Northwest Center celebrates 55 years of inclusion on September 14, 2020, and the U.S. recently celebrated 30 years of the ADA. Northwest Center founder Janet Taggart recently shared her thoughts on both in this video interview.
We may have to stay socially distanced, but Northwest Center services can’t stop—kids with disabilities still need therapy to reach their milestones, preschoolers need interaction with classmates and teachers, adults with disabilities need to keep their work skills sharp, and the businesses we partner with need essential services. Here are some ways the Northwest Center community has been rising to the challenge of COVID-19.
Northwest Center Kids
Learning in Circles: How Virtual Education Keeps Kids Connected
Hang on to your hats! This year, for the first time ever, we’re off to the races at a social distance as Northwest Center’s Derby gala goes virtual! On Friday, October 23, our biggest fundraising event will be streamed live on YouTube from Fremont Studios—with plenty of audience interaction. And registration for this year’s event is FREE.
Chris Cashman of KING5 will take guests through a program filled with fun, entertainment, and philanthropic excitement, while nationally known fundraising auctioneer Fred Northup will do his part to inspire guests to beat last year’s $300,000 fundraising goal.
Though we won’t dine in person, guests can still do it up for Derby dinner with fresh-from-scratch, hand-delivered meals created by renowned chef and longtime Northwest Center supporter John Howie of restaurants Seastar, SPORT, John Howie Steak, Beardslee Public House, and distillery Wildwood Spirits Co.
Every year, the big Derby draw is our live and silent auctions, and this year is no different—except guests will bid virtually using their computer, tablet, or mobile phone. (It’s easy and we’ll show you how.)
Though The Derby is free to attend, you do need to register to attend, bid, or donate—so be sure to register now right here. And mark your calendars: our silent auction of jewelry, gourmet food, and handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items opens on Monday, October 19.
We look forward to seeing you LIVE at the Derby on October 23. Click here to register for The Derby.
When Northwest Center Kids launched the IMPACT™ program in 2018, they knew the need for inclusive early learning was great. It turns out, the response to the program was even greater.
Instead of opening another brick-and-mortar Early Learning center that might only be able to serve 80 children at a time, the Kids team wanted a way to reach the thousands of children across the state who were shut out of early learning—an estimated 22,000 children in King County alone. They designed IMPACT (short for “Inclusion Mentorship Program for increasing Access in Childcare Team”) to provide training so that other early learning centers can welcome children with disabilities or who may need extra support throughout the day for a health care need or a physical, developmental, behavioral, or social-emotional concern.
The team set a goal to reach 6,000 children by the end of 2020. They reached that goal before IMPACT was even a year old. As of summer 2020, IMPACT has reached a whopping 17,000 children in King County, with many more school and facility trainings to come.
Overwhelmingly Positive Responses
“This amazingly designed program is what we childcare providers have been hoping for for years,” says one director who received IMPACT consultations and training, citing the support that both teachers and the school director received. “The quality of the work was the professional push we needed for a reluctant family to hear our suggestions. This was the best class our experienced staff EVER took. They are still taking about what they learned.”
Those thoughts have been echoed in overwhelmingly positive responses from organizations who received IMPACT training:
Those results are even more impressive when you consider that the IMPACT team is a small but mighty multidisciplinary team of just seven people, and when you see just how many people they’ve reached from September 2018 through June 2020:
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has altered how the IMPACT team delivers their trainings, it has actually increased their reach: thanks to teleconferencing, they’ve been able to host virtual training across King County, training 1,531 providers and counting since the pandemic began.
Schools Want to be Inclusive
“One of my favorite things is when teachers realize they already have many of the skills they need to do inclusion,” says IMPACT Inclusion Consultant Kristen McLeskey. “There’s a sense of excitement when they see a strategy being successful, and they start shifting their thinking from ‘Someone else is better qualified to care for this child’ and instead start to realize, ‘I can do this!’
“Schools already want to be inclusive,” she continues, “but sometimes teachers just aren’t sure how to get started or need additional strategies. By providing ongoing consultation, IMPACT goes with them on this journey and helps them adapt their practices to support children with all different needs and abilities.”
“One of my favorite moments was helping a teacher recognize how, despite challenges in her classroom, she was still practicing inclusion,” says IMPACT Inclusion Consultant Erica Yuen. “She wished more people could be patient, because children with challenging behaviors deserve the chance to stay and learn positive behaviors. I commended her for her inclusive mindset—challenging behaviors are often a reason to remove a child from school. The simple act of pointing out her commitment to inclusion was incredibly empowering for her.”
