PHOTO BY MICHELLE HERDLICK
INTRODUCING CALISTA FOUTS… …Disability Advocate & Social Media Influencer NOVEMBER 2022
(6) Sponsor Index (10) Important Community Connections (14) The Special Needs Living Magazine Team (15) Special Needs Living November Issue Contributors (18) Community Event: BZTAT Studios (20) Meet Calista Fouts…Disability Advocate & Social Media Influencer (23) Parent Perspective: Kylie (24) Community Employment Success Spotlight: Dee-Dee Miller (26) Youth Feature: Clayton Leitzke (29) Pictures Say Thousands of Words…about Maleah Jackson (30) Professional Perspective: Jeff Hall (32) Family Feature: Eric and Becky (34) Sponsor Spotlight: Wings of Change Therapy (37) Community Support & Resources: Author Elaine Bender (38) Non-Profit Spotlight: Siffrin (40) World Elite Idols: Bright Lights and Big Smiles (45) Community Impact Q&A: Angela Russell (48) Final Take
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 5 Issue Preview
Advertising Inquiries Rick Miller
Content Nominations Mike Sturdivant
Scan the QR Code to Like, Subscribe or Nominate:
World Elite Idols: Bright Lights and Big Smiles
Pictures Say Thousands of Words … about Maleah Jackson
Community Employment Success Spotlight: Dee-Dee Miller
Youth Feature: Clayton Leitzke
Author Elaine Bender’s
I AM EXCEPTIONAL
Family Feature: Eric and Becky
Sponsor Spotlight: Wings of Change Therapy Nonprofit Spotlight: Siffrin
Social Media Influencer
Facebook (@snl.cak) Instagram (special_needs_cak)
This section is here to give our readers easier access when searching for a trusted neighborhood partner to use. Get to know the businesses who make this magazine possible. Please support them in return and thank them if you get the chance!
Applied Behavioral Connections
Kristen Maple (330) 309-3133
ACCESSIBILITY & SAFETY MODIFICATIONS
JTEK Solutions Group, LLC
Jared Chevraux (330) 323-0943 www.jtekgroup.com
ACT PREP & TUTORING
Bright Minds Learning Academy
5368 Fulton Dr. NW
Canton, OH 44646 (330) 966-7226 www.brightmindsla.us
ADULT DAY SUPPORT
Premier Approach, LLC
Christian Manns (330) 312-6909 www.facebook.com/PremierApproachLLC
DogWatch of Northeast Ohio Donnie Myers (330) 915-6036 www.dogwatchneo.com
BZTAT Studios, LLC (330) 371-3150 www.bztatstudios.com
Vogelgesang Family Wellness & Chiropractic Center (330) 818-1212 www.vogelgesangfamilychiropracticinc.com
First Christian Church (330) 456-2600 www.firstchristian.com
The Chapel Green Amy Troyer (330) 315-5501 www.facebook.com/greenspecialneeds
Whole Latte Love Cafe (234) 360-2233 www.wholelattelovecafe.org
COUNTY DISABILITIES BOARD
Stark Board of Developmental Disabilities Lisa Parramore (330) 479-3934 www.starkdd.org
Once Upon A Daycare Rosie Ebner (330) 990-1466 www.onceuponadaycare.org
Once Upon A Daycare (330) 990-1466
DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY CARE
Easterseals Northern Ohio Conor McGarvey (234) 417-0250 www.easterseals.com/noh
6 November 2022
Mon: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM | Tue: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Wed: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM Thu: Closed | Fri: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM | Sat: Closed | Sun: Closed Vogelgesang Family Chiropractic Inc. 7266 Portage Street | Suite C | Massillon
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 7 We oﬀer high quality, researched based, instruction for students with disabilities in grades 3-12+ with a focus on vocational skill education. SERVICES INCLUDE: On-Site Educational Services BCBA, COBA Services Oﬀ-Site Intervention Services IEP Writing and Compliance Professional Development Comprehensive ESY Program Call to learn more! 234-678-9622 firstname.lastname@example.org 3503 Fortuna Drive Akron, Ohio 44312 www.redlineadvocacy.com Where Every Ability is Celebrated Job Development Job Coaching Community Based Assessments Career Exploration Follow Along Services Travel Training Ohio Employment First Program ENRICHING LIVES THROUGH EMPLOYMENT Contact us TODAY to learn more: 330-388-5778 independentemploy.com email@example.com
8 November 2022 We seek to provide every child with autism an individualized program that employs the research-based methodologies of Applied Behavior Analysis. Building Skills. Fostering Relationships. Changing Lives. AUTISM SCHOLARSHIP, MAJOR INSURANCES, AND OHIO MEDICAID PLANS ACCEPTED! AutismNowacceptingScholarship applicationsfor the2022/2023 schoolyear! 330-309-3133 www.appliedbehavioralconnections.com firstname.lastname@example.org Call TODAY to lean more!
The Workshops, Inc
Rachel Doty (330) 497-3399 www.choosetwi.com
DISABILITY RESOURCES REM Ohio, Inc Jo Spargo (330) 644-9730 www.rem-oh.com
Jason’s Place Melissa Hadnett (234) 714-9815 Facebook Red Line Advocacy (234) 678-9622 www.redlineadvocacy.com
Pegasus Farm Shelley Sprang (330) 935-2300 www.pegasusfarm.org
FINANCIAL PLANNING Skylight Financial Group Kathryn Bryan (216) 592-7319 www.skylightfinancialgroup.com
Charis Homes Glenna Wilson (330) 833-4527 www.charishomes.com
HOME CARE SERVICES SafeInHome - Ohio (740) 207-5800 www.safeinhome.com
HOUSE OF WORSHIP Harvestime Temple (330) 877-6544 www.harvestimeonline.org
INDEPENDENT PRIVATE SCHOOL
Wings of Change Therapy Inc Erica Myers (234) 334-0044 www.wingsofchangetherapyinc.com
American Family - Richard Corns Haley Seifert (234) 714-2300
JOB PLACEMENT SERVICES Independent Employment Services Malcolm Porter (330) 388-5778 www.independentemploy.com
NON-PROFIT GentleBrook Francie Kell (330) 877-7700 www.gentlebrook.org
NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION GiGi’s Playhouse Canton Megan Vance (330) 493-9114 www.gigisplayhouse.org/canton
PERSONAL LEGACY PORTFOLIO DEVELOPMENT
The Preferred Legacy Trust Company Tiffany Rockstroh (330) 209-9229 www.preferredlegacy.com
The Golden Key Center for Exceptional Children Gina Bannevich (330) 493-4400 www.goldenkeyschool.com
REALTOR® eXp Realty : The Amy Wengerd Group Amy Wengerd (330) 681-6090 www.amysguarantee.com
RESTORATION & CLEANING Brahlers Cleaning & Restoration Stacy Ignacio (330) 834-0008 www.brahlerscrr.com
SUPPORT GROUP Sharing Solutions www.sharingsolutions.info
THEATRE Canton Palace Theatre Laura Strader (330) 454-8172 www.cantonpalacetheatre.org
TRANSPORTATION PROVIDER CLEARVIEW DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES Dean Miller (330) 224-4403
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 9
Delivering Neighborhood Connections © 2022 The N2 Company, Inc.
IMPORTANT COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
NEED TO KNOW WHO TO CONNECT WITH TO ASK A QUESTION? THIS IS WHERE YOU FIND OUT WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW!
