The goal of this project is to partner with the individuals living at the Manhattan Home to enhance their future quality of life by promoting skill acquisition which will enable them to live, function, and participate more fully in their homes and communities. This is done by promoting choice and control.

This team’s hard work is already starting to produce desirable outcomes and is building real excitement among the residents. Reducing verbal prompts and assistance needed for daily living is creating a vested interest with individuals in being an important part of developing plans and expectations for their own long term success. Additionally, acquiring and customizing supportive tools like their new Echo Show and other assistive technologies reduce demands on staffing.

The key to this momentum thus far has been promoting choice and control alongside the individuals in services from the beginning through identifying specific daily opportunities for independence, and reinforcing consistent approaches across all staff members, including those providing behavioral supports. The team has done a fantastic job of leading with positivity and celebrating achievements both big and small. Supervisor Towana Vance has done an outstanding job inspiring her team of skill acquisition ninjas to make learning from each other a daily habit and building upon momentum for both staff and individuals.

Imagine!’s Innovations department is dedicated to ensuring each goal and opportunity for skill acquisition is determined with the full participation of the individual in services while using person centered practices and allowing the individual in services to determine their personal level of desired engagement. Innovations is assisting individuals to develop a vested interest in their own independence while prioritizing goals that are important to them and important for their health and safety. Towana and her team are ensuring appropriate individualized service and support goals are put in place to reflect the individual’s current desired opportunities for independence and ensuring adequate data tracking is in place to monitor progress and adjust as needed. These are just a few of the collaborative ways Imagine is creating a world of opportunity for all abilities by helping people aspire to, and achieve, a fulfilling life of new possibilities!

LtoR: Whitney Granger, Towana Vance, Christopher Sloan, Jamie Crawford, Heather Christensen


The Echo Show

Friday, September 28, 2018

Good News Friday!


This is another great story that indicates how Imagine! and our community work together to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

On September 19, the Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Center hosted a screening of “Far From The Tree.” This movie follows families meeting extraordinary challenges through love, empathy, and understanding. This life-affirming documentary encourages us to cherish loved ones for all they are, not who they might have been. Following the screening, Kate Hines, an Imagine! Dayspring Occupational Therapist, and Patti Micklin, Executive Director of the Imagine! Foundation, hosted a “Talk Back” discussion about the family dynamics that can come from having a loved one with an intellectual disability. Kate and Patti shared intensely personal stories with humor and heart, and the evening was a spectacular success.



Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Last week, we hosted a really special tour of Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome: students from Australia and their Boulder Valley School District hosts! The students were able to get hands-on, using some of the devices we are testing, and they learned so much about the difference technology can play in peoples’ lives. We may have a few little assistive technology specialists in the making!




Friday, September 21, 2018

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to officially introduce the members of the 2018-2019 Imagine! Leadership Development Group (LDG). This year’s LDG members are (from left to right in the picture below):


Victoria Thorne, who works for Imagine!’s Family Recruited Employee department.

Paula McCormick, who works for Imagine!’s Innovations department.

Emily Walsh, who works for Imagine!’s Dayspring department.

Jessie Michaud, who works for Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department.

Gabbie Norton, who works for Imagine!'s Case Management department.

The purpose of Imagine!’s Leadership Development program is to provide a coordinated platform that strategically develops talent within Imagine! to address the company’s leadership needs for the future. The program is designed to educate employee participants about the complexities of the organization and to assist management in learning about people with talent that may be good matches for leadership roles.

Each participant in the LDG will gain a broad understanding of leadership skills and be provided the opportunity to apply their learning in various settings. Each participant will assess their present strengths and areas for growth and realize their potential for leadership. Leadership skills and knowledge gained will be applicable in many aspects of the successful participant’s experiences.

The Leadership Development Group will utilize a variety of methods of learning during the course of the year. These methods will include opportunities for self-study, facilitated group meetings, attendance at other Imagine! meetings, mentoring, training opportunities, and presentations.

Congratulations to all of this year’s LDG members. I think you will find it to be a very rewarding experience. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and, just as important, to learning from you throughout the year.