Because IMPACT is sponsored by Public Health – Seattle and King County, Best Starts for Kids of King County's Child Care Health Consultation grant, Northwest Center Kids is able to offer services free of charge to early learning programs that serve children aged birth to five years in King County.
“Childcare is an underfunded and undervalued industry, and I enjoy providing free services that are of value to providers, to support them in the very challenging work that they do,” says Elizabeth Carley, IMPACT Program Coordinator and Mental Health Consultant.
Of course, the most important benefit of IMPACT is the fact that more children are being welcomed and included in early learning across King County, despite their challenges.
“IMPACT consultants are a great resource for us, especially helping me to support our children with special needs,” says one childcare provider. “They encourage us and give all the tips to succeed. Now we can see the big results in each child’s life!”
From Heart Surgery to Hospital-to-Home Therapy, Early Supports to Early Learning, Northwest Center Supports Jackson Every Step of the Way
The moment the family walked through their front door, Northwest Center was there to help: the family signed up for Hospital-to-Home, Northwest Center’s Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program that supports families when a baby comes home from a long hospital stay.
“Immediately upon leaving the hospital, we started doing motor and feeding therapy with our speech-language pathologist Natalie Miller,” says Jackson’s dad Nathan. (Miller, who is also a Hospital-to-Home Clinical Supervisor, remains Jackson’s therapist to this day.)
“It would have been unbelievably difficult to not have that support,” Kamille says. “It’s so overwhelming to be hooking your child up to a machine to be fed. It was really important to have someone dedicated to infant feeding. Natalie had worked with kids with tubes, she'd done swallow studies before. It was not her first rodeo and it was definitely ours.”
“Without that support, I think we would have clogged up our doctor’s phone lines,” Nathan says. “Or we might have pushed Jackson a little bit too hard on trying oral feeding if we hadn't had experts helping us understand his limitations.”
“Your first year feeding and taking care of a child is vital to their wellbeing for the rest of their life,” Kamille says. “The most important part of our day was getting Jackson fed. Natalie would talk to us, give a second opinion of ‘That’s normal or not normal’ or, ‘Yes, you should talk to a doctor about that’ or, ‘Here’s some referrals and resources; let me connect you with this person that might give you some more guidance.’ It was a support system.”
Part of the Family
Jackson, who turns 3 in November, has since reached some major milestones.
“We’ve been with Early Supports services from the get-go. On top of that, Jackson started going to Northwest Center Kids Early Learning at around 6 months old,” Nathan says. “We knew we couldn’t go to just any daycare because of Jackson’s feeding tube.”
“At Chinook, they support his Early Supports therapy,” Nathan says. “They’ve always really supported any changes we needed to make. They never complained, always asked if there was more they could be doing.”
Still Connected, Still Thriving
The family is grateful for the consistent support from Early Supports and Early Learning, especially their long relationship with their speech-language pathologist.
“I consider Natalie a wonderful resource and a close friend,” says Kamille. “I think of her as somebody who I trust with my child's care. Northwest Center was able to facilitate me having support and Nathan having support, and his grandparents having support, by coming into our homes, and that was key to his success.”
Because of COVID-19, in-home visits are suspended for now, but Jackson continues to expand his vocabulary thanks to weekly telehealth therapy. These days, he is practicing saying words and phrases typical for a two-year-old like "I want juice" and "I love you."
“My hopes for Jackson’s future are just like any other parent,” Kamille says.
“I want him to have a normal childhood with normal ups and downs,” says Nathan.
“I want him to be loved by everyone, because he is absolutely worthy of it, as any child is,” says Kamille. “It’s so important to us that Northwest Center’s work continues—for Jackson to have good care and other kids to have an inclusive place to go.”
our founders created programs and services where none had existed before. Yet we’ve never experienced a crisis like the one we currently face.Early Learning students receive valuable reading education from their Northwest Center Kids teacher.
Social distancing has made isolation an issue for most of us right now. But for people with disabilities, the impact is severe. When we closed our doors to protect the collective health and safety of our community, babies with disabilities and their families no longer had in-person supports for healthy development. Preschoolers in our learning centers missed out on crucial social interactions and inclusive learning. The vast majority of the adults with disabilities we serve have no workplace to report to—they’ve lost employment stability as well as the person-to-person interaction that is such an important part of their lives.
This is a difficult, overwhelming, unprecedented time. That’s why Northwest Center is working to ensure that now more than ever, every person in our community has the support they need to lead healthy and stable lives.