Akron Blind Center
Phone: (330) 253-2555
The Akron Blind Center, Inc. is a membershipbased nonprofit organization incorporated in 1948 to serve the blind and low vision communities. They also provide resources, programs, services, and classes for Summit and surrounding counties.
Akron Children’s Hospital
Phone: (330) 543-1000 Website: www.akronchildrens.org
Akron Children’s Hospital has been caring for children since 1890, and its pediatric specialties are ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. With two hospital campuses, four health centers, and 50+ primary and specialty care locations throughout Ohio, they’re making it easier for today’s busy families to find the high-quality care they need.
Arc of Ohio
Phone: (234) 571-5689 Website: www.thearcofohio.org
The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.
Autism Society of Greater Akron
Phone: (330) 940-1441
The Autism Society is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots autism organization committed to improving the lives of those affected by autism. The Greater Akron affiliate was founded in 1987 by parent volunteers of children with autism.
Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) Website: www.ood.ohio.gov/individuals-withdisabilities/services/services-for-the -visually-impaired
Medina, Portage, and Summit Counties
Carroll and Stark Counties
BSVI assists eligible people, beginning at age 14, with low vision and blindness by providing direct, personalized services to assist them in finding and retaining meaningful work and personal independence. Basic services include personal and work adjustment training, vocational training, mental and physical restoration, and placement assistance.
Call 211 Phone: 211 Website: www.211.org
Serving four counties and covering 1.5 million people in Ohio, the United Way 2-1-1 Help Center provides free and confidential 24-hour access to a compassionate professional who will review your options for help, develop a plan and act as your advocate if you are faced with barriers to service. Simply dial 2-1-1 or chat with us for assistance. Se habla Espanol.
Phone: (330) 575-0996 Website: www.compassiondelivered.org
Compassion Delivered provides medically-tailored nutritional meals to people coping with chronic, lifethreatening illnesses and diseases.
Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio
Phone: (216) 447-8763
The Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio is a nonprofit that provides support, education, advocacy, and resources for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community.
Greenleaf Family Center (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services)
Greenleaf is a nonprofit organization that strengthens families in our community through counseling, education, and support. By offering a variety of programs and services, we are here to help families with the many challenges of daily living and personal crises.
Help Me Grow
Phone: (330) 492-8136
Website: https://odh.ohio.gov/know-our-programs/ help-me-grow/help-me-grow
Help Me Grow is Ohio’s evidence-based parent support program that encourages early prenatal and well-baby care, as well as parenting education to promote the comprehensive health and development of children. Help Me Grow System includes Central Intake, Help Me Grow Home Visiting, and Help Me Grow Early Intervention.
Ohio’s Parent Mentor Project
Phone: (844) 382-5452
It is the mission of the Ohio Parent Mentors to provide the necessary support and resources to families of children with disabilities and the professionals that serve them by connecting families, schools, and the community to the benefit of students with disabilities.
Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities
Phone: (844) 382-5452 Website: www.ocecd.org
The OCECD is a statewide nonprofit organization that serves families of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities in Ohio, educators, and agencies who provide services to them.
Ohio Department of Medicaid
Phone: (800) 324-8680 Website: www.medicaid.ohio.gov
The ODM provides health care coverage to more than 3 million Ohioans through a network of more than 165,000 providers. Learn more about Ohio’s largest state agency and the ways in which they continue to improve wellness and health outcomes for the individuals and families served at our website.
Ohio Dept of Job and Family Services
Phone: (800) 720-9616 Website: www.jfs.ohio.gov
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is responsible for managing many vital programs that directly affect the lives of Ohioans.
Ohio Developmental Disabilities Planning Council Website: www.ddc.ohio.gov Phone: 800-766-7426
The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is a planning and advocacy body committed to community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities.
It is the mission of the ODDC to create change that improves independence, productivity, and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families in community life. This council is made up of over 30 members, with the majority being individuals with developmental disabilities and parents and guardians of people with developmental disabilities who are appointed by the Governor of Ohio.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities
Phone: (800) 282-4536 Website: www.ood.ohio.gov
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) is the state agency that empowers Ohioans with disabilities through employment, disability determinations, and independence. It is accomplished through its Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR), Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI), and Division of Disability Determination (DDD). A fourth area is the Division of Employer and Innovation Services (EIS), which is responsible for establishing and maintaining partnerships with employers.
People First in Ohio Website: www.peoplefirstohio.org
People First of Ohio is a statewide organization that works with state legislators and builds relationships with other advocacy groups and state agencies. These relationships promote better interaction among people who make decisions in the communities and the state.
10 November 2022 COMMUNITY RESOURCES
Philomatheon Society of the Blind
This organization is a gathering of blind and visually impaired people, along with sighted family and friends, with a mission and goal to help the blind and visually impaired in the community to help themselves to remain or to become able to live independently and an active member of their community.
Red Treehouse - Ronald McDonald Family
Supporting the well-being of families and children with challenges, disabilities, and health care needs. Finding tools, organizations, and events in the community to meet the needs of families.
Phone: (330) 546-2001
A community of parents/guardians of individuals from transition to adult age with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, professionals who serve the IDD community, caregivers, and policy makers. The focus is to provide information, support, and assistance to all. Everyone is encouraged to play an active role in sharing their resources, knowledge, and experiences.
Social Security Administration - Akron
Phone: (800) 772-1213
Social Security Administration - Canton
Phone: (877) 255-1509
The Social Security Administration assigns Social Security numbers and administers the Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance programs. They also administer the Supplemental Security Income program for the aged, blind, and disabled.
Stark County Board of DD
Phone: (330) 477-5200
Stark DD connects individuals and families with the services persons with developmental disabilities need for health, safety, education, and quality of life.
Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board
Phone: (330) 634-8000
Summit DD offers early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with developmental delays, as well as transition services for students with developmental disabilities to vocational, habilitation, and retirement programs for adults.
TRIAD Deaf Services
Phone: (330) 768-7272
TRIAD Deaf Services Inc is an agency
and Tuscarawas Counties. They provide support services,
community in Stark,
advocacy, and education.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 11
interpreting, leadership, deaf
Have a suggestion for an important connection that could be added to this page? Email your suggestion to email@example.com 2650 Easton St. NE Canton, OH 44721 (234) 714-9815 firstname.lastname@example.org @ Jason's Place Inc Jason's Place BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE & thankful FOR OUR FRIENDS Thanks for making our place YOUR place too ! DISCLAIMER: This publication is owned by The N2 Company and is not affiliated with or sponsored by any club, developer, or homeowners association. Articles and advertisements in this publication and opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the views of N2 but remain solely those of the author(s) or advertiser(s). The paid advertisements contained within this magazine are not endorsed or recommended by N2.
HARVESTIME’S SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY IS GIVING THANKS FOR MAKE ‘M SMILE OHIO
Make ‘m Smile Ohio not only gives our Special Needs Community a day to smile and have fun, but it also touches each one of us that participates in an administrative role, as a vendor, a resource exhibitor or whatever capacity you may ﬁnd yourself in. You will not leave there the same as you came. We all have one goal on that day, that is, to help everyone smile every care away. As we strive to make that happen, we are changed. Don’t miss the next Make ‘m Smile Ohio! It is July 8, 2023. More information will be available as we move to that date, but for now, November 2022, we are THANKFUL.
November is a beautiful time of year. The Seasons are changing. The sky seems more colorful. Every day is one to cherish.
