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.
Why does Connor travel the world to fly kites? Because the Northwest Center client wants to raise awareness about epilepsy and anti-bullying. Connor, who has epilepsy, took his indoor kite-flying performance all the way to the 2010 semi-finals of America’s Got Talent (AGT), beating out 90,000 contestants and appearing in the “Live Wildcard Finals” top 12 in Los Angeles.
Connor used his AGT appearance as an opportunity to tell his story on network television and share the benefits of kite flying. “When I’m flying my kites, I never think about having seizures. Nothing can touch me,” he says.
Kite flying changed his life—and now he hopes it can help change others’, too. Connor travels the world with “Dare to Dream,” a program he co-founded with his mother Amy Doran, lead job coach at NWC. Together, they participate in kite flying festivals to raise epilepsy and anti-bullying awareness. They also team up with foundations to raise funds for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy Patients (SUDEP).
In April, Connor and Amy will travel to Cervia, Italy for the Artevento Festival, where professional kite flyers come together to share their handmade kites and compete in flying competitions. At home in the Pacific Northwest, Connor also spreads the word about workplace inclusion for people with disabilities—he found his own job through Employment Services at Northwest Center.
Connor feels he’s living his dream, and he encourages others to believe in themselves and embrace their dreams, too. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything,” he says. “No matter what type of disability you have or other life challenges, never give up.”
Avni started out collecting and organizing hangers at Value Village, but thanks to Northwest Center job coaches and a supportive store team, he’s expanded his role.
“He had the social skills and interpersonal skills,” says job coach Ronda Noggle, “so we started with the basics: ‘What do you love? What do you want to do?’ The store team worked with us to develop Avni’s skills. Slowly but surely, using his ability to write the alphabet, we transformed that into words and then names, and then now he makes name tags for staff members and hands them out at staff meetings.”
“Avni just brings something to our team,” says Chris Harst, Value Village store manager. “Everybody’s always happy to see him. The benefits of an inclusive workforce, I mean, they’re endless,” he continues. “We hire people with different abilities and they fit right in.”
Learn more about our partnership with Value Village.
Working Together: How Seattle Athletic Club Employees Helped Get a Beloved Northwest Center Client Back to Work
Sandy is the “light of the world,” says Sarah Shafter, membership and corporate accounts manager at the Seattle Athletic Club (SAC). “She is someone truly special and an integral part of our team.”
Sandy, a Northwest Center client and women’s locker room attendant “towel folder extraordinaire,” has worked at SAC for more than 12 years. “She’s an ‘institution’ and is loved by everyone at the club—members too,” says Shafter.
But last year, something happened that threatened to keep Sandy from the job she loves: a life-threatening stroke paralyzed her left side and affected her ability to talk and swallow.
SAC employees were devastated by the news. Sandy was in the hospital for more than three weeks and then was transferred to a nursing home. A few months later, she desperately wanted to return to work at SAC, but was not yet fully recovered.
“It looked like she would spend the rest of her life in the nursing home,” Shafter says.
That’s when SAC employees decided to nurse Sandy back to health on their own.
“Each employee would take turns to visit her and would bring her back to the club for therapy swims and workouts to build her strength up,” says Lisa Huisingh, housekeeping supervisor and childcare director at SAC.
Due to the employees’ efforts, Sandy made progress and began walking again.
“We knew if we didn’t step in to help Sandy, she could still be in the nursing home today,” Huisingh says. “We missed her so much while she was gone and it’s a miracle to have her back on her feet without having to use special equipment to get around.”
The club was so happy when Sandy came back to work, they awarded her “Employee of the Month.”
“She’s taught me so much in life over the years, “Huisingh says. “To always be friendly, that it’s okay to be silly, and to never ever give up. We are blessed to have Sandy back and see her beautiful smile again that lights our world!”
“I don’t have Down syndrome; it’s a lifestyle,” Barbie exclaims as she sorts through hundreds of fibers and yarn at Paradise Fibers in Spokane.
“My hobby is knitting and being able to work with yarn and fiber; every day is a dream come true,” says Barbie. “Working here makes me feel more independent and I can do stuff on my own and earn money and spend it the way I want to.”
Barbie’s dream of knitting and working with fibers every day became a reality right away when she visited Paradise Fibers. Her employment coach scheduled a day for her to meet the entire store team and she was hired on the spot. “We all loved her immediately,” said Karlene Oliver, shipping and purchasing lead at Paradise Fibers. “We decided on that day Barbie was going to be part of the team because of her terrific personality and great smile.”
Not only does Barbie organize yarn in the store among many other duties she has at Paradise Fibers, but soon her own knitting work will be offered as part of the store’s Fiber of the Month Club, a subscription service that sends special yarns and other goodies each month to more than 500 members. Barbie will design the March 2019 box in honor of Down Syndrome Day, and she has requested that all proceeds from the blanket she knits will go to Northwest Center and the Down Syndrome Foundation of Spokane.
