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They hit the slopes at Eldora, perform at open mic sessions and laugh as they paint at Crackpots. They may have developmental disabilities, but they can enjoy activities in the community, thanks in part to the programs at Imagine!
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, so I thought it would be interesting to speak with Fred Hobbs, the director of public relations for Imagine!, an organization that provides services to people with developmental, cognitive and physical challenges. He reminded me that these kinds of services did not always exist. In the fifties, the only option was institutions, which housed large numbers of “patients” and kept them isolated from their families and communities.
In 1963 a tenacious group of parents imagined a novel approach — they were determined to see that their children with developmental disabilities had the opportunity to participate in their community, so they founded Imagine! One current parent described her hopes, “What I wish for my son is what all parents wish for: a loving and engaged life.”
The staff at Imagine! work to nurture those kinds of lives.
“We sponsor after-school camps for school-age kids and community calendar events for 0-3 children and their parents. Early intervention is so important that any child from 0-3, who is screened and identified as having a developmental delay, is automatically entitled to the services of a team of therapists," Hobbs said. "Last year 1500 kids, ages birth-3, and 4400 people of all ages were served ... our outreach is introducing our clients to the community.”
When asked for an example, he described the success of one of Imagine!’s clients.
“He was taking music lessons at a local music store when his instructor encouraged him to come to an open mic evening. When the client showed up, he performed, and received enthusiastic applause from the audience. Now he is part of this little community,” Hobbs explained.
Hmmm, I thought, it is clearly a win-win situation.
When asked about the challenges he faced, Hobbs replied, “Most of our clients receive Medicaid, but the system is significantly underfunded. Lives are so much poorer than they could be if given the opportunities to participate in the community.”
While more funding is needed, many successes can be celebrated. On March 2, the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder hosted the debut of Mind Games – a play written, staged, and performed by adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The performance played to a packed house. On April 15 from 11-2 Imagine! will have an art show featuring art from participants in their school age services. You can find more information on the imaginecolorado.org website.
Boulder County is fortunate to have Hobbs and all the staff at Imagine!, who enrich the lives of so many. We have local stores who offer them employment. Maybe next time you are at the store, try greeting these individuals by name and remember Hobbs' words, “These are your fellow citizens, and they will make your community richer for their inclusion.”