This is what we’re doing right now to support people of all ages with disabilities:
Just days after social distancing began, our team of more than 50 program staff had remote therapy set up for the families who receive Early Intervention; they continue to support children and families through a Telehealth platform. Every day, NWC Early Learning educators are connecting with families through remote story times and puppet shows, online social learning activities, virtual field trips, language classes, art classes, and movement activities. Therapists and Family Resource Coordinators are making weekly online visits to babies and families, providing critical supports for early development, as well as connecting families in need with essential resources such as food and housing assistance, mental health services, and tools for COVID-19 safety. And because the need for inclusive early learning can’t be put on hold, NWC is providing online trainings for childcare providers in King County so they can continue to support families in their communities.
Our Employment Services teams are finding meaningful ways to connect with their clients through technology. Using video and phone calls, we continue to coach clients in their job training journey: practicing key job skills related to their goals, maintaining routines and habits at home, and supporting communication with their current or potential employers during this time. Employment Consultants and Job Coaches are also connecting with clients on a personal level—because so many people with disabilities are missing crucial work friendships right now, our teams are hosting group chats each week just to keep in touch. By keeping both job skills and human connections intact, we’re supporting clients now and making sure they’ll be well equipped to re-enter the workforce or find employment when the opportunity arises.
As we wade through this time of uncertainty, friends like you make it possible for us to support our community. Despite the crisis we are experiencing, our commitment to continuing to deliver our critical services has not wavered. But your support is needed more than ever. We hope you will consider making an additional gift to Northwest Center this year--if you give now, you will double your impact, thanks to a $50,000 matching grant provided to us by a group of caring supporters.
We thank you for your commitment to Northwest Center and hope you will consider a gift today. Know that your partnership right now is pivotal. You can help us make sure the people we serve have support during this unprecedented time, and help safeguard the longevity of our services for people with disabilities after COVID-19 is a memory.
Should you have any questions about our services or our needs during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out.
President & CEO
As a nonprofit at the forefront of employment inclusion since 1965, Northwest Center is always proud to be part of the Annual Diversity Employment Day Career Fair & Roundtables. This year, we were even more proud: the 20th annual fair honored our Director of Talent Strategy and Partnerships Rachel Cupples, as well as the Northwest Center Talent Acquisition Group, with the Diversity Spirit Achievement Award.
“This award is presented to those individuals, corporations, and government officials that have actively supported diversity in an outstanding way,” said Neal Morrison, Director of Diversity Recruiter’s Network.org. “It’s my pleasure to recognize Northwest Center for diversity and inclusion in their recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes.”
Northwest Center’s Talent Acquisition Group is itself a diverse team of people where “inclusion and innovation go hand in hand,” Cupples says. “We find ways to leverage community and disability partnerships and reach out to diverse populations.
“Disability does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, or age,” she continues. “Neither does our recruitment process.”
Want to join the inclusion revolution with a job at Northwest Center? Visit our careers page now.
UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, the Seattle Symphony has made the difficult decision to cancel performances through July 31, 2020. However, our composition partnership is still going strong! We’ll continue to update you about our progress and any future performances.
Northwest Center unlocks the potential of people of all abilities, and now some of our Employment Services clients are discovering even more talents: they’re teaming up with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and composer Charles Corey to create an orchestral piece that will debut in June at the symphony’s popular Beethoven Festival.
Beethoven Festival also features community collaborations with a local children’s chorus and Native American tribes. The goal of the Northwest Center partnership is to demonstrate what people with disabilities can do and to promote inclusion at in the arts, business, and the greater community. It’s a perfect fit with a celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed some of his most famous music after he became deaf at age 26.
Northwest Center clients have worked on musical themes with the symphony since late summer through a series of workshops that ranged from making art playing musical instruments to outings to the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Art Museum.
Not only is this collaboration about making music, it’s about making friends: Best Buddies of Washington has connected symphony employees with NWC clients for friendships that will last far beyond June.
Join Northwest Center June 19 and 21, 2020 at the Seattle Symphony to hear the world premiere, presented in concert with Beethoven’s legendary 4th and 5th symphonies.
Our founding mothers understood how to harness the power of government to make the world more inclusive of people of all abilities. We’re pleased to connect with a growing roster of state, regional, and national legislators who, like us, understand that until all of us are allowed to engage and contribute, none of us will reach our full potential.
Last April, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan chose one of our Early Learning Centers, Northwest Center Kids at Chinook, to sign the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) Levy into law. Including a first-ever exemption for Seattle’s most vulnerable taxpayers, FEPP promises seven years of publicly funded investments to increase access to and funding for education for people of all ages and abilities throughout Puget Sound.