Here at Harvestime, we celebrate family and friends. We are so thankful for our new friends we have met at our Make ‘m Smile event and the Princess Within Pageant as well as those from years past. More than anything, we are thankful for the love we feel from our Heavenly Father Jesus Christ. He loves us all the same. Please come and give thanks with us and help us to make a joyful noise of praise unto the Lord.
God Bless You! Rev. Raymond Smith II
RECAP OF THE PRINCESS WITHIN
What a wonderful night at the Hartville Kitchen in Hartville Ohio. We are so thankful that all that Attended our Princess Within Noncompetitive Pageant on October 13, 2022
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 13 Service Times: Sunday School - 10:00 am | Sunday Evening Evangelistic Service - 6:30 pm | Wednesday Bible Study - 7:00 pm (330) 877-6544 • 136 E Maple St. P.O. Box 26 • Hartville, Ohio 44632 • www.harvestimeonline.org • Harvestimetemple78@gmail.com
14 November 2022 1033 E TURKEYFOOT LAKE RD. #100 | AKRON, OH 44312 // HOURS: Monday-Friday 6 AM to 6 PM AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM In our school age program, our children are permitted to do their homework, interact with their peers and create what interests them! Their new space was designed by them with: a karaoke stage, a lego area, a free art space, a cozy corner to chill after school and a playdough area. Call TODAY to schedule a visit! 330.990.1466 www.onceuponadaycare.org The Special Needs Living Magazine Team
Malinda Oakes Managing Editor
Rick Miller Owner
Mike Sturdivant Content Director
Dave Keller Ad Strategist / Client Services
Shelley Harkness Scheduling Assistant
Sarah Smith Writer
Andrea Hurr Writer
Deborah Riley Writer
Melissa Klatt Writer
Julian Curet Photographer Michelle Herdlick Photographer
Special Needs Living Magazine
November Issue Contributors
I AM EXCEPTIONAL
Elaine Bender is a Christian wife, author and mother of three children, one with special needs. Through having her son and serving in the special needs ministry in her church, she saw the gifts that each child had, not the limits that the world may see. Seeing the potential God had for them led her to write I AM EXCEPTIONAL. Elaine Bender continues to write and speak and loves being in the community with her son Grady. Visit www.elainebender. com to learn more or to purchase a copy of her book.
JEFF HALL PREFERRED LEGACY TRUST
Jeff is a Senior Trust Advisor with Preferred Legacy Trust. Before joining Preferred Legacy Trust, he spent time working for private law firms as well as national banks. In private practice at the law firms of AlerStallings LLC and DayKetterer Ltd., Jeff worked with clients and their families to create custom, highly detailed estate plans. These plans included traditional revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, asset protection trusts, complex tax plans, and business succession plans. He also assisted with the creation of financial and health care directives. In addition to this work, Jeff has served as a Fiduciary Advisor at PNC Bank, N/A. During his time at the bank, Jeff served as trustee and agent on high net worth trust and investment management accounts. His unique experience working in both settings makes him an ideal fit to serve clients at Preferred Legacy Trust.
KYLIE ZEHNDER BE LIMITLESS
Be Limitless is all about spreading awareness with hopes of gaining acceptance. It’s about standing up and speaking out about your rare, your uniqueness, your diagnosis. It’s about being proud! Be Limitless wants you to know that we see the able, not the label, but we also want you to know that we see your label, understand it and respect it. For some, it takes years of fighting to find your diagnosis. That’s something to acknowledge. When you acknowledge the label and the able together, that’s when awareness can start. And once there’s awareness, then there’s acceptance. Awareness starts with me, but acceptance can start with you.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 15
16 November 2022 Stop by, you'll be glad you did! M-F 8:30am – 4:00pm | Sat. 8:30am – 2:30pm 1308 South Main St. • North Canton, OH 44720 email@example.com 234-360-CAFE (2233) We would love to have you and your business or company be a part of this new opportunity by partnering to purchase an advertising sponsorship Please see us at the front counter or contact 234-360-2233 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have. COFFEE WITH A PURPOSE will feature a fun-filled evening with auctions, raffles and so much more! Whole Latte Love Café is raising funds to expand our services and continue providing competitive employment support for people with disabilities. This expansion effort, called WHOLE COMMUNITY, will offer a public rentable conference room, complete with a coffee cart option, as well as an extension of our retail shop and a training room equipped to address individual employment goals. Special thanks to Charis Homes and Stark Flavor for supporting Whole Latte Love Cafe and for sponsoring this ad!
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 17 Give a gift that gives back. This holiday season, shop artwork, pottery, décor, and much more –Just Imagine is a unique art program offered by TWI, that empowers artisans to create anything they imagine - backed by the resources needed to succeed. Artisans are invited to create, display, and sell their artwork in our studio & shop, earning their income through the sale of their work. 330-456-3924 Information@ChooseTWi.com @JustImagineGallery Shop in store or online! 201 6th Street NW | Canton, OH 44702
YOU ARE INVITED TO BZTAT STUDIOS
Date: Thursday, Nov. 10
Time: 6:30 p.m.-7:45 p.m.
Place: BZTAT Studios 209 Sixth St. NW Canton, Ohio 44702
RSVP: 20 tickets available
COLORFUL ABSTRACT WINTER TREES
Join us for this family-friendly event and discover your inner artist ! Enjoy creating a beautiful winter scene with artist BZTAT in her professional art studio!
EVERYONE IS AN ARTIST AT BZTAT STUDIOS, and it is fun and easy to create! Using colorful poster paper and tissue papers, you will make colorful abstract trees to celebrate the upcoming winter holidays.
NOTES: The Studio is handicap accessible but does not currently have a handicap-accessible bathroom. Metered parking is free after 4 p.m.
RESERVE YOUR TICKETS ON EVENTBRITE AT: https://www.eventbrite.com/ e/colorful-abstract-winter-treestickets-429447899227
FOLLOW US ON EVENTBRITE AT: https://www. eventbrite.com/ o/special-needs-livingmagazine-54447069123
18 November 2022 COMMUNITY EVENT: BZTAT STUDIOS
Looking For Fun & Exciting Ways To Spend Your Day? PREMIER APPROACH IS THE PLACE FOR YOU! CALL TO SCHEDULE A TOUR! 330-312-6909 | email@example.com 2056 Wales Rd NE | Massillon, OH 44646 We o er a variety of community activities, all of which are chosen by participants of the program. At Premier Approach you’ll enjoy a fun, friendly & relaxed atmosphere. Get out and enjoy the things you already love, while also exploring other new and exciting opportunities. SERVICES PROVIDED: · Adult Day Support · Vocational Habilitation · Non-Medical Transportation www.onceuponadaycare.org Ca ll TO DAY to s c hedu l e a v i s i t ! 33 0 .99 0 . 1 46 6
Has your skin been feeling dry or flaky lately? Maybe you just need to pamper yourself with a lash installation or facial massage… Luckily for you, 23-year-old Calista Fouts is an esthetician (skin care specialist), excited to land a career in the beauty industry! Calista’s venture into the beauty industry hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows…
BY MELISSA KLATT PHOTOS BY MICHELLE HERDLICK
It’s come with an ENORMOUS set of challenges.
CHALLENGES ENTERING THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY
Calista graduated from the Esthetics program at the Alliance location of Raphael’s School of Beauty Culture Inc. in 2020. On top of the challenges she experienced with having
…Disability advocate and Social Media influencer
Cerebral Palsy while going through the program, she also experienced difficulty after graduation. The COVID-19 shutdown threw off the state licensing process for a little bit, but she was finally able to put those skills to the test and become licensed in the State of Ohio!