Check out the short video below to learn more about Imagine!’s Leadership Development Group.

Can’t see the video? Click here

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Good News Friday!

The week of September 10-14 has been proclaimed Direct Support Professionals Week.

All week long, Imagine!’s Twitter feed, our Facebook page, and our Imagine! Voices blog have been honoring amazing Imagine! DSPs. I encourage you to check them out. To help get you started, below are some brief highlights of DSPs we’ve put in the well-deserved spotlight.

Bren Lindemann 


“I’ve learned to adapt tasks or activities so that participants are happy and comfortable doing things they should be happy doing.” 

Patty Gutierrez 


“Patty is amazing. She manages my son’s behaviors better and better as she gets to know him, and he is a happy guy when they’re together.” 

Shen Hollcraft 


"I could be serving someone breakfast and at the same time get a little side hug or a sweet comment. It’s a natural sharing that nourishes both people.” 

Emilie Still 


“Emilie is constantly ensuring that the individuals we support receive the best customer service possible by being extremely detail oriented and always having a smile on her face.” 

Sean Van Lierop 


“Imagine! definitely restores my faith in humanity, seeing all the good people can do. I work with people who not only give a damn, they give a lot of damns, they give all of the damns.” 

Will Hebert 


“I studied Journalism because I wanted to help people out and write about important issues. I found the DSP job path and it felt like a more direct way to help people.” 

Collin Whitten 


“Collin is completely reliable, confident, and attentive. He makes sure that his participants’ needs are met and are reaching a goal at each activity. He keeps a calm demeanor in high-stress situations and has great problem solving skills."


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Today Is Longmont Live And Give Day!

The Longmont Community Foundation is looking to encourage the community to support great local nonprofits today, which they have designated Longmont Live and Give Day.

Imagine! is participating in this day of giving, and I encourage you to help us support our climbing program which allows individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience the joy and self-esteem that rock climbing can bring.

Watch the video below to learn more, and click here to donate! 
 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Good News Friday!

Robert Strieby, a resident at one of Imagine!’s Group Homes, recently spent some time recording Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" along with Imagine! employee Chelsea O'Day. This is just one demonstration of how the individuals we serve are capable of remarkable achievements, and how Imagine! as an organization works to shine a light on those capabilities so everyone can see the contributions that folks with I/DD can, and do, bring to their communities every day. Take a listen below.
   

Friday, August 31, 2018

Good News Friday!

On July 11, during an employee softball game, Imagine! Nurse Case Manager Jamie Zimenoff stepped up to the plate in more ways than one. 

Jamie Zimenoff
A player from another field rushed over to his dugout and asked for help, as someone had collapsed from a heart attack. Jamie immediately jogged over to the scene.

 Another nurse who was playing on a different field also got word of the situation and ran over as well. She was performing chest compressions as Jamie arrived. A third helper was also present, and the three of them took turns with compressions and breaths.

“I didn’t know this was a heart attack. I just knew he didn’t have a pulse and he wasn’t breathing,” said Jamie. 

After a few sets of CPR, the gentleman still had no pulse. An automatic external defibrillator (AED) arrived, and after putting on the pads, the machine advised to give a shock. Still no pulse. Two police officers arrived after the first shock and decided to let Jamie and his team continue their work. “The officer told me afterward that it was clear we knew what we were doing and he wanted us to keep doing our thing,” said Jamie.

After two more sets of compressions and breaths, the AED advised a second shock, and shortly after that was given, the gentleman’s legs, arms, and head started to move slightly, and he sighed. As he started to come to, the EMTs arrived and relieved Jamie and his partners of their CPR duties.

As the Fire Department EMTs took over and treated the gentleman with an oxygen mask, an ambulance drove onto the field and pulled up to the pitcher’s mound. He was taken to the hospital and treated immediately.

“Honestly,” said Jamie, “I don’t think he would have made it without the AED.” Giving two shocks and almost a third, the AED jump started the gentleman’s heart when he had no pulse.