In May, First Lady Trudi Inslee visited Puget Sound Laundry Services (PSLS), one of Northwest Center’s owned businesses. Operations Manager Ofelia Almanza led First Lady Inslee on a tour of the facility. Almanza told the story of the facility with pride: For more than 25 years, PSLS has provided superior quality laundry services and employed people of all abilities. Today, more than 60 percent of the staff at the facility has some form of disability. Following the tour, the First Lady talked with Northwest Center President & CEO Gene Boes, staff, and parents about making education and workforces more inclusive for people with disabilities.
In June, we were proud to host King County Executive Dow Constantine at Northwest Center headquarters for a discussion with our Kids team about our IMPACT™ program, part of the Child Care Health Consultation services funded by Best Starts for Kids, which funds programs for children across King County. Northwest Center Kids launched IMPACT in late 2018 to train regional preschool staffs how to welcome and educate children of all abilities. A little over one year into the program, IMPACT already surpassed a three-year goal of reaching 6,000 kids.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal rounded out the year with a November visit to Northwest Center Kids at Chinook for a discussion on education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. After a brief chat with students, staff, and clients, Congresswoman Jayapal met with Katrina Caron, Director of Early Learning, and President & CEO Gene Boes.
With each visit, meeting, and event, it’s clear that many of our local, state, and federal officials support Northwest Center’s mission to promote the growth, development, and independence of people with disabilities through programs of therapy, education, and work opportunity. We know how much there is to be done—here’s to making more connections in 2020.
It’s an audacious goal, and by its very definition is not something we’re likely to achieve in 2020, or on our 60th anniversary, or even by our 75th. But it is the ultimate, fixed North that we work toward at Northwest Center, no matter what moves or changes around us.
We are making great strides in the journey. Our Kids team launched the IMPACT™ program in 2018 with the goal of making inclusive early learning available to 6,000 more kids in King County in three years. They reached that goal before the program was even a year old, and are now well on their way to doubling that number as we progress into 2020.
Our Early Intervention, Early Learning, and Employment Services teams once again served a record number of kids and adults with disabilities in the past year. And with new, innovative approaches in place like the restructuring of our Employment Services into a scalable, geography-based “pod” structure, we’re poised to make inclusion part of even more workplaces and lives across the country in the coming years.
Our North goes hand-in-hand with the Strategic Plan we adopted two years ago. We’re continuing to build OneNWC by enhancing our workplace culture with more professional development opportunities, more sharing of our success stories, and more opportunities to connect across divisions.
Every step we take is designed to achieve significant, ongoing growth as an organization while ensuring a positive experience for our employees and our customers. Every step we take is toward our North. Because until all of us are included, none of us reach our potential.
Onward & Upward,
President and CEO
Northwest Center’s Donation Pickup Service The Big Blue Truck rolls out a Bold New Look
The Big Blue Truck has been driving change since 1967, picking up your donated clothing and household items to help fund Northwest Center’s services for people with disabilities. Now we’re unveiling a change of our own! We’re pleased to introduce a truck fleet with a fresh new look, now hitting the road across Washington state.
Our new look includes the new colors of Northwest Center’s refreshed brand look and represents our services from birth to career. Pictured is a cross-section of the children and adults with and without disabilities who benefit from our programs of inclusion from Early Intervention to Early Education to Employment Services.
The photo is shown against vibrant ripples that mirror the ripples in the icon of our updated logo. The bright blue conveys the positive energy created when people of all abilities learn and work together, while the ripples signify the lasting impact inclusion makes on the world. It all comes together against the classic blue color that has identified The Big Blue Truck since 1967.
You’ll be sure to spot The Big Blue Truck around your community soon, but there’s one way to be sure you’ll see it: schedule a pickup today! Simply enter your ZIP code at BigBlueTruck.org to get The Big Blue Truck rolling to you. When you do, you’ll be helping fund vital Northwest Center services AND helping us keep more than 17 million pounds of recyclable goods out of landfills every year!
Schedule your donation pickup today at BigBlueTruck.org.
Equal Opportunity Excellence: CEO Shares His Personal and Professional Journey on Microsoft Alumni Podcast
Imagine being expelled from school when you’re not even old enough to go to kindergarten. It happened to Gavin when he was just 14 months old.
“Gavin wasn’t yet crawling, and his daycare said that if he wasn’t crawling at 18 months, he wasn’t able to stay,” says his mom Kate, who tears up at the memory. “The daycare is telling you he’s going to be kicked out, and you wonder, ‘What is a place for Gavin? Where would he fit?’”
Thankfully, Gavin’s physiotherapist suggested Northwest Center Kids, where kids with and without disabilities learn and play together at two early learning preschools.
“She told us that, unequivocally, she would recommend Northwest Center for any child, whether they’re typically or atypically developing,” Kate recalls.
