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INK Spring 2008, Issue 28

A True Inspiration When I was originally asked to write an article about Joseph Akmakjian‘s social action and acclaim, my first thought was about Joe‘s role in bringing Fort Collins its first universally accessible playground off of Horsetooth Road and Taft Hill. However, upon sitting down and talking with Joe I realized that his work with the playground was much more than helping to create a space for kids of all abilities, it was a place where differences could be acknowledged yet transcended and where an inclusive community could begin. Joe became involved with the development of the Inspiration Playground over three years ago when he was approached by then mayor, Ray Martinez. Ray was familiar with Joe‘s long history of public speaking, his experience with fundraising, and, most importantly, his dedication to helping others. Joe said that his public work really began about ten years ago when he and his family started working with the Colorado chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He is currently the Inside this Issue: Colorado State Goodwill AmInk Spots 2 bassador for the Muscular Dystrophy AssociaReaching 3 tion, or as Joe humbly stated, ―I New am basically a Heights poster-child for A Little 5 the organization Dust in Colorado.‖ However, doing 7 Volunteer over 200 presenFeature

By: Matt Cloven tations in front groups large and small, 150 interviews, and 70 television appearances can hardly be considered merely ―a poster-child.‖ When asked to present for an event with the MDA Joe said that he mainly talks about what the Muscular Dystrophy Association is and why it was so important to give, such as the need to support the summer camp program where kids living with MD are able to ―go on vacation,‖ which may not be an option for them otherwise. Joe said that his Joe at his home in Fort interest in helping with the much this could benefit his Inspiration Playground goes back to community, especially bringing tohis childhood when he and his family gether both able and disable bodied would go to a local park, but because kids. ―What is so amazing about it is Joe was in a wheelchair he could not that little kids, or adults, both typical play on the structures like many of the kids and disabled people can play toother kids his age. He said that he gether, and it can break down a lot of would sit on the side of the playthe barriers between them.‖ ground at watch everyone play, which Emphasizing the importance was annoying and boring. ―I would sit of inclusion, Joe told a story that when with the adults and talk about polihe was younger his mom owned a tics….So I never really got to experipreschool where Joe spent a lot of ence parks.‖ His mom, Sylvia, would time. When Joe started kindergarten try to take him on slides, but he said he stopped going to the preschool and that because he did not have a lot of did not see a lot of his younger friends muscle control in his legs, he would for a while. Sometime later, mom and generally get hurt. Eventually the fam- Joe were picking up his younger sister ily and some of Joe‘s friends quit gofrom the pre-school and Joe wanted to ing to the parks. go inside to visit some of his old So when Joe was asked to help bring friends. When Joe went in he said his an accessible playground to Fort friends were staring at him and they Collins, he personally knew how asked, ―Why is Joe in a Continued on page 4

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S By Tim O’Neill Executive Director

Over the summer of 2007 a number of Legislators met to discuss the increasing needs of people waiting for services through the Community Centered Board system in Colorado. A legislative interim committee was established to analyze what could be done to address the 7,500 people with developmental disabilities who are currently waiting for needed supports. Finally, after years of placing this issue before state officials, the pressure of rapidly increasing waiting lists motivated the legislature to take the steps necessary to address the growing needs. As a result of six very intensive and substantive meetings, which incorporated testimony of parents, family members, advocates and system personnel, some twenty alternatives were proposed to address the needs of people with developmental/cognitive disabilities. Throughout the process of discussing the merits of each proposal, the legislative interim committee made decisions on those ideas that could be developed into legislative bills. Seven draft bills emerged from the process which, if passed, would provide relief to the system currently stressed by under funding and growing unmet needs. A list of those draft bills follows: ―Preference in State Contracts for Entities that Employ Persons with De-