It’s not the first time Barbie has used her knitting skill to help others. She was so moved by the movie “The Fisher King,” she decided she wanted to help the homeless.
“It gets so cold at night during the winter,” Barbie says. “My favorite things to knit are hats and scarves so I can hand them out to homeless people and the elderly, too. I wanted to make sure to keep them warm.”
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.
Dani works at Value Village to sort hangers and return clothes from dressing rooms. With the help of an employment coach from Northwest Center, Dani has found success at Value Village. In fact, when you ask her what she likes best about her job, her answer is “Everything!”
See Dani in action in this short video—and thank you for making it possible for great employees like Dani to find jobs they love!
Launched in September 2018, IMPACT™ (Inclusion Mentorship Program for increasing Access in Childcare Team) has already made a significant impact on the early learning community in King County. The program, which provides training and support to childcare centers so that they can welcome children with special needs up to age 5, has already added 12 local providers to its roster of partners. The IMPACTeam™ is currently working with more than 70 kids and 25 individual teaching staff and child care directors.
It takes a lot of skill to become an artisan of donuts, and that’s what Anna is beginning to master. As a “donut engineer” at Retro Donuts in Spokane, one of Anna’s many responsibilities is to make sure the sweet treats are filled with delicious creams and jams. It’s a work of art.
“I take a regular donut and grind it up a bit and then push the fillings inside,” Anna says. “It’s a lot of fun and so rewarding knowing that someone is going to really enjoy eating it.”
It was a golden day at the 2018 Golden Hearts Luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle, where attendees gave from their hearts and raised more than $130,000 to support Northwest Center’s school-to-employment Transition Services. Now, more students with disabilities will have the support they need to find the perfect job.
As 2018 is quickly comes to a close and we prepare to welcome 2019, I want to THANK YOU for supporting Northwest Center and for helping make our world a more inclusive one!
This past year, you’ve helped us launch our IMPACT™ (Inclusion Mentorship Program for increasing Access in Childcare Team) and EPIC (Expanding Play, Interaction and Communication) services for children on the Autism spectrum and paved the way for our Employment Services team to expand our employer ecosystem to over 1,000 organizations across the state. We’ve also deepened our partnerships with school districts and are successfully working our way “upstream” and reaching students sooner than their final year in school.
Spread holiday cheer by joining with The Big Blue Truck™ and Northwest Center Kids to purchase clothes, toys and other gifts for families in need. We’re making the holidays brighter for many of our families this year by providing more than 400 gifts. Please visit our registry to make a purchase.
We’re pleased to introduce a newly refreshed Northwest Center logo. This change was motivated by the desire to capture the unity of purpose across every division of Northwest Center. A consistent look across our organization, from education and employment services to our family of owned businesses, reflects our commitment to a common mission: creating a world where people with disabilities are included at school, at work, and in the community. Our new logo captures Northwest Center as the forward-thinking, energized, and groundbreaking organization it is. The classic “NW” icon is a brighter blue to convey our energy, while newly added ripples signify the impact we make on the world.
“I’m not a hero and I’m not brave, I just got a chance to do what I love, and I did my best,” says Lauren Potter, best known as cheerleader Becky Jackson on the hit TV show Glee.
Career success like Potter’s is what Northwest Center’s 2018 Golden Hearts Luncheon is all about. This year’s event will raise funds for Transition Services, so more students with disabilities can find rewarding employment. As keynote speaker, Potter will share how she achieved her career goals.
“I am incredibly honored to speak to the people at Northwest Center,” Potter says. “I think the work being done by Northwest Center supports people to their fullest ability. It lets everybody know that we should be together, not separate. It helps give people a head start in life and makes them stronger. Without places like Northwest Center, inclusion is impossible!”
In the surgical room at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services (SCRAPS), everyone works quietly and efficiently. The vet is finishing up a minor surgical procedure on a rescued dog. Mercie, her assistant, monitors the animal’s heart rate and prepares for his transfer back to his crate. When the surgery is complete, Mercie joins another assistant to prep the next animal, carefully inserting a breathing tube and shaving patches of fur.
This is Mercie beginning to fulfill her lifelong dream—one that teachers, peers, and even her father once thought was out of reach.
In the back of Makers Mercantile in Kent sits a bakery; a bakery with a spotlessly cleaned kitchen.
“I have worked many places in the industry and no one has been as thorough as Crystal,” said Rumi, head chef at Rylie Cakes.
Crystal has worked at Rylie Cakes for a year.
Associate producer Zack Glass
A new and innovative radio program airing on Spokane’s KXLY FM/AM is broadcast from Northwest Center’s Employment Services offices in Spokane. Breaking Through is a 30-minute show produced by Don Gillespie, a community employment services manager with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. Gillespie uses the program to share stories that promote equal opportunities for children and adults with disabilities.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.