The family saw the changes in Gavin not long after they moved him to Northwest Center—his mobility and his interaction improved. “It’s much more inclusive,” said Kate at the time. “When I would pick Gavin up from the original daycare, the other children were crawling and walking, and he would often be by himself. Now when I pick him up, he’s playing with the other children.”
Gavin began walking at age 2, and now “He’s running and jumping and climbing,” Kate says today. “He can keep up with his peers on the playground; that’s really wonderful. He’s really loving school. On Saturdays and Sundays, he asks me if he can go to school.”
She continues, “I think it has been most beneficial to have such high quality, personalized attention and compassionate teachers who know just how much to encourage Gavin to push that little bit harder. That requires really empathetic, attentive teachers. His teachers at Northwest Center have that.”
Gavin’s story has a happy ending, but as many as 22,000 children with disabilities in King County are unable to find an inclusive preschool. That’s why Northwest Center Kids created IMPACT™ (Inclusion Mentorship Program for increasing Access in Childcare Team), a program to provide training and support to other childcare centers so that they can welcome children with special needs up to age 5.
“Instead of opening new preschools like the two we already have, we are reaching out to existing preschool staff across the county so more educators can accept kids with disabilities,” says Laura Kneedler, VP of Education & Therapy Services.
“If we built another school, we could serve 80 more children,” Kneedler says. “But by partnering with some of the early learning centers in King County, we can reach thousands of kids.”
IMPACT is off to a good start. Just three months into the program, the team had already added 12 local early learning providers to its roster of partners. At six months in, they were halfway to a goal of reaching 6,000 children in King County—a goal they initially projected to take three years.
Kate believes IMPACT will make a difference even for preschools already striving for inclusion. She points out that Gavin’s previous daycare “was not a bad daycare”—for instance, the staff made it possible for Gavin to see a physiotherapist and occupational therapist at school. “But someone like Gavin needs a little bit more,” she says.
One example of “a little bit more” is being flexible at mealtimes. At Gavin’s previous school, Kate says, he would get overwhelmed when served a whole plate of food. As a result, he was going home hungry. But at Northwest Center Kids, the staff worked with Gavin’s occupational therapist on a solution: they presented Gavin with a little bit of food at a time so he could process it better.
“The difference is the mindset,” Kate says. “There aren’t insurmountable things that need to happen in order to take care of a child like Gavin. It’s about changing the little details.”
Northwest Center has made a lasting impression on Gavin, and will continue to shape the family. Laura, a little girl born when Gavin was two, will start preschool at Northwest Center in September.
“Inclusion is important for all children,” Kate says. “It’s important for children like Gavin, who learn better and can learn from other children. It’s good for any child, just understanding it’s okay to be a little bit different.”
To learn more about IMPACT, visit nwcenter.org/IMPACT.
When you give to The Big Blue Truck™, you’re not only keeping clothing and household goods out of landfills; you’re making employment possible for people of all abilities. Northwest Center and Value Village teamed up to give job seekers with disabilities even more interview confidence: Styled for Success, personal styling at Value Village. Jesse found the perfect interview clothing during Styled for Success, and then the perfect job in customer service at Sky Nursery.
“The next day, I started working,” says Jesse. “It's a great fit. I really enjoy it.”
Thank you for making it possible for great employees like Jesse to find jobs they love.
Watch Jesse in action in this short video below.
If you need to know how things work at the Amazon sortation center in Kent, ask Angela. Since hiring on in 2016, she’s aced two intensive training programs to earn the designations of Problem Solver and Learning Ambassador.
“I like to problem solve,” Angela explains. “If it’s a broken package, you scan it into the computer and say what’s wrong with it, then you repackage it into a new box and put it back on the conveyor belt.”
As a Learning Ambassador, Angela helps new hires with everything from finding the break room to operating a pallet jack.
Angela’s success makes Northwest Center’s Employment Services team proud—but definitely not surprised. Because their commitment didn’t end once she was hired: every Northwest Center client receives job coaching and support for as long as needed.
“The best example was when she was required to learn the ‘water spider’ function (wrapping and printing labels for pallets),” says Senior Pod Manager Phil Keating. “She was scared and asked if she could skip that task. We helped her work through it, and now she is a trainer in that process!”
There were some tasks Angela learned before she was even hired, because she took part in a working interview at a sortation center mockup complete with aisles, products, a conveyor belt, and scanners. Employment Services built the mockup, housed at our Puget Sound Laundry Services building, in 2015.
Since then, NWC has placed and supported 212 employees at Amazon. Those employees boast impressive retention rates, high productivity, and a quality rating 37% higher than their coworkers. Learn more in this Seattle Times article on Northwest Center’s Amazon placement success.