Carla, Jerry, and Jamie
About a month later, on August 15, Jamie and the other nurse, Carla, had a chance to meet the gentleman, Jerry, at the ballfields. Jerry was cheering on his team from the sidelines, still recovering from broken ribs. When the three met, Jerry immediately opened his arms and hugged Jamie and Carla, expressing his gratitude. Jerry had a chance to ask Jamie and Carla questions about the night of the incident and learn exactly how things went down. Jamie and Carla were both fascinated at Jerry’s recovery time and how great he’s doing.

Jamie, Carla, and the third helper were the MVPs of the night, and everyone at the fields made sure they knew it. Receiving hugs and heartfelt sentiments, Jamie walked away feeling supported after a very emotional evening. We thank Jamie for his heroic actions, rushing to the scene and effectively using his skills when someone’s life was on the line.

And congrats to Jerry for a successful recovery, it’s good to see you back on your feet!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Technology Tuesday


Recent “tourists” at our Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont: Ron McLean from Kentucky, Anne Gates from Evergreen and new Imagine! employee Shanna Mitchell.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Good News Friday!

The Longmont Community Foundation is looking to encourage the community to support great local nonprofits on September 12th – Longmont Live and Give Day.

Imagine! is again participating, and I encourage you to help us support our climbing program which allows individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience the joy and self-esteem that rock climbing can bring.

Watch the video below to learn more, and by the way - you don’t have to wait until Sept. 12 to donate – you can do it right now!

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Technology Tuesday


The Coleman Institute's 18th Annual Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology, “Advancing Accessibility for All” will be held October 3, 2018 at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, CO – and representatives from Imagine! will be there to present on Imaginect

Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and John L. Martin, the Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities will serve as this year’s Coleman Conference keynote speakers.

In addition, a variety of both local and national speakers addressing issues related to people with cognitive disabilities and their access to technology will present their work and research, including Imagine! CEO Mark Emery and PR Director Fred Hobbs, who will be presenting on Imaginect.

What’s Imaginect (pronounced imagine – eckt)? We’re glad you asked. 

Imagine!’s service delivery is very labor intensive. The unemployment rate in Boulder County is at historically low levels, making finding qualified workers challenging. In addition, many in our growing elderly population desire personal supports that are similar to the personal supports for those with I/DD. This means that for the foreseeable future Imagine! will be facing increased competition for services coupled with a shrinking workforce available to provide those services.

In short – we’re short workers and need to find more.

To address this critical need, we have reimagined how (and who) we recruit to fill these positions by developing an app called “Imaginect,” which takes an Uber style approach to employee recruiting, engaging a team of on-demand employees pulled from typically underutilized labor pools such as college students or retirees.

In addition to our Imaginect presentation, attendees at the conference will be informed about “The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access,” a statement of principles informally known as “The Declaration,” and currently endorsed by over 250 leading disability organizations across the nation will be presented and attendees will have an opportunity to join this national movement that works to ensure full inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities in our technology driven world.

This conference is the only venue of its kind sharing contemporary knowledge of promising practices in cognitive disability and technology innovations and cultivating relationships between public and private entities.

Click here for more details or to register

Friday, August 17, 2018

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to thank Imagine! CORE/Labor Source business partner InClover for helping us to create a world of opportunity for all abilities. The video shows how this partnership is mutually beneficial and a win for Imagine!, InClover, and especially the people we serve.
 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

If You Aren’t First, You’re …

Last month, I learned that state of Ohio became the first state in our nation to establish an official “Technology First” initiative, with a goal that “citizens with developmental disabilities be afforded the opportunity to improve their lives through supportive technology.”

I applaud Ohio for this forward thinking, but I can’t help but wonder … why wasn’t Colorado the first state to do so?

The environment in our state is so perfect for reimagining how we can use technology to deliver services to our fellow citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Think about it.

Colorado is home to the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, which works to catalyze and integrate advances in technology that promote the quality of life of people with cognitive disabilities and their families. The Coleman Institute is also the force behind the official declaration of “The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access.”

Colorado is also home to Families at the Forefront of Technology, a “community where individuals, families, and providers come together to advance and enable technology for people with special needs.”