velopmental Disabilities‖-this bill would increase opportunities for individuals who wish to work and creates flexibility for organizations and businesses that wish to help improve the quality of supported employment in Colorado; ―State Employment Program for Persons with Developmental Disabilities‖-this bill would strengthen supported employment in Colorado and it encourages the state to be an active participant in expanding opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities who want to have meaningful jobs; ―Family Caregiver Developmentally Disabled‖-this bill would provide families with the option of having loved ones receive services in the family home and to have qualified family members provide those services;

allocating new state dollars to create additional resources for the developmental disabilities waiting list each year. This bill would make funding the waiting list a priority for the legislature, along with other mandatory budgetary increases; ―Developmentally Disabled Wait ing List Navigator‖-this bill would provide resources for the provision of sup―Medicaid Buy In Disabled Perports to parents and families who are oversons‖-this bill provides individuals in whelmed by the challenges of life and the services the opportunity to buy into Medicomplexity of the developmental disabilities caid. This would allow the individual system. Navigators would assist families greater flexibility within their benefits and by directing them to other community regreater opportunities to hold a job or adsources while waiting for services through vance in employment; the Community Centered Board system; ―Employment Outcomes Funding System for Persons with Developmen- We are excited about the potential of tal Disabilities‖-this bill would enhance these bills providing needed support the resources available for individuals to people who are waiting for services. with developmental disabilities who wish Foothills Gateway will continue to to work, and improve the overall flexibility monitor the status of these legislative and quality of supported employment in bills as well as other legislation that Colorado; could potentially impact services to ―Increasing State Funding for Ser- individuals with disabilities and will vices for Persons with Developmental post developments and updates on our Disabilities‖-this bill would prioritize web site:

The Foothills Gateway Ink Staff Reporters: Pat Ca rney, J im Cox, Erin Eulenf eld, Dia na Fola nd, Ja n Irvin, Sondra Lee, Tim O‘Neill, April Rikhoff, Judy Tomcak, Tina Yoke If you have a ny questions or comments regarding this newsletter, plea se conta ct us a t (970) 226 -2 345 or info@foothillsga tewa

Spring 2008, Issue 28

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Do you have a Give-Ability?

By: Diana Foland

“I have an employ-ability”

“I have an impact-ability”

“I have a love-ability”

“I have a trust-ability” “I have a support-ability”

“I have a dream-ability” “I have an empower-ability”

On November 30, 2007, at our 35th Anniversary Celebration we officially kicked off the ―I have a Give-Ability‖ fund raising campaign. Over the next year, we want to raise $350,000 to help us grow and provide the best possible programs and services.

“I have a hire-ability” and achieve their maximum potential. However, there are nearly 300 people on the waiting list in need of this support.

By raising additional funds and building greater awareness for Foothills Gateway, we can greatly help the numCurrently, Foothills Gateway helps ber of people waiting for service and more than 1,100 people and their fami- increase our reach in the community. lies through support programs and By giving as little as $35, you can make services such as training, supported a significant difference in the lives of employment, housing, transportation, our clients and empower every ability. early childhood connections and family support services. By providing op- How to make a donation: The easiest portunities that empower every ability, way to donate using a credit card is by we help our clients conquer challenges visiting our web site at and clicking on the ―I have a give-ability‖ icon. This will connect you with Black-tie Colorado, a secure website designed for giving. Or, people can donate directly to Foothills Gateway by calling 970.266.5316, or sending a check made out to Foothills Gateway to: Foothills Gateway, Inc., 301 W. Skyway Drive, Fort Collins, CO 80525. Be sure to write ―I have a give ability‖ in the memo line, so we can acknowledge your contribution to this campaign.

You can also assist by volunteering at Foothills Gateway and by remembering Foothills Gateway in your will, trust, life insurance policy or retirement plan. Call 970.266.5316 to learn about all your options.

Reaching New Heights

By: Laura Ebner Last summer, seven women challenged themselves to try something new. This group of clients spent a day at the CSU Challenge Course. The event was organized as a partnership with the Challenge Course staff. The staff received training from Foothills Gateway about individuals with developmental disabilities and in turn Foothills received a reduced rate at the course. All activities were designed specifically for this group with the purpose of fostering confidence and assertiveness. The day started with some simple elements that were low to the ground.