As a parent of a child with a significant disability, I know firsthand that people with disabilities are still told “No” far too often when searching for opportunities or answers. Northwest Center is committed to removing those barriers and creating change through programs that span from cradle through career.
We’re grateful to you for being just as committed as we are. You demonstrated your commitment with incredible generosity that broke donation and attendance records at our recent events, the Golden Hearts Luncheon and The Derby. You demonstrate it with the trust you show by allowing us to work with your children, like Gavin. And you demonstrate it when you hire people of all abilities, like Jesse.
As I write this, it’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the perfect time to encourage you to work with Northwest Center to find talented employees. Northwest Center helps employers solve critical business problems by matching job seekers’ abilities with their business needs. An inclusive workforce will help you solve problems with retention and absenteeism while improving quality, productivity, and safety. We know, because we walk the walk: nearly 40 percent of Northwest Center’s employees have a documented disability. And we have the data to prove that for businesses nationwide, inclusion is a strategic differentiator providing a significant competitive advantage.
If you are an employer, here’s what I challenge you to do today:
Onward and Upward,
President & CEO
Northwest Center’s Golden Hearts Luncheon welcomed more than 500 guests who generously donated $170,000 to Northwest Center’s services for kids and adults.
The event was hosted by KING-TV personality Chris Cashman and featured Shaquem Griffin, linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, whose keynote address reminded the crowd why inclusion is so important: all his life, he’s accomplished things people told him he couldn’t do.
Griffin lost his hand at age 4 due to amniotic band syndrome. His family treated him just like anyone else, but other people were another story. Once at a Little League playoff game, a coach told him, “‘Football is not a one-handed sport.’ But I played that game. I got my first ever interception and took our team to the championship,” Griffin recalled.
Today, “There are people who say, ‘This guy’s an inspirational story, not a football player,’” Griffin said. “I don’t look at myself as a person with a handicap. I look at myself as a person who works his butt off to get the things he wants out of life.”
Before the event kicked off, Connor even convinced Griffin to give indoor kite-flying a try--see the video of Griffin flying a kite, taken by Connor’s mom Amy, a Lead Job Coach for NWC. Amy also recalled how Connor had to convince her to let him enter the competition and urged others not to doubt the potential of other people: “We need to believe in them because they believe in themselves.”
As Griffin so powerfully stated, “We all wake up in the morning and look ourselves in the mirror, and the only person looking back at you is you. The only one who can dictate what you’re going to be is you. The only person who can tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is you.” The people who attended this year’s Golden Hearts Luncheon responded with a resounding, “YES!” And we couldn’t be more grateful.
Read Connor’s story on the Northwest Center blog and watch his America’s Got Talent audition here.
Many thanks to our event sponsors
Thanks to your generous donations, Northwest Center set a new record at our 8th annual Derby: you raised more than $300,000—that’s double the amount raised at last year’s event! Funds raised will support our education and employment programs for children and adults with disabilities.
Guests giving individual donations were astounded—and moved to contribute!—when board member Paul Houlahan and her husband Gary Houlahan, along with BECU and Brown & Brown Seattle, agreed to match EVERY $1,000 gift made.
We congratulated MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions, our longtime partner in inclusion, who were the 2019 Derby Honoree. The award was presented to MacDonald-Miller president Gus Simonds.
We are so grateful to everyone who made this a historic event for Northwest Center. A special thank-you to our donors and sponsors: Premier Sponsor ValueVillage, Garland Sponsor Brown & Brown Seattle, Grandstand Sponsor National Purchasing Partners, and Oak Sponsors MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions, BECU, and Proclub.
Join us October 8 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center
He lost his hand when he was 4. Today, he’s the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Come to Northwest Center’s 2019 Golden Hearts Luncheon to hear Seattle Seahawks' Shaquem Griffin share his story of disability inclusion. This year’s luncheon will take place on Tuesday, October 8, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center on Seattle’s Pier 66.
Griffin has received worldwide attention as one of the first players in the NFL to have a physical disability. Though his left hand was amputated as a result of amniotic band syndrome, he went on to excel in college football at the University of Central Florida, playing alongside his twin brother Shaquill. The brothers were reunited on the field when Shaquem was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, where brother Shaquill plays cornerback.
Griffin made more headlines during the NFL Scouting Combine in March 2018 for performing 20 reps in the bench press while wearing a prosthesis and for running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, the fastest time for a linebacker since the NFL began releasing official statistics.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Puget Sound community to hear how, despite a disability, Griffin is an accomplished team member playing the most physical and mentally demanding sports in the world,” says Northwest Center president and CEO Gene Boes. “We are thrilled that he will be sharing his story at our Golden Hearts Luncheon this year.”