And I feel very justified in adding Imagine! and the work we do to the list of reasons why Colorado should have been the logical choice for Colorado to be the first state to adopt a technology first approach to I/DD services. In the past two decades, we’ve:

I could easily list more. And yet, Colorado has so far failed to officially recognize the idea that technology offers some of the best solutions and opportunities for ensuring our friends and neighbors with I/DD can continue to be active, contributing members of their communities.

Now, I don’t believe that if you’re not first, you’re last …



... so I hold out hope that Colorado, and our entire nation, will follow Ohio’s lead.

Who’s with me?

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Good News Friday!


Last month, Imagine!’s Out & About and Dayspring departments received a donation of ten Strider Bikes at the Strider World Cup Championship, held at Boulder’s Central Park.


Not only were the Strider folks incredibly generous with their donation, but Strider CEO Ryan McFarland even helped us load the bikes into our van!

Strider bikes are excellent for helping to teach some of the young children we serve who have physical and developmental disabilities to learn to ride, and to experience the joy and freedom that come with it. We are most appreciative to Strider for their continued generous support of Imagine! and our programs.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Imagine!’s website recently debuted two new features: an online Intake Application along with an interactive “Intake Roadmap” explaining the intake process in an easy to understand manner.

While this may seem like a simple undertaking, ensuring that the online application met the myriad of rules, regulations, and requirements for intake in Colorado’s Community Centered Board system meant there were many challenges and roadblocks along the way. But the result will make it easier and less stressful for families and individuals to get started down the path of receiving I/DD services, and that makes the effort so worthwhile. Thanks to all who worked so hard to make this happen!


Friday, August 3, 2018

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Out & About department is hosting its Fourth Annual Bike Block Party, sponsored by First National Bank, on August 18th, 11am-3pm, at Erie Community Park. You are invited to join us for what is sure to be a fun and inclusive event.

If you can’t join us but still want to participate, consider sponsoring a rider to help Out & About raise funds to support its efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families by providing positive instruction and community-based services within a therapeutic framework.

Check out the short video below to learn more, and click here to sponsor a rider!




Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Micah uses assistive technology to operate a blender during cooking class at Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source day program. He made pancakes!


Friday, July 27, 2018

Good News Friday!

From August 3-19, at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St in Boulder, Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source program is hosting an art exhibition. See original art in a variety of formats created by amazing Imagine! artists. There will be an opening reception on August 3, 5-7pm, with music and entertainment provided by individuals served by CORE/Labor Source. Hope to see you there!




Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Technology Tuesday


Author, poet, artist, presenter, self-advocate, and good friend of Imagine! Mandy Kretsch will be a member of a presentation panel Thursday, July 26, during Longmont Startup Week. Mandy will be part of a discussion entitled “The Inclusive Aspects of Multi-Generational Entrepreneurship.”

Techstars Startup Week is more than a conference, it’s a celebration. Startup Week brings entrepreneurs, local leaders, and friends together over five days to build momentum and opportunity around our community’s unique entrepreneurial identity.

The theme for Longmont Startup Week 2018 is “Smarter. Together.” Events and content throughout the week will focus on creators, commerce, capital, and community and will highlight Longmont as an entrepreneurial ecosystem for civic innovation. They are also focusing on diversity and have worked hard to include people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

All events are FREE to attend and provide outstanding learning and networking opportunities, so you are encouraged to attend and support Mandy.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Haircuts and Homogenization

If you join the US Army, you will be required to get a regulation haircut, even if you are the king of rock and roll.
 

The official explanation for the required short hair is that it makes it easier for soldiers to put on their gas masks. But an important underlying reason is to break down an individual soldier’s identity and impart the idea that the soldier is now part of a team, and indistinguishable from all the other members of the team except when it comes to rank.

That is sound logic for the purpose of the army, which is most effective when it operates as a machine, with every part of the machine working together toward a unified goal.

Applying that one-size-fits-all mentality to other aspects of life can be dangerous, however, and I fear that is where we are heading with the delivery of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

As regulations increase, we find that the options for people to find the services that best fit their needs, goals, and desires, shrink in proportion. This pattern has repeated itself over and over, especially during the last decade.