The women were encouraged to work together to solve problems and reach a common goal. In one activity, all seven women were asked to stand on a giant platform that rocked back and forth. The women had to decide who would stand in what position on the platform to create balance and keep both ends in the air. Everyone was excited and proud when the platform balanced evenly over the ground. The most challenging element was a log suspended 40 feet in the air. Many of the women were scared and did not want to attempt this Continued on page 5 part of the course.

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Please Don’t Mind our Dust Beginning in December 2007, Foothills Gateway started undergoing some minor renovation to the building. Foothills Gateway just celebrated its 35th anniversary, and has had the benefit of having a building that has housed both administration and day program for all those years. The building has held up well but is in need of repair and updating. Foothills Gateway should be a nice place for clients, families, and staff to come to for program, meetings and work.

By: Erin Eulenfeld and April Rikhoff (conference room tables/chairs; program area tables, chairs, lockers), and a few areas will have new walls. We will also be updating the lighting in most areas to be more energy efficient. Foothills Gateway has contracted with Associates in Building and Design (ABD) to help us with our remodel. A Larimer County company, they have worked with our staff to choose paint colors, chair fabrics, carpeting/ linoleum and other finishes that will help update Foothills Gateway and make it a more pleasant place.

nasium for client program areas. Parking will be difficult during the renovation since the modulars will take up most of the east parking lot. As a result, staff and visitors have had to use the north parking lot. We realize on busy days, parking has been problematic, and we appreciate your patience!


than even able-bodied people.‖ Joe acknowledges that much of what he has done he could not have done alone. He knows that his mom, Sylvia, his two sisters, and his many friends have always been his support, and continue to encourage him by making presentations with him, and helping him promote and participate in all the events that keep him so busy. Joe said that his mom has never been the type of mom to say, ―No, Joe cannot do that.‖ Instead she has said, ―Let‘s find a way for Joe to do that.‖ It is this attitude that has been instilled in Joe and continues to help him develop into the amazing and compassionate young man that he has become.

As our remodel progresses, we will keep everyone apprised of the progress and the potential impact the various phases of the renovation could have on clients, staff and visitors. We In 2006, Foothills Gateway was the encourage you to visit our website recipient of donated dollars that were Obviously any type of remodel im( as this earmarked by the Board of Directors to pacts a workplace, and Foothills Gate- will be the place to get the most up- tospruce up the building. The Board of way presents some unique challenges. date information. Should you have Directors was concerned with the apThe remodel is being done in phases in any questions regarding this process, pearance and deterioration of the an effort to minimize the impact on do not hesitate to contact us at (970) building, especially in the older secclients, staff and visitors. Some case 226-2345 or at tions of the building (the reception management and administration staff . area) and in the client program areas. will be temporarily moved to modulars during their phase of remodel. Generally, the spruce up will include The modulars have been placed in the new flooring (carpeting or linoleum), east parking lot. When we spruce up painting, some new furnishings the client areas, we will use the gym-

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wheelchair?‖ Mom answered, ―He has always been in a wheelchair.‖ Joe explained that his friends ―never saw the wheelchair before because they were always around it ever since they could remember.‖ For Joe this story emphasizes the importance of the new fully accessible playground. ―If moms and parents take their kids to this park and they play with other children, the other children won‘t notice it as much, and when they are older they won‘t be afraid of wheelchairs or walkers, or what ever.‖ Joe said that if the ablebodied kids or adults notice that a kid is in a wheelchair, the inclusive atmosphere and structure of the playground will open the opportunity for more people to see past differences, where they can play together and talk to each

