Monday, July 25, 2016

Day Activities participant John Pappas enjoys water exercise
with the assistance of Abilities United staff person, Moises Acuna

Abilities United was honored to be featured in the July 14, 2016 issue of the Oshman Family JCC "Live Fully" blog.  The story featured a few participants and staff from the Abilities United Adult Day Activities services. This partnership with the JCC is critical to enabling us to continue to provide in-door swim exercise to this group of people who significantly benefit from water exercise.  Enjoy their story!
On any given week day, splashes and voices reverberate across the walls of the Bernard and Barbro Osher Indoor Pool at the Oshman Family JCC (OFJCC) in Palo Alto. But once a week, you may hear voices you would not expect. A young man croons “Moon River” softly at the water’s edge, speaking about his father’s recent passing and his love of playing guitar. Patrick Tweedie, 46, has been using the pool at the OFJCC every week as part of a unique partnership with Abilities United, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit organization serving people with disabilities.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thank you to our donors and partners who made our United for the Future accomplishments possible

Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises, an Employment Services business partner, celebrated
Abilities United's receipt of the Stanford Community Partner award.

Abilities United is delighted to report on the service outcomes of our 2015-2018 “United for the Future” campaign which raised $2.1 Million in funded projects. We are now halfway through the three year period and wish to share with you the progress and enhancements made to the various funded programs and initiatives. Many of those gifts funded specific projects or programs needed for Abilities United to improve, sustain, and expand services to our children and adult participants. A summary of these funded projects follows:

art program launch and scholarships

The Abilities United Art Program continues to promote the artistic talents of people with disabilities and open communication venues through the universal language of art.
  • A part-time Art Program Coordinator was hired to grow the program from primarily a volunteer effort to an agency program
  • Art exhibits expand visibility through notable, high-traffic locations as the de Young Museum, Stanford Hospital, Redwood City Art on the Square, and Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
  • Recruitment of new artists from around the Bay Area and other areas ensures the promotion of fresh and exciting art work and talent. Artists are represented each year at dozens of Bay Area exhibits. Sales range from $50 - $500.
  • Technology tools ensure the art program is sustainable and manageable including
    •    An art program webpage and online art galleries
    •    Art sales, exhibits, and inventory database
employment services expansion

Abilities United continues to close the employment gap between people with and without disabilities through job placements, assessments, and coaching.
  • Nearly 400 community members are currently employed by local and national corporations
  • 39 individuals were placed in new jobs which represents a 25% increase from the prior year
  • 13 job seekers received employment readiness training
  • 11 new business partners were recruited, bringing us to over 100 employment partners, all of which are essential to ensure job opportunities and skill matches
children’s development services professional development, scholarships for program expansion

Children’s Services launched their 5-year training strategy to ensure staff have the skills required to meet the changing needs of children with developmental delays or risk for delay, and to further the inclusion of children with and without disabilities.

  • Early Intervention and Therapy
    • Stanford Autism Center partnered with Abilites United to study the impact of early social integration of children with and without disabilities
    • Staff further developed their skills to help children with autism develop positive communication, language, and social behaviors through Pivotal Response Therapy training
    • Pediatric Feeding and Sensory training ensures staff can work effectively with children who have feeding challenges. Proper eating and chewing techniques are essential for a child to learn to speak as well as receive the nutrition needed to reach their other developmental milestones
    • Staff increased their knowledge of effective use of developmental screening tools to identify developmental delays and the techniques needed to minimize the delays.
    • Our professional staff received training on the principles and practices necessary to create strong partnerships with families. Strong professional and family partnerships help families learn the techniques needed to care for and support their child so he/she can grow up healthy and ready to learn
  • Milestones Preschool

    • Expanded to full-day preschool programming to accomodate the needs of working parents
    • Milestones Preschool enrollment doubled
    • $45,000 worth of scholarships have been distributed to enable low-income children to attend Milestones Preschool
technology advancements

Staff and participants have better access to modern technology software and hardware. Necessary infrastructural developments have been made to prepare us for more sophisticated and robust technology solutions to ensure the organization runs more efficiently and effectively.

Thank you to all our “United for the Future” donors for your on-going commitment to the people who benefit from Abilities United Services!

Abilities United cannot achieve our mission without your help. Thank you for all your contributions, because everything you do brings us closer to reaching our goals to:
  • Provide seamless transition from one service to another throughout the lifetime of participants
  • Increase Abilities United brand awareness
  • Assess community needs to help define the future of Abilities United services
As we approach the close of our 2015/2016 fiscal year, I look forward to keeping you informed about more progress at Abilities United.