The Golden Hearts Luncheon will also feature stories from the children and adults who are part of Northwest Center’s education and employment services for people with disabilities.
“The combination of a keynote from Shaquem Griffin and our everyday success stories will be a great demonstration of why including people with disabilities is not only possible but vital for our society,” says Boes.
The Golden Hearts Luncheon is open to the public to attend with a donation suggested. Learn more and register for the 2019 Golden Hearts Luncheon now.
Northwest Center Founder Cecile Lindquist
It is with great sadness that Northwest Center shares the passing of Cecile Lindquist, one of our founding mothers and a lifelong advocate for the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities at every level of the community.
Cecile was inspired to work for the education of children with disabilities when her beloved cousin Tommy, who had Down syndrome, was turned away from school in the early 1960s. “That was my beginning of working on behalf of all children,” she told us in this video, recorded last year:
Cecile went on to join with Seattle mothers of kids with disabilities to found Northwest Center, and then to write and pass the very first law in the nation, House Bill 90 or “Education for All,” to mandate public education for children with disabilities.
Governor Dan Evans, who was also Cecile’s cousin, remembered in 2015: “I told all of them the same thing: ‘You have to contact and convince legislators—and there are 148 of them.’ Most organizations would say, ‘Oh, that’s impossible.’ Not Cecile and Katie [Dolan, another of our founders]. Nothing slowed them down.” Read the remarkable story behind this world-changing legislation.
But Cecile’s work didn’t stop there—in fact, it never stopped. This profile of Cecile from 2015 is a classic example of how passionate, dedicated, and hardworking she remained on behalf of all children for her entire life.
“Cecile was my mentor and a role model,” says Northwest Center board member Parul Houlahan. “I will never, ever forget how on her own dime and time she toured the entire state and lobbied tirelessly in the late ‘80s for kids from 3-5 years old who needed special education—at the time, early education didn’t begin until age 5. She held so many meetings with parents and local legislators around the state in the smallest places and counties. We won because even the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education in Olympia supported us.”
Houlahan concludes, “The best way we can honor our founders’ memories is to do our job to the best of our abilities.”
Northwest Center President and CEO Gene Boes agrees.
“This is a sad day for everyone at Northwest Center,” he says. “We will celebrate Cecile’s life and her commitment to inclusion by continuing to work for a world that includes everyone. We honor Cecile and will extend her legacy through our work at NWC.”
We are grateful to Cecile Lindquist for her lifetime of service. We were blessed to have her friendship. She will be greatly missed.
Alice’s voice rings out as she arrives for her 9 a.m. shift. She’s learning Italian phrases—this one means “beautiful restaurant”—because she’s so excited to be working as the new support employee at Tutta Bella in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Alice is the first Northwest Center client to be hired by Tutta Bella to work at one of their five neighborhood restaurants in and around Seattle. Her job is to prepare the restaurant before the lunch rush, ensuring that tables are set up, silverware is in place, and floors are clean.
“It’s a perfect match for me because I love eating Italian pizza and assisting in getting the place ready to open, so the cooks can just concentrate on making delicious pizzas,” Alice says. “It’s so much fun to work here because it gives me my independence and I get paid for what I like to do.”
“Alice has been here only a week and is already making a huge impact reducing the workload for the other employees,” says general manager Lindsey Rose. “She’s amazing, and the staff appreciates her big time.”
Though Alice is the first Northwest Center client to find employment at Tutta Bella, the restaurant has hired people with disabilities from the very beginning through their Supported Employees program.
“Every Tutta Bella location employs people with disabilities, which has been incredibly successful for the participants, customers, and the restaurants,” says founder and owner Joe Fugere. “Employees not only deserve to be employed just like everyone else, but they’ve greatly enriched each or our restaurants. Our employees with disabilities have a high retention rate, arrive on time, and work hard to get the job done.”
“They meet our needs and we meet their needs, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” says Rose. “Our restaurant reflects the world we live in and Alice is part of it. We are honored to have her here.”
Says Fugere, “My hope has always been to inspire other businesses to implement similar hiring practices.”
At just four months old, Noemie was having trouble getting enough nutrition. Her diagnosis was complex: tongue-tie (ankyloglossia), a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion; acid reflux; food allergies; and sensory processing disorder.
Noemie’s pediatrician referred her to a special clinic for children who have trouble getting enough nutrition. As the months passed, she saw other specialists in gastroenterology and nutrition, and began outpatient feeding therapy. And yet, Noemie made little progress.