As Joe looks to the future he sees himself remaining in the spotlight for a while longer. He is currently focused on becoming the National Ambassador for the MDA, a position that would place him beside Jerry Lewis, and potentially allow him to be a guest on the Tyra Banks, Oprah, and Ellen Degeneres shows. When I asked Joe if he had one message that he would like to share with everyone he replied, ―I would say ‗Why not?‘ If you want to do something and you have a passion for it, just do it. It may take some time to build up the courage but it is definitely worth it. You have to try things, and you cannot let a little thing like this disability hold you back…cause I have experienced so many more things

Spring 2008, Issue 28

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From a Parent’s Perspective

Heather and Bart Schichtel are the parents of Samantha, a beautiful one year old girl who receives Early Intervention Services through Foothills Gateway, Larimer County‘s Early Childhood Connections. Samantha is also on the waitlist for the Family Support Services program and the HCBS Children‘s Medicaid Waiver. The Schichtel family has been involved with FGI since February of 2007. They found out about FGI from a social worker at Children‘s Hospital when Samantha was admitted to Children‘s a year ago. Heather describes her first interactions with Foothills Gateway as ―Everyone was so responsive and Samantha kept getting really sick so we had to move

By: Susan Welchans things around a lot. The assessment team came to our house so we wouldn‘t have to take her out which was fabulous.‖ Samantha doesn‘t have a specific diagnosis but she has global delays and has seizures. She used to have Infantile Spasms, which Heather describes as ―kind of like TV static; there is constant disruption in the brain.‖ Thankfully, Samantha does not have infantile spasms anymore. In fact, Samantha‘s seizures have decreased greatly since her family started her on the Ketogenic diet in August and the last time she needed an emergency seizure med was on New Year‘s, which is something Samantha‘s family is very happy about. Samantha‘s family has a team of providers that they work with through the Early Intervention program and Heather says, ―they are not afraid to dive right in and push Samantha, which is great because it is easy to coddle her maybe more than we should.‖ Heather explained that she likes the parent education model of the Early Intervention program because she and Bart and Samantha‘s

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There were exclamations of ―I can‘t do that!‖ and ―No way!‖ when the course staff pointed to the log. Before starting on her way up to the top, each woman set a goal of how far she would be comfortable climbing. Although not everyone made it to the top and across the log, everyone exceeded their personal goals despite their fear and discomfort. At the end of the day everyone was tired but proud. Being at the Challenge Course gave these women tangible experiences of success and accom-

plishment. They were challenged physically and mentally to push past fear and believe in their ability to succeed.

Grandmas, can use the strategies they are learning from Samantha‘s providers all the time during their daily routines, ―It takes a lot of commitment on the parents‘ part but it is nice to be able to do.‖ Heather says that her experience with Foothills Gateway has been very positive and likes the consistency in her services and the people she works with, ―Foothills has been great with hooking us up with rest of the community.‖ Heather, along with another parent, has started the Unified Playgroup, a group open to children of all ages and abilities. They meet every 4th Friday at Everyday Joe‘s in Ft.Collins from 10-12. Heather explained that even parents‘ whose kids are at school are welcome to come and have a cup of coffee and talk to the other members of the group. For more information about the playgroup, you can contact Heather at (970) 669-5007 or Brenda Tuttle at (970) 267-8705. Samantha is making good progress and her family continues to be great advocates for her! For more information about Samantha and her family, you can access Heather‘s blog at

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Success In Supported Employment Jennifer B. is making Panera Bread in Fort Collins an even nicer place to dine. Lunchtimes buzz with Jennifer greets customers with a smile! diners enjoying food and conversation. Prompt seating depends on fast, efficient table cleanups. Jennifer cordially provides this service contributing to a pleasant lunch for Panera customers. Before Jennifer started in this position, the dining area was maintained by other employees that might be able to spare a few moments from other duties. Restaurant staff don‘t have much idle time during lunch hours, so consistent cleanup was a challenge. Shelley Ward, a Career Consultant with Foothills Gateway‘s Supported Employment, noticed this problem and had a solution. Shelley contacted store manager, Leigh Hinojosa, and proposed creation of a stand-alone position for a dining room attendant. Leigh recognized a practical solution to handle the need for fast, friendly, efficient table cleanups during lunchtime rush periods. Shelley then brought job-seeking Foothills Gateway clients to Panera for tryouts. This gave Panera management an opportunity to evaluate candidates‘ onthe-job capabilities before making a hiring decision. Jennifer‘s outstanding performance made her an obvious choice. Leigh rates Jennifer highly for the essential qualities of ability, attitude, and dependability. In taking the opportunity to hire Jennifer for this position, Leigh‘s message to other employees is -Management recognizes the importance of the work you do. We want to