The thing is, people with I/DD aren’t one monolithic group with the exact same needs. This isn’t the army, and we’re not trying to create a machine. Quite the opposite. If you’ve met one person with an I/DD, you’ve met one person with an I/DD. Like all of us, every person with I/DD has his or her own set of needs, goals, and desires, and the best way to provide services is to have as much flexibility as possible so we can adjust to those unique needs, goals, and desires.

This isn’t some outlandish pipe dream I’m proposing. It can and has worked in the past. Right here at Imagine!, from our Autism Spectrum Disorder Program to our participation in a WaiverMarket pilot project, we have lots of data and evidence indicating that putting the decision making into the hands of families and people in services brings better outcomes. And it actually costs less than our current top heavy, heavily regulated system.

So let’s stop acting like every person with I/DD is exactly the same. We’re not the army dishing out short haircuts. We’re working to provide individuals real opportunities to become active, participating members of their communities. That takes flexibility, not rigidity.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Good News Friday!

The short video below discusses Hanen classes taught by Imagine! Dayspring therapists.
 

Learn more here

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Touring Imagine!’s SmartHome yesterday: new Imagine! Foundation Board member Meg McCellan and her husband Jim Barlow.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Out & About and Dayspring departments will be receiving a donation of ten Strider Bikes at the Strider World Cup Championship on July 20 at 6 PM, Central Park/Boulder Civic Area. The bikes are excellent for helping to teach some of the young children we serve to learn to ride and experience the joy and freedom that come with it, and we are most appreciative to Strider for their continued generous support of Imagine! and our programs.

You are invited to join us for an evening of fun. More details below.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Good News Friday!

I recently shared my experience of running my very first triathlon. I'm not the only Imagine! employee triathlete, however. Below is a story originally posted on our Imagine! Voices blog about the woman who first planted the seed in my mind, making me consider taking on this significant challenge. I love the story and it deserves to be shared. Heather is an inspiration. Please enjoy.

The IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. “No way” is a common response when talking about this race. Or, “why?” Why put your body through that for 15 straight hours, let alone all the training leading up to it? These are valid questions given the toll it takes on the body. Heather Forsyth, an Imagine! employee in our Early Intervention department, has a valid answer.

“When I turned 40, I was not in good health. I was not eating well and exhausted all the time,” said Heather. “I thought about my daughter, who has a developmental disability and was in high school at the time, and realized I needed to take better care of myself so I can be around to take care of her.” Heather started going to the gym and joined local exercise groups. She raced her first triathlon (sprint) in 2010. “It rekindled my love for running and being outside.” She kept it going and joined another fitness group in Boulder, whose members participated in longer races, and found herself doing the same: half marathons, marathons, and then the half Ironman.

“Then I said to myself, ‘you know what?’ Yeah, I want to do an Ironman.’”

She completed her first Ironman in summer of 2015. “It was my dream race and everything went as planned. I finished and was smiling ear to ear the entire time.”

Heather’s next two Ironmans did not have the same fairytale storyline. In 2016, she was injured during the swim, accidentally kicked by another swimmer, which made for a painful race. “I barely finished.”

In 2018, training season became tough as Heather’s life turned upside down. Her mother was back and forth in the hospital over the course of a year, and sadly passed away last November. To start the New Year, her daughter Meredith experienced a group of seizures in late January. And to top things off, in April, the main sewer line backed up into their condo and flooded the unit, completely damaging the tile, carpet, and bathroom fixtures.

“I thought about dropping out of the race.”

Heather approached her coaches, unsure of the race, and had a serious look on her face. One of her coaches suggested that it could still be done if she just tries to have fun. “You’re doing this for fun, right?” her coach asked.

“That’s when I realized I was letting everything in my life make the race NOT fun, but I do these races to help my life.” In refocusing her attitude, Heather began having fun again and committed to the June 10 race.

Race day arrived. The swim was peaceful and beautiful. She enjoyed the calm water and cool temperatures to start the day. On the bike, conditions were not so favorable. The temperature reached a high of 101 degrees and there was an 18% dropout rate for bikers being defeated by the dry climate.

