COCA poster takes AUCD prize

December 28, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Image of COCA posterA poster by the Council on Community Advocacy (COCA) was named Most Informative at the recent Association of University Councils on Disability (AUCD) conference. Titled “The COCA Experience,” the poster outlines COCA’s organizational structure and leadership opportunities, as well as highlighting past, present and future activities.

Gordon Richins, consumer advocate at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) and former COCA board member, worked on the poster via e-mail and telephone with a half-dozen other people.

“I came up with an idea in my head,” Richins said, “and the six of us tweaked it until we got what we wanted it to say.”

More than 130 posters were presented at the conference, Richins said.

“It’s a competition,” he said. “That’s why it’s so cool to win one of three awards.”


Parents step up to TOP Sports

December 21, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Photo of TOP Sports player

A TOP Sports participant gets a high five from a volunteer during a t-ball game last summer.

A pair of parents has stepped up to the challenge of running the TOP Sports program for children with disabilities. Erica Lundahl and Emily Larson contacted Sue Olsen, CPD director of exemplary services, about a year and a half ago to ask if TOP Sports could be run more like a league than a skills camp. Lundahl and Larson have since taken over the operations of TOP Sports and have added soccer to the list of available activities.

TOP Sports began about seven years ago, when the Developmental Disabilities Council offered a grant to establish inclusive recreation and sports activities for children with disabilities. According to Olsen, TOP Sports was formed with the goal of working with Logan Parks & Recreation to create inclusion in their existing activities.

“It was a total failure. Nobody came,” Olsen said. Focus groups and parent interviews revealed that parents didn’t bring their children because they didn’t want their children to lose.

“They wanted their children to be able to participate in sports, but not be blamed for losing or not get to play,” Olsen said.

Since that first attempt, Olsen said, TOP Sports has evolved into more of a skills camp for children ages 3-18 who have developmental delays, and has had huge attendance. During the five-week sessions, children learn the rules of the game and have the opportunity to practice skills in basketball, t-ball and bowling. Art classes also are offered.

Olsen said the program has been unfunded since the original grant.

“Parents pay a fee, $10 or $15, but the kids always get a trophy or a hat or a baseball or a ribbon,” she said.

Her budget pays for replacement equipment, and a USU student is in charge of recruiting volunteers.

“Our goal is to let the parents sit back and enjoy watching their kids play sports and socialize with other parents,” Olsen said. “If there aren’t enough volunteers, the parents jump in.”


Heidi’s Happenings: Food, food and more food!

December 19, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Photo of DSL participants.

DSL participants with their food pantry donation.

Heidi Hill is a guest blogger for the CPD’s Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL), a day program for adults with disabilities. Heidi loves to type and each month she’ll be sharing the fun activities that she and her “buds” are doing at DSL.


Heidi and her buds collected tons of food for their food drive, 125 pounds in all! Then they took those donations directly to the Cache Valley Food Bank so that other people would have food to eat, and enjoy, at suppertime.

Then Heidi and all her van buds went by van to McDonald’s for lunch. After everybody had thanked Daurie so much for taking them out to lunch, Daurie said she’d tried to pay for lunch, but a kind stranger stepped up and paid for everybody’s food and drinks.

Photo of DSL participants at McDonald's

Heidi and her buds at McDonald’s.

CPD came and gave thanks for everything which they were thankful for. Also, we had a great feast that CPD gave to their DSL buds. We all munched on turkey, potatoes, stuffing and every different pie you can imagine. Heidi and her buds were so grateful to be so spoiled by the CPD!

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Volunteers of the Year named

December 17, 2012 by Sue Reeves

photo of Katie and Amber

Katie Lovendale (left) and Amber Hartley, CPD’s 2012 Volunteers of the Year

Katie Lovendale and Amber Hartley were named 2012 Volunteers of the Year by Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) for their work with Aggie Advocates. The special education majors were honored at the annual Holiday Lunch with beach bags filled with CPD goodies and an engraved plaque, which will be hung at the CPD.

Aggie Advocates was formed last year with the help of Jeff Sheen, training and development specialist and volunteer coordinator at the CPD, and associate director of development Shane Johnson.

“We couldn’t have done it without the CPD,” said Lovendale, who will graduate in May. Hartley, who graduated this semester, agreed, saying, “I don’t think we would have a club without Jeff and Shane.”

Sheen and Johnson met Lovendale and Hartley at the 2011 Day on the Quad, a day of self-promotion for campus organizations at the beginning of the school year. Through a set of “fortunate circumstances,” said Sheen, they began to work together on Aggie Advocates.

Sheen said that as the CPD volunteer coordinator, one of the best parts of his job is to come across pro-active individuals like Lovendale and Hartley, who volunteered their time to make the world a better place.

“We are fortunate to have that caliber of student at USU,” Sheen said.

Lovendale and Hartley became familiar with an advocacy project being conducted by Barbara DeBoer, clinical assistant professor in the early childhood education program. Soon after, they saw a high school play about the Little Rock 9 and that group’s efforts to end racial discrimination.

“It was inspiring,” Hartley said. “We said, ‘what if we did that?’”

Lovendale said racial discrimination doesn’t seem to be so prevalent on college campuses anymore, but people with disabilities still face discrimination. There were no existing advocacy groups at USU, and the pair wanted to educate people on disability issues.

Currently, there are more than 200 names on the Aggie Advocate e-mail list, they said, although not all of them attend meetings or help with events.

According to Hartley, the Aggie Advocates hosted a Halloween carnival for the ASSERT and Up to 3 programs, as well as an event on “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day and a movie night.

This year, the group painted the pumpkins used in the Up to 3 Program’s Pumpkin Walk display, and organized a fundraiser so that a local family could buy a headstone for their daughter, who died five years ago. More than $500 was raised.

While Lovendale and Hartley are no longer part of the Aggie Advocate leadership, they are excited to see that the membership has become more diverse, with majors other than special education represented.

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Enjoy life and the holiday season

December 14, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Image of Christmas decoration.By Gordon Richins, Consumer Liason
Center for Persons with Disabilities

As I enjoy the holiday season, these are a few of the things I am very grateful for.

First and most important is my wonderful wife, Faustine, whom I love dearly and greatly appreciate. She has been next to me every day for 36 years of marriage–the last 25 with C-4 quadriplegia.

I am grateful for my family and extended family within the disability community.

I am grateful that, at the age of 57, I live in a time in history when communication between individuals and family members with a disability has never been easier or more effective. Our quality of life, which has been hard-fought by thousands of disability advocates over several decades, goes back to the ability to communicate, not just in our hometown, but across America and the world.

I am grateful for the tremendous progress made by universities across the nation in teaching our students and future leaders the many aspects of life with a disability in modern society.

I am grateful for the research, within the medical environment and the disability field in general, that has greatly increased the quality of life that we enjoy, and often times take for granted. As an employee of one of the 67 UCEDDs (University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities) in the United States, I have seen many examples of research and programs that have added to our quality of life, not just as individuals with disability, but society in general.

I am grateful for the many disability organizations, made up of millions of disability advocates from all walks of life. The number and breadth of organizations are too numerous to mention here, but there are a few that have worked extremely hard to improve life for people with a disability. This list is in no special order. I am involved with, and in some cases pay dues to, these organizations because I believe in their mission statements and what they do for me and all of my brothers and sisters with disability.

AUCD – Association of University Centers on Disabilities
NCIL – National Council on Independent Living
APRIL- Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
AAPD – The American Association of People with Disability
CPD – The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University