It’s been difficult for Calista to land a job in the beauty industry, though…
20 November 2022 COVER STORY: CALISTA FOUTS meet
“When it comes to landing a job, most employers aren’t aware of how to accommodate someone with Cerebral Palsy,” Calista says. “Most people are aware of disabilities like Autism and Down Syndrome, but when it comes to Cerebral Palsy, they don’t really know how to accommodate those needs! It’s tough, especially within the beauty industry, because they think, “What would happen if she were to fall or drop something?” and see me as a liability.
It sucks because I’ve obtained my license in esthetics and have the skills, but can’t land a job in the field, even as a receptionist, to get my foot in the door. And in order to be able to do the things I want to do (simple facial massages, makeup applications, false lashes, etc.), I have to gain work experience. In order to gain work experience, someone has to hire me.
“It’s getting better, though, as I’m working with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) where someone will be present with me during the interviewing process to reassure potential employers that having me won’t be a liability and that help is available for them to accommodate my needs.”
Calista dreams of finally entering into the beauty industry to put her skills to work, opening the doors on her long-term goal of owning her own barn-studio business on her own land with the love of her life.
ADD DISABILITY ADVOCATE AND SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER TO HER RESUME
On top of working at a coffee shop and being a licensed esthetician, Calista’s also an active disability advocate and social media influencer, spreading awareness of her condition, Cerebral Palsy.
With a TikTok following of over 400,000 people and more than 4 million likes, her additional goal of becoming a motivational speaker won’t be hard to achieve! You can follow her on TikTok or Instagram (@calistabrookeee).
CALISTA’S SUPPORT SYSTEM
Calista has an incredible support system behind her in all her
endeavors: her family, friends and boyfriend, Zachary. Her family pushed her to be the person she is today, strong in her belief:
“Just because you have a disability does not mean you’re not able to do anything. You’re able to do anything! You’re only limited if you limit yourself. You are able-disabled as I like to say!”
She loves spending time with her family and friends, whether it includes eating anything made out of potatoes, watching Ohio State or Steelers games, or listening to the latest country music! However, her favorite thing to do is travel with her partner, Zachary. Soon, they’ll be hitting the road out of state to pick up his son and bring him back home! When they’re not traveling, they enjoy each other’s company at home and out on the town.
Zachary has been a part of Calista’s life for a while, and they’ve shared the last year together as a couple! They look forward to building their lives together and care for one another.
EXTRACURRICULARS INCLUDE WORLD CHANGE
When she was younger, Calista was a competitive cheerleader and Challengers baseball player. Today, her extracurriculars include inspiring the world via online platforms to bring about positive change!
On TikTok, she shares videos that help to inspire and educate others about what life is like for someone with Mild/Moderate Cerebral Palsy and others with disabilities. Her videos include:
• A Day in the Life
• Her Physical Therapy Routine
• Positivity Posts (When You Need A Little Sunshine)
• Make-up and Skin Care Posts (Calista’s Make-up Tips and Tricks)
Show your support for Calista by following her on TikTok or Instagram (@calistabrookeee) to share the love. Reach out to her with any beauty tips or tricks you’d like to know!
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 21
Experiences of a Special Needs Parent
An unfiltered, transparent and raw view of this amazing journey shared by so many
BY KYLIE ZEHNDER
You’ve just received your diagnosis; there is a relief of “finally an answer,” but then your eyes begin to swell, and that lump in your throat starts to form. What now? You hold your sweet baby, you hug your toddler that looks so curiously into your eyes, you rub the back of your grown child who’s occupied doing their own thing. This is your baby; regardless of age, this is your baby! And you now enter the world of looking at a page listed with diagnoses. How do you overcome this feeling? Who do you tell? Where do you start on this new journey? All these concerns are flooding your mind, and every single thought becomes a blur.
Momma, let those tears fall. Let those tears turn into floodgates. Allow yourself to feel each and every confusing thought and emotion. Having a new diagnosis, after waiting months or years, can provide relief. Relief of no longer waiting, relief of having an answer to explain why things are the way they are. Relief of knowing you aren’t crazy! After so many attempts of searching for answers, you start to think that you are going crazy. And the world has no problem telling you you’re crazy. Momma, you are not crazy; you are determined. You are resilient; you are learning to become this momma bear. Allow those tears to fall! Allow yourself to grieve. You are allowed to grieve the child you thought you were going to have while pregnant. That does not mean you don’t love the child you have, but you are allowed to grieve the thought you once had.
There will be moments when you will find the utmost joy in the smallest things. Your milestones will be so much greater and so much sweeter. You will see the beauty in what life truly has to offer. You will see the things that others take for granted. And because of that, you will be humble. I promise that you will find joy in the midst of the storms. Just give it time.
Momma, you will find yourself being a person you never thought you would become. You will become this person who fights for rights. You will become a person who does not sit quietly while your child gets ignored. You will see things in a new way, and you will be able to enlighten others. This will make you a Momma Bear. You will fight the doctors, the therapists, the teachers, and the state, to get the needs of your child met. You’ll lose friends and family from your circle, but you will gain respect from others you never imagined. You won’t be the person everyone likes, but you will be THE person that your child needs. There will be
moments where you feel absolutely alone, and in those lonely moments, there will be that one person who sees you and reaches out. Those friendships are the ones you hold on to!
You will begin to see how everything has fallen in place in your life. How God set you up from the time you were a child until now. How everything you’ve done has led to this moment. Certain people and events have occurred to allow you to grow into the person you are today. You are fierce! You may feel broken at this exact moment, but you are strong!
So, what now? You’ll figure that out. You may be the parent that screams awareness and acceptance from the rooftops or the person who steps out of the shadows to surprise them all. There is no right or wrong person. When you are ready, you will have your story to share. In your time!
Embrace what is, but endure what is needed. Feel each and every emotion. Cry, momma, cry! In this village of people in the special needs community, we will help you. We will lift you up when you are down, we will hold strong to you when you feel so weak. And when you are ready, we will step back and watch you be the person you were always intended to be.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 23 PARENT PERSPECTIVE:
Putting the “Freaky Fast” in Jimmy John’s Delivery!
Dee-Dee Miller’s employment experience story
BY DEBORAH RILEY
same bright and positive energy I remembered from when I met her all of those years ago. Throughout our conversation, Dee-Dee was so optimistic, even when talking about challenges from her carpal tunnel and past challenges with unkind management.
In 2017, Dee-Dee began working with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and chose Hattie Larlham as her Job Development provider. This was when she was able to find work with Jimmy John’s, where she has been successfully employed for the past five years. Dee-Dee really loves her job and especially enjoys driving around and making deliveries.
Dee-Dee Miller has worked for Jimmy John’s since Aug. 12, 2017.
If you’ve ever ordered delivery from the Arlington Road or Barberton locations, she may have been the one to get you your food “freaky fast,” as they say in the commercials.
Over the past five years with the company, Dee-Dee has made sandwiches and worked as a delivery driver. Currently, due to challenges with severe bilateral carpal tunnel, she is only working as a delivery driver at this time. Prior to her challenges with carpal tunnel, Dee-Dee worked around 20 hours/week, Monday-Friday.
Currently, she is still working Monday-Friday but has reduced her hours by half until she is able to see a surgeon for her carpal tunnel. DeeDee is confident that once she is able to complete her carpal tunnel surgery, she will make a full recovery and be able to return to her normal hours, as well as sandwich-making duties. For the majority of her career with
Jimmy John’s, Dee-Dee worked at the Arlington Road location; however, due to that store’s recent closing, she was transferred to the Barberton location in August of this year.