“It was total carnage, people on the side of the road, barfing, being picked up by medics. You had to play it safe and ride at a slower pace.” Heather drank over 300 ounces of fluids on the bike thanks to her Camelback and the water stations. She also dumped a bottle of water over her head at every station. “It was that hot.” Along with the heat, Heather blistered her hand trying to stay upright in the wind, which also slowed her down.

Having entered the run later than she hoped, it became a race against the cutoff time. Because she had to ramp up her training in the last two months, her knee and ankle were sore and her pace per mile dragged.

“Packing in all that training took a toll on my cranky ankle,” she laughs. More than halfway into the run, Heather arrived at a checkpoint past the cutoff time.

With the option to sign a waiver and keep going, she recalled something her mother had once said, “Always remember, I know you love doing this, but make sure you can always do it another day.” With both her knee and ankle in pain, she decided to call it quits at mile 15.5 and said to herself, “I’ll be back.”

“I’m never going to be fast enough to be on a podium. I’m competing against myself and trying to better myself. It’s not always about time.”

With another Ironman in the books, Heather answers the inevitable question, “why?”

“It gives me time to think through things and work out the rest of my life.” Heather lets out a laugh, “When I have a race on calendar, our family’s life is so much more organized. No race, not so organized. Training brings me a sense of peace and calm that I can’t get anywhere else. It makes me a better person, a better mom, better wife, better worker.”

Heather admits that prior to joining fitness and exercise groups back in 2010, she and her husband isolated themselves socially and did not have many friends. “I met this whole group of people through training that created a social outlet that I haven’t had for about 15 years.”  Outside of training, their families get together for camping trips and other gatherings. Heather’s friends now go out of their way to hang out with Meredith so that Heather can get a training or race in. “It’s been a wonderful thing.”

Why do something so challenging and time consuming? Heather asked herself the same question several years ago and in turn, found her sweet spot. “I’m in phenomenal shape, I feel better, I have more energy. There are so many pluses.” Not to mention lifelong friends and the infinite supply of life lessons. In a way, the Ironman race ended up being the answer to all that she hoped for.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Lessons Learned From An Ironman – Part II

I have already shared one of my key takeaways from my IRONMAN 140.6 Boulder experience that I believe can be applied to our work at Imagine!. Today I’d to share another takeaway, and I’ll start with the video that got me started in the first place:
 

The video was sent to me in January, right after I committed to a coach and formal training, to get me inspired and moving down the correct path. It worked. The video made it clear that accomplishing something as difficult and challenging as an Ironman started with establishing the idea that the difficult thing could in fact be accomplished. Even if my goal of completing the race seemed extraordinary, I believed it could be done, made it public that I planned to do it, and set out on a course to make it happen.

I think we need to take more of that approach when considering how we create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). It is far too easy to assume that some of the individuals we serve can’t do ordinary things, let alone extraordinary things, and far too often we design our services with expectations that are way too low.

I think we need to be bolder when we’re considering what people with I/DD can accomplish, and raise our own expectations. I am proud of my Ironman experience, but to be clear, it wasn’t an impossible task. It was difficult, and it took planning and training and discipline and hard work, but it wasn’t out of reach for me and my fellow racers.

Why can’t we look at services the same way? Start out by establishing that we want the people we serve to do the extraordinary, and put it out there that they in fact can, and will, do the extraordinary with the right supports. Then, working together with the individual and his or her support team, do the planning, training, sacrificing, and hard work to make the extraordinary a reality.

I understand that this approach isn’t easy, but lyrics from the song featured in the video above (and again in the video below) really hit home for me: “You can run the mile/You can walk straight through hell with a smile.
 

I ran much of my race with a smile, even though it was difficult and occasionally painful, because I knew that the end result would be so meaningful. There’s no reason we can’t do the same when we are working to create a world of opportunities for abilities, and opening doors to self-reliance and true community participation. Even if it is difficult and intermittently painful, we can do it with a smile because we know if we succeed we will be accomplishing something extraordinary. We’re selling ourselves and our communities short if we don’t do everything we can to reach for the amazing and unexpected possibilities that exist for people with I/DD.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Good News Friday!