help you do your best, and are willing to provide staff for peripheral tasks, to enable you to concentrate on your primary functions. And this tells Panera customers -We appreciate your choice of our restaurant, and want to make your total experience here the best we can. The white chef‘s jacket Ryan D. wears at work only serves to enhance his natural sense of dignity. In his new job Ryan ensures things sparkle at Ovations Catering, Ryan emanates a sense of calm, focused efficiency. His work in the dish area provides Ovations‘ chefs with sparkling clean cooking utensils, and wait staff with spotless dinnerware and silver.

By: Jim Cox helped Ryan off to a solid start with this prestigious catering service. Earle‘s Loveland Floral is a thriving business, located on the Northeast side of Loveland, and in this business that caters to the romantic, there‘s a manager who shows a lot of love for other people. Kathi Lind had already forged a valuable community link with a Loveland High School, offering career training and mentoring to students. When Kathi was asked to consider hiring a client through Foothills Gateway Supported Employment, she saw an opportunity to take care of some of the routine tasks in the shop, and to ―give back‖ to society.

Accompanied by a Foothills Gateway Job Coach, Janell met Kathi at the store, and had a work Catering is tough, high stress work. ―tryout‖. The Ryan has a strikingly infectious smile, job coach and Janell takes time to “smell the roses” and his good-natured calmness of Janell were manner is a soothing influence for his given the opportunity to perform some fellow workers. It may be hard to sit of the more routine tasks that typically down for a break in the middle of pre- took other employees away from more paring a gourmet meal for 200, but one productive duties. look at Ryan‘s even-keeled demeanor lends a little healthy perspective. After seeing Janell in action, Kathi hired her. Janell learned quickly and Marco, Ryan‘s supervisor, is very was soon expanding her duties to ashappy with his new employee. Ryan sisting with flower arranging. shows up, does his job, has a good atti- Kathi believes in abilities. Her ―Can tude, gets along with his fellow emDo‖ attitude is contagious, and Janell ployees, and is universally well-liked. has truly blossomed in this setting. Marco is also happy with the SupHaving trained a number of high ported Employment staff from Footschool students in floral arranging, hills Gateway, who have worked Kathi now has the goal of teaching the alongside Ryan, helping him learn his trade to Janell. If her current progress new job, and make the transition to is any indicator, Janell is growing in independent community employment. skills and self-confidence. She is fulfillNicole Paschis, with occasional week- ing her dream of finding a meaningful end backup from Gerry Mortellaro, has job in the community.

Spring 2008, Issue 28

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Not Your Typical Volunteer Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. – Mother Teresa This is a quote Sunita Noronha shared with me when I sat down with her to interview her about her volunteer experiences in Foothills Gateway‘s retirement room. She said this is how she views volunteering, making that personal connection. She certainly has done that in the time she has spent with the clients in the room. Sunita said she has spent the last year or so getting to know the individuals in the room, earning their trust and gaining credibility in their eyes. During this time she has learned the interests of each client, what activities they like to participate in and plans weekly activities around these interests. Sunita has drawn on her knowledge as a teacher and uses this experience to enrich the lives of the clients she spends time with weekly. Sunita shops at various thrift stores for books that she brings in for clients and reads to them. She always has a ―brain teaser‖ quiz to keep them on their toes and to bring a little variety into the room. Sunita plays ―memory‖ with clients along with other card games and is always willing to put together a jigsaw puzzle. Sunita shared with me more about some of the personal connections she has made with clients. One woman,