Charlie Weidanz

Friday, May 13, 2016

You can help kids like me!

Charlotte Rayfield with her mother, father, and brother.
“Abilities United put me on track to know that I could follow my dreams. Please make sure other kids and their families have that opportunity too!”
- Charlotte Rayfield

When you have a kid it’s hard, but when you have a kid with a disability...
wow, that’s crazy. I was about two years old when my mom and I joined an Early Intervention class at Abilities United. The moms shared their experiences and fears for our future. It prepared them for a future with us. The class was great for us, too, as we played with other kids and learned a lot.

Abilities United was my first playground, my first classroom.

I have Cerebral Palsy, a physical disorder caused by a stroke I had before I was born. Since it happened on the left side of my brain, it means my right side is weaker. I use an assortment of mechanical and power wheelchairs to get around in my daily life. I can’t walk, but I can still do pretty cool stuff. Without my disability, I wouldn’t be a part of the ski program that allows me to ski at insanely high speeds while remaining seated.

Now, I am a senior in high school. I plan to study at Foothill College for a few years while I figure out how to live on a college campus. It’s scary yes, but I can figure it out.

I love reading and want a job working with books - a writer, a publisher. I also think it would be great to be a history professor as it’s my favorite subject in school. I love horses and have a passion for carriage driving, so I hope to incorporate that into my future.

Without Abilities United - I wouldn’t be on the track I am on today.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Other kids deserve that chance too.

Thank you for helping kids like me by making a gift today!

Charlotte Rayfield
graduate of Abilities United Early Intervention program

Monday, April 18, 2016

Community support turns burglary into an inspiring event

Adult Services Camping and hiking trip 2015
On behalf of everyone at Abilities United, and particularly the campers, we thank the community for their outpouring of support to replace the camping equipment that was stolen from Abilities United in early April. What started out as a sad and unfortunate event turned into an inspiring rally of support from our broader Bay Area community.    We also want to thank the media who reported on this story  in such a compelling way that these dozens of people came forward with cash and inkind donations. 
Since the news broke on April 7th, donations have flowed in:
  • $10,000+ in cash donations as of Monday April 18, from 30 donors
    • Donation amounts ranged from $10 to $2,000
  • In kind donations of tents, sleeping bags and pads, camping stoves and lanterns, and other camping items from 7 donors
  • New donors from as far north as Napa, as far east as Danville, and as far south as Hollister, and many points in between!
  • Existing donors including Palo  Alto Rotary, Palo Alto Kiwanis, Palo Alto Community Foundation, and individual friends
We received at least 6 media stories including the following local coverage:
1. Palo Alto Daily Post with a front page headline on April 7th.
1. Palo Alto Online (Palo Alto Weekly) online story and community comments on April 7 and 8th.
2. Palo Alto Patch online story April 11
3. Mercury news online story April 11
TV News
2. KTVU Channel 2 10 pm news story on April 8
Social media also shared this story with great results such as:
o  Facebook reach of 1,500  people (KTVU news story) and thousands of others reached through the posts of the stories listed above
o  Nearly 30% increase in web traffic from April 6 - April 11

We will replace  the stolen equipment, buy the additional equipment the 40 campers need, and store the new equipment in a more secure location inside one of our building
Many thanks to all of you for sharing the story and helping to spread the word to generate this very positive outcome!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Abilities United "Community Connections": finalist for Western Video Excellence award

We're very proud to announce that the "Community Connections" video is once again a finalist for the Western Access Video Excellence (‪#‎WAVE‬) Awards in the Accessibility-Abled programming category. Check out the video featuring the Bridge School in Hillsborough, CA  to see why this is our 6th finalist in that many years! Abilities United Presents: Community Connections, Partnering with the Bridge School

Our partner Midpen Media Center posted the abbreviated summary of the various awards starting with a great mention and acknowledgement of the Abilities United Community Connections videos!

"Midpen Media Center producers have garnered 14 finalist nominations for the 2016 Western Access Video Excellence (WAVE) Awards — more than any other access center in the Alliance for Community Media Western Region! These were programs produced and aired between August 1, 2014 and August 2015. Below is a list of the productions and their respective producers. (Of course there were many crew members involved too!)