After high school, Dee-Dee found work as a drive-through cashier at a popular fast food chain and worked there for eight years. Unfortunately, due to her disability, she experienced bullying by management and was turned down for opportunities to do other positions within the company. After years of frustration, Dee-Dee left that position and opted for a worktraining program at United Disability Services’ Taste Buds program.
Dee-Dee worked at Taste Buds for a year before moving to Hattie Larlham’s Doggie Daycare and Boarding work training program in Green, Ohio. DeeDee worked at Hattie’s Doggie Daycare for seven years. It was at this program where this author was fortunate to meet Dee-Dee about eight years ago. During her interview, she had the
Right now, her biggest challenge is dealing with her carpal tunnel, which has caused her to lose feeling in her hands. Carpal Tunnel aside, Dee-Dee really hates to make mistakes and is her own worst critic. She says she is very hard on herself when she feels like she has messed up. That said, Dee-Dee must be doing a lot of things right to have been successful at Jimmy John’s for over five years!
If you’re in the Barberton area and want a Jimmy John’s sub “freaky fast,” you just might have Dee-Dee as your delivery driver.
24 November 2022 COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT SUCCESS SPOTLIGHT: DEE-DEE MILLER
Love Needs No Words
Meet 5-year-old Clayton Leitzke
WRITTEN BY ANDREA HURR PHOTOS BY JULIAN CURET
He is exactly who he is supposed to be. Clayton is amazing. He is loving and caring and kind.
These wise words are from Brittany Leitzke, mother to son Clayton, age 5. Brittany heard the doctor tell her that Clay has autism, and her brain started spinning. Immediately her eyes welled up, and she tried so hard to hold back the tears. She was feeling overwhelmed and was sad at the thought that her 18-month-old child was going to be
facing many more challenges than what the world already throws at you. She says that she’ll never forget how Dr. Weber looked right at her and said, “There’s nothing you did or didn’t do to cause this”; it was as if the doctor could read her mind.
As a parent, when you get a diagnosis such as this, the first thing
you do is blame yourself. Brittany says that she doesn’t carry guilt because of that statement. Her doctor also connected her with Help Me Grow, gave her any phone number she could possibly need, and which websites to research with specific phrases to look for. Dr. Weber became an invaluable resource to Brittany and her family.
26 November 2022 YOUTH FEATURE: CLAYTON LEITZKE
One of the hardest things for Brittany is that Clayton is nonverbal. He cannot communicate his needs and wants or if he isn’t feeling well, and that can be incredibly frustrating for both her and Clayton. She says, “I think it breaks my heart the most that he can’t communicate basic needs like needing a drink, being hungry, being scared or tired, etc. It just became a guessing game on my part to figure out what he was trying to communicate without being able to say it.” Some of the best advice she has received in terms of Clayton being nonverbal was, “If you are frustrated, just imagine how frustrated Clayton is not being able to tell you.”
Currently, Clayton Attends Golden Key for kindergarten, and thanks to them, she can breathe knowing the staff is well trained and knowledgeable on autism, and he receives his therapies there. As Brittany stated, “The entire staff there are godsends.” Brittany also works her schedule around everyone else’s schedule (of people she trusts), so she can make enough money to support Clay and his little sister, Jordan (she is neurotypical). This is a mom who works hard and will do anything to raise awareness and make things happen.
Being in Ohio, most of the year, the weather is a big question mark. When the weather is bad, Clayton doesn’t
want to be outside, but he was lacking a space of his own inside, so Brittany got to work. What she thought was going to be a small way to raise a little money to put toward giving Clay a sensory room became an overwhelming show of support. Brittany made a bracelet with the words “Be Kind” on it and one for her friend, and decided to post it on her social media to see if anyone else was interested in getting one. She used primary colors associated with autism and her Be Kind words and thought she’d sell a few to some family.
Well, 217 bracelets later, and her message spread all over the country, she was able to get Clayton his sensory items and create a space just for him. When he’s feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, he has an area he can go to and calm down. Primarily, she hopes that by doing this, she has made the world a little less scary for her son and says that she will never forget the love and support she felt from so many people.
Just because Clayton can’t talk, that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware. He is nonverbal, not non-hearing or not non-feeling. She says he is strong and brilliant and expresses pure joy when truly excited about something. He has taught Brittany and their family how to practice patience, to be stronger than they thought was possible and that “love needs no words.” Brittany has learned that not everything will go as planned, and that’s OK. It’s OK to not be able to do everything yourself and OK to want to take a break. It’s OK to ask for help and OK to say you’re not OK when someone asks. We need to always remember that everyone has something going on, and there is no room to judge, rather we need to have some understanding that someone may be struggling and see if you can help.
Brittany is a wonderful example of a devoted mother. Fairly new to Clayton’s autism diagnosis she is spreading awareness and creating the space her son needs to thrive. She loves him fiercely and it shows. Slowly Clayton is progressing and becoming preverbal, where he is starting to communicate a few things. “Every day there is something new” she says and they make sure to recognize and celebrate every achievement whether big or small.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 27
Just because someone is different does not make them less.
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THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING
Jeff Hall shares the new trend of Trust-Based planning
BY JEFF HALL, VP SENIOR TRUST OFFICER
will coordinate financial support can be outlined in these documents. As a result, taking the time to consider caregivers and financial support planning ahead of time can alleviate extra stress on families should the unexpected arise.
their estate plan controls. Therefore, an unexpected death could result in assets being disposed of and no longer available for the beneficiary.
When planning for a special needs family member, plans will typically only focus on how to leave assets to someone who is receiving government benefits. This approach looks past several basic concepts, including the incapacity of a caregiver. Special needs beneficiaries rely heavily on caregivers and guardians. Therefore, one of the important questions should be, what happens if those valuable caregivers themselves are no longer able to provide care? By examining this question, the importance of estate planning documents for a caregiver becomes evident.
Basic estate planning documents, including a power of attorney for health care, finance, and a document which details to whom the assets should be left are vital. Through these documents, a caregiver can dictate and make recommendations as to whom should step in and provide care should they be unable to do so themselves. Decisions and discussions around who will become the successor guardian are part of this plan. Additionally, who
Estate plans dealing with these complex situations too often focus on the ability to maintain government benefits. These benefits come in two primary forms: Medicaid and Social Security. It is important to note that while Medicaid and Social Security Income (SSI) benefits are means tested, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is not. The latter, instead, is based upon the amount of money a person has paid into the program during their lifetime and therefore does not dictate as much special planning as the other two benefits. Understanding eligibility and current benefits will play a large role in the appropriate plan.
Traditionally, when there was concern regarding benefits eligibility, the standard was to disinherit the beneficiary. Assets would then be left to a sibling or other caregiver with a wink and nod agreement that those assets would be used to support the beneficiary. However, this approach looks past concerns with changes in life and liability. If a person who has inherited the assets suffers a lawsuit, divorce or other creditor claim, those assets would be subject to the discovery process and available for satisfaction. In addition, once they are in a person’s name,
The new trend is trust-based planning. There have been several types of trust used in this area of estate planning; today, the most popular tool is a wholly discretionary trust. Wholly discretionary trusts are codified to explain their requirements and allow assets to be set aside to supplement and not supplant other government benefits. These trusts require specific administration to maintain the benefits and must have clear discernable standards for distribution, and the trustee must maintain absolute discretion.