David Park is entering his senior year at Monarch High School this fall, and is also on the verge of receiving his Eagle Scout Rank through the Boy Scouts of America. To achieve this rank, every Scout must complete a service project, and David chose to partner with Imagine! for his project.

David’s sister, Gina, has been receiving services from Imagine! for over a decade. “Imagine! has given so much to Gina and our family that I wanted to give back,” said David. “They provided a platform to help Gina and that really struck a chord with me. She learned how to express her emotions better, helping us understand her needs.”

Imagine! provided Gina and her family a platform, and in turn, David literally provided Imagine! a platform by way of a refurbished second level deck at the Boulder CORE/Labor Source (CLS) site. After several meetings and a year of collaboration, David felt this was his best way of giving back.

“My Scout Master suggested that this project would be too big and he recommended I pick something else. But I saw how badly it needed repair and felt that it would have the biggest impact on services at Imagine!.” David recruited a total of 20 boy scouts and parents to help out.

“It was a labor of love on David’s part,” said Jeff Rodarti, CLS Coordinator.

David and his crew stripped the old and rusted baseboards and fencing, then CLS staff members gutted the mud and junk that was resting underneath the boards. The next three weekends involved all the construction and assembly. One weekend, David and his dad built and installed the railing on their own.

After four full weekends of hard work, David and his volunteers finished a job that was predicted to be too big of a task. David and Jeff Rodarti were determined to see this project through, putting in countless hours of preparation and labor.

“We are very grateful to David for his time and effort,” said Rodarti. “Not only was the old deck an eyesore, but it was slowly becoming a safety risk.” The counselors have already taken advantage of the new space, using it to complete documentation or make phone calls. The coordinators plan to schedule staff development activities on the new deck as well.

"If feels great to see the project finished," said David. "I learned how to be more flexible and that not everything will work out as planned." David has only a few merit badges to go before receiving his Eagle Scout Rank. "The hard part is over." The endless hours of planning and constructing are in the books, and Imagine! is grateful for his service.    




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Systemic Hypocrisy

I think we can all agree that we’re living in a very unusual and contentious era in our country’s history. One indicator of the level of anger can be measured by the accusations of hypocrisy coming from both sides of the political arena, each directed at the other side.

This post isn’t about those charges of political hypocrisy. However it does make an interesting backdrop for today’s subject.

I’d like to talk about what I have come to see as systemic hypocrisy in the field of providing services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). I use the term systemic hypocrisy because I don’t believe it is driven by any one person, but instead, by a system that fails to recognize a clear contradiction in what we understand is our shared vision and the way we go about realizing that vision.

Our training requirements are massive – we do all sorts of background checks and training for our employees and volunteers, a good deal of it mandated by the State. And a good deal of those mandates don’t come with funds to cover their costs. Our reporting requirements are equally large and burdensome. Now, you may be reading this and thinking “sure, but it keeps the people we serve safe” or “it’s the only way to entrust Medicaid expenditure.” But here’s where the systemic hypocrisy comes in.

When we talk to families and the people we serve about what they want, one overriding theme comes up again and again: they want to be treated like everyone else. They want to be part of their neighborhoods. They want to engage with friends and families; contribute, shop, worship, explore, and learn just like everyone else. Heaven forbid a person engaging anyone who hasn’t had a background check, or received hours of training in how to react and report about their specific interaction – down to the 15-minute interval.

Unfortunately, so much of the training we provide, and so many of the regulations we operate under, are about what we can’t do. Those can’t dos add up after a while, and the result is fewer opportunities for the individuals we serve to become active, contributing members of their communities.

The hypocrisy is that most people in our field would absolutely agree that the vision we have is natural community membership; living in a neighborhood where people look out for one another, having a career, building relationships and establishing a legacy. How does this happen when our system has lifted the incredible regulatory environment of institutional settings from generations ago, and then dropped that same environment into our very neighborhoods. Who thinks like this?