Drum roll please……
Accessibility-Abled Programming (Andrea Throndson, Community Producer)"
Abilities United Presents: Community Connections, Partnering with the Bridge School
Congratulations to all the Community Connections participants who helped make this and the many other video Community Connections has created since 2004.  You can see all of the Community Connections video on the Abilities United Youtube channel

Monday, March 14, 2016

In appreciation of our donors and partners who make our accomplishments possible

This edition is dedicated to  Lynda Steele
April 1948 - February 2016
As we enter into spring, we are honored to share that you have contributed nearly $1.1 million through our Aquathon, Authors Luncheon and annual appeals. You have positioned us to reach our year-end fundraising goal of $1.4 milllion which will continue to support the essential and professional services we provide to thousands of individuals and their families who live with a developmental or physical disability.  A quick summary of your contributions since July 1, 2015 include:

donor generosity ensure our achievements

    united for success: fundraising on target

    Our annual appeal for the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 was extremely successful.  To date, we have raised $240,000 which is critical to our ability to provide educational, therapeutic, social, and vocational services to children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. The annual appeal revenue, along with the combined $450,000 raised at the Authors Luncheon and Aquathon, plus individual gifts since July 1, 2015  bring us to our current $1.1 million in donated revenue.

    united for the future donation results
    We are now halfway through our 2015-2018 "United for the Future" funded projects. Many of those gifts came as naming opportunities for specific projects or programs that Abilities United needed to launch to remain competitive in disability services.  We have met with many of these major donors to share with them the impact their gifts have made on the lives of the people we serve. A quick summary includes:
        Art Program: Abilities United participant artists have increased exposure and art revenue in the Bay Area through exhibits at notable locations including the de Young Museum and the Children's Discovery Museum San Jose.
        Art Scholarships: Nearly 50 adult artists have enrolled in art classes in the community to further develop their artistic talents and techniques and be exposed to new teachers and painting styles. The original art works produced have been on exhibit and available for purchase in our Art Program art collection.
        Technology Fund: Staff and participants have better access to modern technology software and hardware; the necessary infrastructural developments have been made to prepare us for more sophisticated and robust technology solutions to ensure the organization runs more efficiently and effectively.
        Memorial Fund: Adult Day Activities staff members participated in meaningful and effective team building opportunities to develop the skills and competencies to be better leaders. They share what they have learned with other staff to improve services to all Adult Services participants.
        Employment Placement Enhancement Fund: Employment placement increased to 39 individuals (up from 32 the previous year) while another 13 individuals received employment readiness support services.  Today, approximately 385 individuals served are currently employed in the mainstream workforce

partnerships make our work possible

    united for children: how early intervention changes lives

    Board members, Cassy Christianson, Dr. Heidi Feldman, and Rachel Segars teamed up for an intimate and personal presentation on how early intervention services have impacted their lives and the lives of their children and families.  A dozen friends of the board members gained a more in-depth understanding of how these Abilities United services change the future of individuals, families, and the community.

    stronger united: employment services business partners
    Employment partners enjoyed networking with like-minded business professionals who have committed to help close the employment and income gap by hiring people with disabilities.  One of our new Employment Services partners, Homewood Suites-Hilton in Palo Alto, sponsored the appreciation breakfast to recognize the contribution of our 140 employment and volunteer partners.  We cannot place individuals in jobs that match their skills without the partnership of these employers.

    united for art: a universal language

    Community School of Music and Art (CSMA) once again partnered with Abilities United to host an art and wine social  for an intimate group of art supporters.  Donors from CSMA and Abilities United bonded over freshly and artistically made hors d'oeuvres prepared by the Abilities United Integrated Living program participants.  The evening concluded with an enjoyable acrylic painting class led by Abilities United artist, Ingrid Lai, and CSMA Art Program Director, Linda Covello.  Each artist left with a smile and newly discovered pride in their artistic talent and an appreciation for the artistic talents of others.

    united by abilities: the capacity to overcome challenges
    Concentric Media and filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman  joined forces with Abilities United to host a film festival debut of "The Annie Gill Story" as well as present three additional Concentric Media films. The audience of 250 community members was moved by each of the individuals featured in the films, including Abilities United participant, Molly Hale, whose story of how she utilized warm-water aquatic exercise and other therapeutic exercises to recover from her spinal cord injury was recounted in the film "Moment by Moment'.

    united for education: Palo Alto Adult School
    Celebrating its 95th anniversary,  Palo Alto Adult School provides classes for English learners, parents, job seekers, travelers, and hobbyists. The Adult School recognizes Abilities United this quarter for its high quality services for community members with disabilities. Are you caring for a family member? Consider taking a class for yourself. Learn about the various Spring quarter class offerings beginning March 21st at

Abilities United cannot achieve our mission without your help. Thank you for all your contributions because everything you do brings us closer to reaching our goals to:

    Provide seamless transition from one service to another throughout the lifetime of participants
    Increase Abilities United brand awareness
    Assess the community needs to help define the future of Abilities United services

As we approach the close of our 2015/2016 fiscal year, I look forward to keeping you informed about more progress at Abilities United.