Based on the technical complexity of these documents, it is important to consider the best party to serve as trustee of these trusts. The best person to make decisions about the health and welfare of a beneficiary often are not the right fit for sophisticated trust and financial decisions. Considering a third-party independent trustee can create a sense of security and peace between beneficiary and caregiver, leaving a family with security knowing their loved one will be cared for both financially and physically.
At The Preferred Legacy Trust Company, our professionals have years of experience dealing with special needs trusts and planning and additionally a variety of other estate planning matters which a family may face. Our team understands that special needs situations are unique and may require their own distinct set of estate planning tools. It is important to understand that this type of planning goes well beyond the need for a trust or not and truly focuses on the beneficiary.
30 November 2022 PROFESSIONAL PERSPECTIVE: JEFF HALL
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for her son is unparalleled
WRITTEN BY MELISSA KLATT PHOTOS BY JULIAN CURET
When people think of the term “special needs,” oftentimes, they’re thinking of needs stemming from medical issues at birth. In Eric Benjamin Coplin’s case, his needs arose from a mother’s worst nightmare that turned real in a matter of seconds.
On Halloween night in 2007, Becky received the worst call a mother could get: “This is Akron City Hospital. Your son was in an accident. You need to get to the hospital as soon as possible. He is getting prepped for brain surgery.”
IN AN INSTANT, THEIR LIVES CHANGED
As Becky sat in the ICU at the hospital, her heart was crumbling before her. To see her son hooked up to so many different machines tore her to pieces. Nurses checked on Eric every 15 minutes to make sure he was still alive. They said he had a 30% chance of survival. They said he would never walk or talk again.
All because of a hit-and-run driver that struck Eric’s car as he was on his way to sing karaoke… At this point, Becky didn’t know if her son would ever get to sing again.
CHALLENGES OF HIS BRAIN INJURY
Going from a college kid to an adult with a brain injury came with an insane amount of challenges. Eric didn’t speak for three months. It took him three years to smile and five years to truly laugh. He still doesn’t cry or feel pain. (Eric broke his elbow and didn’t even know it!)
However, one of the biggest challenges Becky faced was fighting every day to give Eric a better quality of life:
“I was fighting doctors that didn’t want to remove feeding tubes and subra pubic catheters because it would be easier for ME to take care of him than teaching him to eat and use the bathroom. I didn’t want it easier for me... I wanted it better for him.”
The biggest fight was having the trach removed. I spoke to respiratory, speech and the head of nursing, asking if they believed he needed it. They all said no! He hadn’t used it in three months; it was capped off. The doctor wanted to leave it in for future surgeries... My son has never had a “future” surgery.
The drugs they kept him on in the nursing home were unnecessary. I slowly weaned him off so he was no longer lethargic. Finding out they didn’t think he needed PT at the nursing home as there was no hope in him improving pushed my daughter and I to go up every day and work with him. Then having the nursing staff take credit…”
THE POWER OF A MOTHER’S WILL
Becky soon realized that the real challenge was finding someone who wouldn’t give up on her child … and the only one who wouldn’t give up was her. HIS mother. So, Becky learned how to best work with her
32 November 2022 FAMILY FEATURE: ERIC AND BECKY
son to achieve the goal of giving him the best quality of life.
She asked the nurses to educate her so she knew exactly what to ask for when they went to the doctor’s office. She got creative, turning therapy into games to keep Eric engaged and learning. She found cooking classes where he could fit his wheelchair, theaters that would have him perform, and camps that would allow him to participate. She’s booked private dance classes to keep him from flopping in his chair.
Known by her son as the “drill sergeant,” Becky channels the power of a protective mama bear to ensure Eric won’t give up or slack on his therapy.
ERIC’S LIFE NOW: HE CAN SING AGAIN!
Eric now sings karaoke whenever possible. He travels the world. He talks, sings, acts. He loves to take cruises and says it’s because he has a captive audience. He enjoys camping and clubs and meeting new people. When
you first meet Eric, and you ask him how he is, he will tell you, “I am awesome like an opossum.” Eric truly considers himself a social butterfly.
A MOTHER’S ADVICE TO THE SPECIAL NEEDS COMMUNITY
“I think if I would give advice, it is never to stop learning, researching and asking questions. If you don’t understand something, keep asking until you do,” says Becky. “I always told the nurses: Don’t tell me in metric, tell me in English... Give me an example I can picture. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t and keep asking.”
The other piece is God always has a plan. If God had not given me cancer in 2005, then I wouldn’t have been medically retired with a small pension when Eric had his accident and would not have been available for his care. I would have had to quit and not have the pension to help sustain us and all the things that Medicaid and his waivers didn’t provide. God always has a plan.”
The love a mother has for her child is unparalleled, and we see it within the love Becky has for her son, Eric. Becky shares his biggest dream with us:
“The saddest thing is when he talks about getting married someday. He already has the names of his kids picked out, but then he says if it’s just him and I for the rest of his life, he’s OK with that, too.”
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 33
THE SADDEST THING IS WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT GETTING MARRIED SOMEDAY. HE ALREADY HAS THE NAMES OF HIS KIDS PICKED OUT, BUT THEN HE SAYS IF IT’S JUST HIM AND I FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE, HE’S OK WITH THAT, TOO.
Wings of Change Therapy Inc. (WOC) is a therapeutic day center for children and youth. Wings of Change combines academics and therapies in one place for a collaborative approach. WOC uses a top-down and bottom-up approach, focusing on the child’s strengths and skills to empower them to participate fully in their lives. The company believes in building relationships with the children and families that they serve. WOC provides educational services without any additional cost to the families through the Autism and Jon Peterson Scholarships. In addition, outpatient services for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech
therapy are provided. WOC can also bill through private insurance.
WOC uses a collaborative approach to everything it does. Each student has his own team of several therapists, an intervention specialist, a lead teacher, and a direct support professional. Together, this team of professionals works to cater to the student’s individual needs, providing each child with his own unique experience. Each staff member recognizes and builds off the child’s strengths and teaches necessary skills where needed. WOC works with families from all walks of life and develops strong relationships with each of them, knowing
34 November 2022
SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT: WINGS OF CHANGE THERAPY
Wings of Change Therapy Inc. BY SARAH SMITH
that partnership with families and continuity of care and practicing skills at home is how children grow.
“Wings of Change has impacted my child’s life, as well as my family’s life, in drastic ways,” said Priscilla Hamby. “In August 2021, my 6-year-old was having trouble creating word structures and had a hard time with understanding so many different things. My family and I saw a change in her behavior, speech, and understanding in a matter of a month. She was talking more, trying to create sentences, and mimicking her siblings as well as her father and myself, something we had not experienced before she started school. The staff is fantastic, understanding, and more than willing to work at the pace any child needs. It’s a great environment for the disabled community. It’s also a great place for resources for families who need help understanding their loved one’s disability.”
Jordye Joyce, President and CEO of WOC, knew from a young age that she not only wanted to work with children but that she also wanted to be in business for herself. She discovered occupational therapy and fell in love with the career.
“I remember thinking, well, now what?” Joyce explained. “I want to work with children, but I am meant to be an occupational therapist. One day I was home watching the Morning Exchange, and I saw a pediatric
occupational therapist, who eventually became a mentor.
I was so excited to see that I could be an occupational therapist and still work with children.”