But here’s the thing - heavy regulations and full community participation just don’t go together, and I believe it is hypocritical to ignore that basic fact of life in our field. We work with people who often have a difficult time understanding and communicating, and families who are overburdened and stressed. Instead of making a easier path for them, or for the organizations supporting them, we have layers and layers of rules, regulations, and bureaucracies that make everything more difficult and contradictory than it needs to be.

What do we want in the end? Natural supports helping people with I/DD to live in our neighborhoods, and who are able to work, volunteer, be creative, and contribute to our communities. Despite our best efforts, we have systemic hypocrisy which severely hampers our efforts to bring our shared vision to life.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Good News Friday!

Ian, who receives services from Imagine!, is a very talented artist. With the support of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) department, Ian takes a unique approach to his art. He starts with a white canvas. He chooses colors using an iPad and CLS staff members mix the color into a spray bottle. Ian fills all the white space, emptying bottle after bottle. Once the canvas is full of color, he adds texture by spraying splashes of gold, silver, and other bright colors. What’s with the hazmat suit, you may ask? Once the spray and squirt bottles became Ian’s tools of choice, the suit, goggles, and tarps granted him the freedom to be as creative (and messy) as he wanted to be.

Check out the time lapse video below to see Ian in action.
 

If you are interested in seeing more great art by individuals served by Imagine!, visit our Etsy page: etsy.com/people/ImagineColorado 

And learn more about Ian from this article from the Longmont Times-Call.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lesson Learned From An Ironman

Two Sundays ago, I completed the IRONMAN 140.6 Boulder.

The entire experience, from the very first days of training to the moment I crossed the finish line, was rich in lessons and takeaways that I believe can be applied to other aspects of my life. Today I’d like to share one of those lessons.

As soon as I began the process of training, I was surprised to discover the degree to which planning ahead was necessary. Diet planning, equipment, advice, training schedules, figuring out how to find the time to get workouts in while juggling work and family requirements. I was very consistent with sticking to the plans because that was the likely path to success.

But of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and my Ironman experience was no different. Leading up to the race, I experienced leg issues that at points made me wonder if I would be able to compete at all. Even worse, about four days before the race, the weather forecast indicated that it was going to be hot. Like, Colorado State record-breaking hot.

So as race day loomed, a lot of my planning went out the window and I had to adjust. I started slamming fluids (the healthy kind) at a much higher rate then I initially would have been drinking. I increased my salt intake as well, all to make sure my body was ready for the heat. Once the race started, and the weather forecast was proven correct, I made sure that I stopped at each water/food/aid station and replenished my fluids, as well as pouring a generous amount of water over my head each time and throwing ice cubes down my back to manage core body temperature. My initial plan to skip some of the stations to get a better overall finishing time went out the window.

Much of the race itself felt like a modification of my initial planning as well. My leg had never quite healed, so during the marathon I ran at a pace and a gait designed to minimize the pain but were not conducive to meeting my planned finish. When confronted with the question at mile 10, “How are you doing?” My response was, “I’m managing.” During the bike portion, especially, I was hyperaware of any signs of cramping and had salt products and electrolytes at the ready to ward off the cramps.

These adjustments worked, and I finished smiling, weary and uncomfortable but all in one piece. The experience exceeded my overall expectations.


When I reflect on the days leading up to the race and the race itself, I am aware that so much of what I was doing was “management.” Things didn’t go as planned, and adjustments were necessary for success. And I realized, to a degree that I hadn’t quite appreciated before, how much “management” means being able to adjust to new and unexpected circumstances.

The same is true at Imagine!, of course. If everything always went to plan, we wouldn’t have much need for managers. Planners, yes, but managers, no. Obviously things don’t always go to plan, despite our best intentions. Furthermore, so much of what impacts our work is out of our control (rates, rules and regulations, for just a couple of examples), making it absolutely vital that we have managers in place who are skilled at adjusting on the fly to new and unforeseen challenges and roadblocks. Those are the finer elements of management.

So today I offer a tip of the hat to those managers and supervisors at Imagine! who consciously and unconsciously embrace this key aspect of their roles at our organization, and pledge to support them as they adjust and manage while working to meet our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Then again, what do I know?