Charlie Weidanz

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thank you! You made all these achievements possible!

Authors Luncheon authors Thomas Mallon, Annie Barrow, Silicon Valley tech writer, Ashlee Vance andPam Muñoz Ryan
We had a wonderful autumn and I want to share these successes with you because you made all this possible! Much has been accomplished in the last couple months, so as we celebrate Thanksgiving and on behalf of everyone at Abilities United, thank you for everything you have done to help people with developmental and physical disabilities.  

In the spirit of the season, please join us to celebrate “Giving Tuesday” on December 1. Now in its fourth year, Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many of us focus on our holiday and end-of-year giving.  Abilities United’s Giving Tuesday campaign goal will be to raise the final $15,000 needed to place 50 individuals with disabilities in jobs that match their skills and interests and meet the needs of the employer.

You can donate to our Giving Tuesday employment campaign now or look for our "Giving Tuesday" email next week.

Thank you for all your contributions because everything you do brings us closer to reaching our goals to:
    •    Provide seamless transition from one service to another throughout the lifetime of participants.
    •    Increase Abilities United brand awareness.
    •    Assess the needs for redevelopment of Abilities United facilities.

Join me in celebrating the successes of the last couple months.

fundraising events

    •    authors luncheon The 24th annual Authors Luncheon once again broke its fundraising record and raised $356,000 for services for children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. More than 500 book lovers and friends of Abilities United joined four acclaimed authors Annie Barrow, Thomas Mallon, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Silicon Valley tech writer, Ashlee Vance for an entertaining lunch on Saturday, November 7, at the newly remodeled Crowne Plaza Cabaña in Palo Alto.   Many thanks to the hundreds of dedicated volunteers, donors, and book lovers who consistently make this one of the community’s most anticipated and beloved annual fundraising events. Please join us for the 25th anniversary of the Authors Luncheon in 2016!

    •    aquathon The 38th annual Aquathon made a splash on Sunday, September 13, at the campus pool of West Valley College in Saratoga.  Returning lead sponsors were Oracle and De Mattei Construction.  Twenty swim teams with 126 swimmers raised over $80,000. The Abilities United Aquathon is a community event that demonstrates how each person can participate and contribute. Special thanks to all the individuals, teams, and groups for their support of the people with developmental and physical disabilities that Abilities United is privileged to serve. Congratulations to everyone and let's dive in to the Abilities United Aquathon 2016!

staff and volunteer awards
    •    sarc "service above self" awards 
We are so proud of Lupe Arizaga, our Children’s Services Occupational Therapist, and Board Member Mike Aquilar, who each received a coveted SARC recognition awards. Lupe’s 20 year career with Abilities United Children’s Services and Mike’s decades of work as an advocate for people with disabilities garnered them the “Support Staff of the Year” and the “Advocate of the Year” awards respectively.  We are also delightged to note that Abilities United staff has received the award 4 out of the last 6 years and participants have won the "advocate" award two times!  Join us in congratulating Lupe and Mike on being recognized for their professionalism and leadership!


    •    employment services
The compelling Palo Alto Weekly cover story “Able and Willing”, about employment options for people with disabilities, featured Abilities United Employment Services participant Brett Carmody, an auto detailer at Tesla in Palo Alto and Joel Martinez, a morning server in the dining room of the Homewood Suites Hilton Palo Alto.  Read the story here.

The Abilities United special guest speaker at the Authors Luncheon, Pat Romzek, father of a son with Down syndrome, Vice President of Cloud Strategy of Cisco Systems, and a member of the Abilities United board; further expounded on the importance and power of employment in the lives of all people, and especially people with disabilities.   His impassioned speech about the employment rights of people with disabilities compelled the Authors Luncheon audience to donate approximately $115,000 to fund the placement of 50 individual with disabilities in jobs in the community.
Watch Pat Romzek’s speech here.

    •    integrated living Abilities United celebrated the grand opening of the 1585 Studio apartments located in Mountain View. As part of the grand opening, they purchased and showcased ten original works of art by artists from Abilities United.

 Eleven Abilities United participants are residents of 1585 Studios and also receive personalized one-to-one coaching through our newest program “Integrated Living”. This two-year pilot project is a coordinated program of educational, social, vocational, and independent living training needed by post high school or college-aged students with disabilities. The extensive instruction will benefit the participants with employment placement, increased independence, and access to college and community resources and activities. The ultimate goal is for these young adults to live independently after completing the two-year program.
Learn about the new Integrated Living program. 

As we approach 2016, I look forward to keeping you informed about more progress at
Abilities United.

Charlie Weidanz
Executive Director