By: April Rikhoff

who is blind, asked Sunita to write letters for her that could go to her family and friends. Sunita said these were the most kind, loving, thoughtful letters she had ever heard. This woman has now moved, but spending time with her has sparked Sunita to dictate letters or cards for other clients in the room. Sunita also made another connection with a gentleman who didn‘t necessarily want to interact with her when she first started volunteering. Soon Sunita found that this man would work on jigsaw puzzles with her and the two worked on a few of them together. He doesn‘t want to participate in this activity anymore, so Sunita will have to find a different activity for him, a challenge she is sure to conquer. She plans to bring in a globe and teach the room about geography or bring in simple science experiments – perhaps one of these activities will peak his interests. Sunita had never volunteered with individuals with cognitive disabilities prior to Foothills Gateway. She wanted to do something in the community and decided to give this a try. She said that she sees their abilities rather than their disabilities. Every time she leaves here from her volunteer shift, she leaves happier than she did when she came in that day. She appreciates all the diversity offered at

Foothills Gateway Board of Directors Brinna Allen Sheryl Ayers Jim Disney, President Linda Drees, Vice President Mark Durand, Treasurer Jan Havener Allen Kling Scott Roos Gregg Seebohm Craig Stirn Romie Tobin Carol Ward, Secretary Doris “Punkie” Whitely

Foothills Gateway and equates that to a garden. If there was only one type of flower, we would only have one fragrance, color, shape, etc. With diversity, we have a beautiful garden. Sunita said that she meets a number of

Sunita and Mary Ellen enjoy a game

good people at Foothills Gateway. ―There is a lot of potential in every human being, so much love and caring that goes on. It enriches the human experience.‖ She is impressed by how supportive clients are with one another. She has noticed they give each other encouragement to do tasks and will assist each other when needed, a true example of how we all should be. Sunita is such a wonderful asset to the room and clients and staff look forward to the day the she volunteers. She is making a difference in so many lives, person to person.

Foothills Gateway Foundation Board of Directors Nyla Anderson Travis Barhaug Mitch Burroughs John Clagett, Treasurer Ken Deines Vera Kirkpatrick Carl Maxey Jay McCoy, Secretary Ted Shepard Brian Sullivan, President Bob Toomey, Vice President Don Yohon

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage Paid Fort Collins, CO Permit No. 483

301 W. Skyway Drive Fort Collins, CO 80525 Phone: 970-226-2345 Fax: 970-226-2613 Email: Website:

FOOTNOTES Calendar of Upcoming Events March—May 2008 March Mar 3 Mar 6 Mar 17-21 Mar 27

Annual Meeting—7:00 p.m. @ Foothills Gateway Transition Series Presentation on Employment—6:00-8:00 p.m. @ Front Range Spring Break - FGI will be closed Foothills Gateway Foundation Board Meeting—4 :00 p.m. @ Foothills Gateway

April 9 April 10 April 15 April 18 April 24 April 26

Taste of Loveland Fundraiser—6:00 p.m. @ The Ranch Transition Series Presentation on SSI—6:00-8:00 p.m. @ Front Range Board of Directors Meeting—7:00 p.m. @ Foothills Gateway Spring Intermission—FGI will be closed Foothills Gateway Foundation Board Meeting—4:00 p.m. @ Foothills Gateway Kitchen Kaper Fundraiser—10:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m. @ various homes in the area

May 9 May 20 May 22 May 26

Staff Inservice Day—FGI will be closed Board of Directors Meeting—7:00 p.m. @ Foothills Gateway Foothills Gateway Foundation Board Meeting—4:00 p.m. @ Foothills Gateway Memorial Day—FGI will be closed



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Foothills Gateway Ink Newsletter  

Foothills Gateway Ink Newsletter Spring 2008

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