Finally, the pediatrician referred Noemie’s family to Northwest Center Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers’ (ESIT) feeding therapy program, and they began working with occupational therapist Molly Nolan-Jones. The in-home visits were valuable, but after a few months, Nolan-Jones felt that Noemie’s diagnosis was not complete.
"At that point, Molly told us what turned out to be some of the most important words: ‘I feel like something else is wrong; you need to take her back to the gastroenterologist,” says Noemie’s mom Nichole.
“Molly became more than a feeding therapist,” Nichole continues. “She became a family advocate. She spoke with doctors on our family's behalf, and she was instrumental in helping the doctors find a proper diagnosis: eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease.”
Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease (EGID) makes it painful and difficult to swallow and digest food. Because Noemie’s EGID diagnosis was delayed, she had developed a pediatric feeding disorder. So Nolan-Jones continued to work with the family.
“I provided education about how to present food, how to engage in sensory play throughout her day, sensory approaches to food, and mealtime routines at their home,” says Nolan-Jones.
When Noemie turned 2, Early Supports transitioned her occupational therapy services from her home to the Early Learning classrooms at Northwest Center Kids at Greenwood.
"Noemie, her mom, and I would join the classroom at lunchtime,” says Nolan-Jones. “Our goal was for Noemie to spend time around other kids who were eating and enjoying food. This was motivating for Noemie, and she would eat more food during these meals.”
This past fall, Noemie officially transitioned to Early Learning as a student.
“Words can’t even explain how thankful I am to Molly and everyone at Northwest Center,” Nichole says. “It made a big difference in Noemie’s life and saved her from further complications. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Learn about EGID at Apfed (American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders). Visit Northwest Center Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers to learn more about services for children from birth to age 3.
Spring is finally upon us, and at Northwest Center we celebrate both the successes we’ve achieved and the potential successes soon to come.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, first designated with a proclamation to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities.” This month we’re sharing stories of children and adults reaching their full potential.
Follow facebook.com/nwcenter, twitter.com/nwcenter, and instagram.com/northwestcenter, and look for the hashtag #DDAwareness19 to see many of the great successes of our clients.
As you help us celebrate those successes, know that we also see the potential in children like Noemie. Working with our Early Intervention team, she’s gone from an infant struggling to get enough nutrition to a little girl who’s thriving in our Early Learning classrooms.
Down Syndrome Awareness Day, celebrated on March 21, is a reminder of the businesses we work with who see the potential for success by hiring people with disabilities. One standout employee is Barbie. She is an accomplished knitter who worked with Employment Services to find the perfect career at Paradise Fibers in Spokane, and she just happens to have Down syndrome.
YOU play a critical role our ability to continue our services for children and adults. Without your financial support, we can’t even begin to touch the tens of thousands of people waiting for services in Washington state. You can make a huge difference by attending The Derby, our annual spring fundraiser, on April 27. Register for The Derby now.
We’ll also be part of GiveBIG again this year—mark your calendars for May 8, and look for more opportunities to maximize your gift to Northwest Center when you #GiveBIG.
We envision a world where individual talent meets unlimited opportunity. Thank you for your continued support in bringing us closer to a truly inclusive society.
Onward and Upward,
It’s getting close to post time! Join us on Saturday, April 27 for The Derby, a Kentucky Derby-themed live auction event that benefits Northwest Center. The 8th annual event will take place at the elegant King Street Ballroom with spectacular views of Seattle, 255 South King Street in Pioneer Square.
The Derby benefits Northwest Center’s programs and services for people with disabilities. Like Elijah, who was turned away from multiple preschools that had no programs to work with children with developmental delays. Or Katelyn, who had a college degree but had trouble finding work because of her autism diagnosis. Your attendance at The Derby makes it possible for people with disabilities to find the resources and support they need from birth all the way through their careers.
Of course, getting a crack at some fabulous auction items is half the fun of The Derby. This year, we’ll be auctioning off the opportunity to be on the field assisting the Seattle Seahawks’s photographer during a home game; a seven-day stay right on Maui’s famed Wailea beach, and a vacation getaway to stunning faraway places.
You can also take your chance on two stellar raffles to win a seven-day cruise on Holland America Line to the U.S., Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean, or a $1,000 gift card to Seattle’s famed Canlis restaurant.
Value Village™ is the premier sponsor for The Derby again this year. A vital partner of Northwest Center since 1967, not only does Value Village make significant contributions to Northwest Center’s programs, the company has an inclusive workforce that includes employees hired through Northwest Center.
Join us on April 27! Purchase tickets now.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.