Joyce attended Cleveland State University to study occupational therapy. During this time, her love of the profession and passion for research grew, as did her dream of being an independent practice owner. After graduating, she worked as a school-based therapist and recognized the need of something more for families and children. She found that the families wanted a voice, a place that saw their child as a capable individual and a place where they felt valued. After taking graduate classes, Joyce founded WOC in 2010 and soon hired two graduate students from CSU to join her. The team started seeing clients in their homes under the Autism Scholarship. From there, Joyce credits faith, hard work, and dedication to growing to 33 employees, four school contracts, and nearly 60 center-based clients in daily programming. This fall, WOC will be expanding its services by providing outpatient therapies.
“Wings of Change has answered a prayer of giving my grandson abilities in functions that I was told were impossible by others,” stated Laura Fortunato. “They are not just about therapy for the child but also, they become a friend to the family and to the child.
Wings of Change is a God-given gift with great special staffing.”
Wings of Change Therapy, Inc. is located at 703 S. Main St. in Akron. More information can be found at www.wingsofchangetherapyinc.com or by calling 234-334-0044.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 35
36 November 2022
I AM EXCEPTIONAL
I AM EXCEPTIONAL, written by Elaine Bender, shares a beautiful scripture-based message that highlights the truth that in God’s eyes, whatever our special needs might be, seen or unseen, we are all His creation and made in His image with special gifts and abilities.
“When we look at everyone through the eyes of God’s Word, we see possibilities and not limits.”
I AM EXCEPTIONAL uplifts special needs children by demonstrating, through its beautiful message and life-affirming illustrations, how they are created with special gifts and abilities.
Though the book is written in a way that makes it easy for a child to identify himself in it, it’s also a valuable resource for educators, therapists, and families by encouraging inclusion.
Many people with special needs are looked upon as limited or unable to contribute within their realm of influence, but that perspective dismisses the truth. I AM EXCEPTIONAL establishes a foundation
Seeing possibilities instead of seeing limits
WRITTEN BY ELAINE BENDER
for children to know and understand that all of us are created in the image of God and needed to fulfill His plan. Through our weaknesses, whether seen or unseen to those around us, God can display His strength.
God is the Creator of all people, and He needs each one of us to serve Him. We are all needed by God to show others how to live for Him.
“I may not walk just the same, but the narrow path is always my aim.”
Whether we can’t see, have limited mobility, a hearing impediment, or any other disability, all God’s children see and hear the Shepherd, and He works through them every day.
I AM EXCEPTIONA L is a reminder for everyone that what counts is on the inside; what truly matters is in our hearts, and it is our weaknesses that display God’s strength.
“Through my weakness, God shows forth His grace.”
We are all special and needed to fulfill God’s plan, this includes someone with special needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elaine Bender is a Christian wife, author and mother of three children, one with special needs. Through having her son and serving in the special needs ministry in her church, she saw the gifts each child had, not the limits that the world may see. “I loved being a part of sharing God with them, in a unique way they could understand,” she recalls. She could see the potential God had for each one and in the back of her mind, had a feeling God wanted her to share with others. This is what led her to write I AM EXCEPTIONAL Elaine Bender continues to write and speak, and loves being in the community with her son, Grady. “If you don’t have personal experience with someone who has special needs, you may not be sure how to interact. I love questions and see that as a positive response for acceptance and inclusion. Our world is better with our son in it.”
Visit www.elainebender.com to learn more or to purchase a copy of her book.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 37 COMMUNITY SUPPORT & RESOURCES: AUTHOR ELAINE BENDER
Through my weakness, God shows forth His grace.
Making life accessible
BY SARAH SMITH
Siffrin Inc. is a nonprofit organization established in Canton in 1976 by family members and advocates for people with disabilities. Through a donation by Elsie Siffrin, the agency’s first community-based housing option was made available. Almost 50 years later, Siffrin now offers a variety of services to hundreds of people in eight Ohio counties. Siffrin’s service areas include supervised living and respite, community support and integration, shared living, financial management, nonmedical transportation and employment support. These services help make life more accessible to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
Siffrin staff knows they are part of providing more than a service. They strive to support each individual with innovative ways to live the life they envision. Because of this, Siffrin offers a variety of choices when it comes to adult day services so that each person can select the skill development, social connections, community volunteerism, and employment outcomes that meet their idea of a good life. These options include traditional day services at one of the Bridge locations, Siffrin Academy, and the EPIC program. Each option builds upon the one before with the intent to create a path to community employment.
The Bridge Community Integration Service focuses on each person becoming more active, involved, and integrated with their community. Activities include volunteerism projects, trips, tours and other fun outings.
One of Siffrin’s signature programs is made possible through a partnership with Kent State University at Stark and Trumbull Campuses. Siffrin Academy is a unique program that provides adults with disabilities the opportunity to
have a personalized, holistic university experience with opportunities for volunteering, skill enhancement, interning, and participating in university and community activities. Siffrin Academy is an extension of Siffrin’s adult day services and a forerunner to the employment program. Interested individuals can apply to participate in Siffrin Academy with or without having attended day services at Siffrin’s Bridge locations.
EPIC, which stands for Enduring Practices Integrating to the Community, is a program available to individuals whose goals include sharpening their skills and potentially entering community employment. This is a vocational training program for young adults with disabilities that prepares participants for employment by fostering skill development through participation in a paid internship at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio.
38 November 2022 NONPROFIT SPOTLIGHT: SIFFRIN
Many interns have been offered positions at Aultman Hospital.
Adia Willock participated in Siffrin Academy at Kent State University. Although Adia had achieved many of her skill development goals while in Siffrin Academy, she also was inspired to apply to Siffrin’s EPIC program at Aultman Hospital and was accepted into the 24-week internship program. Adia is an example of someone who was able to enhance her personal goals as she learned new skills. Having additional growth options enhances an adult’s independence and increases personal choice.
Amanda Wallick started her journey at The Bridge program in her early 20s. She enjoyed developing social connections through making friends while accomplishing her goals year
after year. Her goal was to obtain employment in a retail environment, so she worked on skills such as working with money and organization. Some of her daily goal-directed activities included supporting day service visitors, handling orders and money at the snack center, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and pre-employment education. When she heard about Siffrin Academy, she decided to enroll in the first Academy class in Stark County. Her participation in the program was an innovative way for her to further her skill development which helped her obtain her current position at Siffrin as a clerical assistant.
The organization can be supported through a variety of ways. Financial
donors can donate to the HOPE fund at www.siffrin.org. Funds can be used for renovations for a person’s home to help them live there longer, funeral arrangements for people with no family or funds, travel expenses to reunite family members, or to provide Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas gifts for those without family. Siffrin can be chosen as the nonprofit of choice on AmazonSmile, where a portion of the funds from purchases are donated to Siffrin. Additionally, following Siffrin on Facebook and Instagram, and by liking, commenting on, or sharing the posts, helps the organization better connect with and share its efforts with the community.
More information can be found at www.siffrin.org or by calling 330-4780263. Siffrin’s main office is located at 3688 Dressler Road NW in Canton.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 39
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BRIGHT LIGHTS AND BIG SMILES
World Elite Idols cheerleading team
WRITTEN BY MIKE STURDIVANT PHOTOS BY JULIAN CURET
When you head to your local gym ready to watch a cheerleading competition, it does not take long after the World Elite Idols hit the floor before you notice the special abilities this team has on display. The World Elite Idols are an All-Star Special Needs Cheerleading Team that consists of 30 members who have various disabilities. They participate in local, regional and national competitions. The Idols, who are in their 16th season, were founded by Kathy Catazaro-Perry whose daughter Vanessa has Down Syndrome.
Being involved with the World Elite Idols goes far beyond simply providing inclusion in the sport of Cheerleading. The experience promotes pride, independence, teamwork and structure, while also providing physical fitness and therapy. The World Elite Idols program strives to help develop confident, happy, healthy young men and women through movement, exercise, tumbling, and cheer. Currently, the World Elite Idols are open to ages 3 through young adults. It does not matter what age a child enters the program, the Idols will assist with growth and development in a safe environment.
When the bright lights are on, the World Elite Idols are at their best! When these athletes hit the competition floor after the months of practice they put in, it brings to life an award-winning level of performance. When the competition begins, their eyes light up, and each one is smiling ear to ear as they continue running on the floor, looking out into the crowd for their family members, and waving hello to the audience in attendance. The Idols perform a two-and-a-half-minute music routine they have worked on for several months, with the support of amazing volunteers and coaches.
40 November 2022 COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION: WORLD ELITE IDOLS
The World Elite Idols program provides a place for an individual with a disability and their family to be members of a special team. Each member is welcomed with open arms, no matter the disability. The program also gives each individual athlete the opportunity to grow and develop at their own pace. As the program has grown over the years, it has transformed into not only a support system for the athletes but also the parents. The time spent with one another at practices, during competitions, and other events offers opportunities to share stories, laugh, and at times tears as their parents work to assist each other through happy, sad and exciting times they experience together throughout the stages of the idol’s lives.
One of the Idols’ biggest financial supporters is the Paul and Carol David Foundation. This foundation has joined forces with the Idols from the very beginning by purchasing uniforms and shoes for the team. The amazing
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 41
parents of the idols have also been large supporters. These parents have continued fundraising and have sponsored multiple fundraising events to continue to supply the Idols with all of the outfits and items needed for the squad of cheerleaders to be successful. Parents of the program always pay less than $75 for the season.
If you would like to support the World Elite Idols, they will host their annual fashion show fundraiser on March 18, 2023, at La Pizzaria in Canton. The show sells out each and every year. If you have an interest in learning more about your child joining this elite cheerleading group, you can reach out to coach Kathy at 330-418-7398.
42 November 2022
Suppor�ng Individuals With Down Syndrome, Their Families And The Community Scan to create a "My GiGi's" account online to register for events and see what events match your interests! (330) 493-9114 firstname.lastname@example.org gigisplayhouse.org/canton 4061 Bradley Circle NW, Canton, Ohio 44718 Programming is always FREE! Special thanks for John & Stephanie Weston for supporting GiGi's Playhouse and for sponsoring this ad!
Question & Answer Session With a Community Resource
Angela Russell, Program Assistant & Scheduler at GentleBrook
Question: Where do you work currently?
Answer: I am currently working for GentleBrook at Hartville Meadows
Q: What is your job title here?
A: Program Assistant and Scheduler
Q: How long have you been employed with your current job?
A: Eight years
Q: Educational background
A: Graduate of Hoover High School
Q: What do your day-to-day job responsibilities include?
A: I am currently responsible for scheduling our daily staff. My day also includes assisting our QIDPs (Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional) with all aspects of daily living for 32 individuals with developmental and physical disabilities
Q: What is the inspiration behind why you work in this field?
A: My uncle. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and a physical disability that rendered him unable to walk.
Q: What part of your job are your most passionate about?
A: It’s indescribable to watch an individual with a disability accomplish a goal they achieved as a result of the work of our programming department and the staff.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is new to your field?
A: The job, at times, can be challenging. Our individuals make the struggles minor in comparison. Some do not walk or speak, but they don’t let that stop them from always doing their best.
Q: What is your favorite success story you have seen?
A: My uncle experienced adventures he would otherwise never be able to. He learned independence with the support of Hartville Meadows and their staff and was loved by many.
Q: If you could go back and talk to yourself at the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself?
A: Never judge a book by its cover.
Q: Do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job, and why?
A: Our individuals remind us every day we are making a difference by overcoming obstacles that normally would be unattainable. That shows me we must be doing something right.
Q: What advice would you give to parents in your field to help navigate?
A: Call your local JFS, talk to your SSA, reach out to the ARC of Canton. There are many of us who can help.
Q: Where do you see your industry going moving forward?
A: The job opportunities have increased greatly. Hopefully, that will continue.
Q: What has been the biggest factor in your career success?
A: Seeing our individuals healthy, safe and happy living in an environment where they can succeed means we’ve done our job.
Q: What is your favorite nonprofit organization or volunteer opportunity?
A: GentleBrook has completely changed my life. Our individuals will always be our number-one priority; without them, we would never know what a blessing truly is.
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 45 COMMUNITY IMPACT Q&A: ANGELA RUSSELL
WE HAVE TO OFFER CONNECTING PEOPLE + COMMUNITY Get To Know
SENIOR SERVICES DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES SERVICES COMMUNITY GentleBrook provides residential options for seniors looking to age in place. The HomeStead: Our 49 bed assisted living and memory care facility The Villas: Our independent living 55+ condominium community GentleBrook fosters independence for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities by offering programs and services through our adult day programs and residential support services, including residential waiver services, and intermediate care facilities (ICF) in Hartville and West Lafayette. In July of 2022, GentleBrook will take over as the provider of adult day services for the Holmes County Board of Developmental Disabilities. GentleBrook serves the community through two businesses in Hartville. GentleBrook Greenhouse + Farm: GentleBrook Greenhouse + Farm has a wide selection of beautiful bedding plants, hanging baskets, house plants & succulents. Open to the public spring through fall. The SportsPlex: An indoor sports recreation center with a full basketball court and a 7,500 sq. ft. turfed multi-sport training facility for individual and team use. Coming Fall 2022 Menlo Park, a 6-bed ICF • Habilitation / Active Treatment and Adult Day Programs • Medical / Health Care Supports / Respite Services • Home-like environment • Financial Oversight • Transportation For more information call: 330-877-3694 GentleBrook is a not-for-profit social purpose enterprise that believes in connecting people + community through services and businesses. We believe all human life is a sacred gift and most fulfilled in community with others.
48 November 2022 FINAL TAKE November issue photo finish PHOTOS CAREFULLY SELECTED BY MIKE STURDIVANT Live Adult Day Services Home Care Durable Medical Equipment Loan Senior Friends Shared Living Services Veterans Services Learn Make The First Five Count Information and Referral Community Education Programs Work Vocational Program Easterseals has, for almost 100 years, provided services to children and adults with disabilities and special needs, and their families. Get connected TODAY! (888)325-8532 Play Community Inclusion Outings www.easterseals.com/noh Our mission is to spread HELP, HOPE & ANSWERS!
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 49 Therapeutic Day Center Combining Academics & Therapies for a Collaborative Approach Changing The World, One Child At A Time Changing The World, One Child At A Time Spots are ﬁlling quickly! Enroll Now for the 2022-2023 Academic Year! Autism Scholarship Providers 234-334-0044 • email@example.com www.wingsofchangetherapyinc.com Meet Waﬄes the Therapy Dog! OUR TEAM INCLUDES: - Intervention Specialists - Occupational Therapists - Physical Therapist - Speech and Language Pathologists - Direct Support Professionals Wings of Change Therapy, Inc. provides therapeutic day programming for youth between the ages of 5 and 21. Our therapeutic day program provides educational and therapeutic services to children of all ability levels. The licensed therapists work alongside the intervention specialists within the classrooms and provide individual therapy.
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