Monday, August 1, 2011

California Non-Profit Makes Dreams Achievable for the Disabled

Each day across America we hear about state and local governments cutting their budgets and grappling with ways to provide critical services to citizens everywhere. The debate over the federal budget in Washington, DC has people worried about cuts in healthcare, defense and social security.  Overall confidence in the U.S. economy is at one of its lowest points in recent years.  That's what makes the accomplishments of this one California  non-profit based in Culver City even more astonishing.  The Achievable Foundation was profiled on the public affairs program "The Business of Giving," for its outstanding work in assisting the developmentally disabled and their families.  Their mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals who have autism, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or other developmental concerns.

These individuals and families struggle with major life challenges such as communication, mobility, learning, socialization and independent living.  Achievable was established in response to the financial challenges and gaps in costly services. Program coordinators say "lifetime costs associated with having a developmental disability can reach up to $5 million dollars due to costly services like special education, extra medical care, supportive care and therapeutic care.  A number of these individuals have more than one type of disability with a variety of challenges requiring different types of services.  This same population and their families often experience higher rates of poverty and economic hardships, and cannot afford crucial services or even basic necessities on their own."

Achievable treated kids to a day of 
fun and baseball with the Dodgers
while bringing awareness to their
cause.  Photo Courtesy of the 
Achievable Foundation.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Achievable's target population consists of children, teens and young adults age 21 and under.  The remaining 43% make-up the following age groups:  13.6% ages 22-31; 12.3% ages 32-41; 9.6% ages 42-51; and 7.5% ages 52 and older.  It's total population is ethnically diverse, consisting of 32% White, 29% Latino, 24% African-American, 4% Asian and 11% other.  Achievable services a socioeconomically diverse area, which includes many traditionally under served communities in Inglewood, Hawthrone, Lennox and Gardena.  In previous fiscal years, 60% of clients served by Achievable were female and 40% were male.

Achievable clients and supporters
gather to celebrate the gift of a
 Chrysler Town and Country Van.
Photo Courtesy of the Achievable 
Whether they are acquiring a modified Chrysler Town and Country van fitted with specialized adaptive equipment, including a wheelchair lift or taking kids to a Dodgers baseball game to increase public awareness  on  Autism, the Achievable Foundation does this and more, despite the economy and cut backs.  The contributions of people like "Geri Brawerman, Jim and Cathy Gott and many others help them find a way.  Current Achievable programs include:  Health and Wellness, Emergency Support, Specialized Adaptive Equipment and Camps that promote healthy learning and social experiences.  This is truly one of my favorite organizations.  For more information on how you can help visit WWW.ACHIEVABLE.ORG or call (310) 258-4256.

Friday, July 29, 2011

OWN May Prove To Be Oprah's Greatest Master Class

The end of summer is fast approaching and after a mini-vacation and coming to the aid of friend Maria Shriver, the Queen of daytime talk television is fully embracing her greatest challenge:  to grow her network and increase viewership.  The task is not a simple one.  Pundits have already begun doubting whether Oprah can pull this one off.  But, if her track record and
tenacity are indicators of what's to come, then don't bet against her. 
Joined by Harpo presidents Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, Oprah will now 
focus on the role of Chairman, as well as, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of 

The documentary "Serving Life" debuted on OWN and was
produced and narrated by Forest Whitaker.
the network.  Logan and Salata will continue their oversight of OWN produced content at HARPO Productions, Inc., such as ROSIE, Oprah Presents Master Class, In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman and Oprah's Next Chapter.  

Documentaries like "Serving Life," executive produced and narrated by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, will inspire not only lovers of the documentary style, but encourage viewers to reflect upon their own lives as well.  

As a result of aligning the mission, talent and leadership of Erik, Sheri, the OWN team, the HARPO team, Peter Liguori, David Zaslav and Discovery, it now is possible to continue building OWN's audience, brand strength and growth.

Viewers will find something new, entertaining and rewarding about OWN's programming and its unique relationship with them.   It's a chance to be a part of history and join Oprah, the ultimate teacher, as they follow, support and participate in OWN's growth and acceptance.  For more info on OWN and Oprah visit: .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama, A True Beacon of Hope for Military Families and Veterans

One of the rare benefits of doing things for others is that occasionally someone does something nice for you when you least expect it.  That’s exactly what happened to Playwright Eric Hicks and myself.  In the fall of 2009, Eric and I, both long time youth advocates, decided to join forces to host a Celebration of Freedom Day at the Pritchard Community Center on July 2nd, 2010 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  The event was aimed at bringing about awareness to issues like homelessness among our returning soldiers, multiple deployments, educational opportunities for veterans, youth programs and more.  

On the surface you would think that this was a great idea, and support would be plentiful.  But that was easier said than done.  I decided to contact the White House and the First Lady to ask for their support and participation via video.  But schedules and other obligations prevented them from being able to assist us in a timely manner.   Somewhat disappointed I understood the pressures of their schedule and moved on to face our next challenge. 
First Lady Michelle Obama is briefed by Lt. Gen.  Mark
Hertling on the consequences of childhood obesity, 
poor nutrition and lack of exercise on military readiness.
Photo By:  Samantha Appleton

This turned out to be the unexpected loss of our primary sponsor Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. They closed their doors and relocated to another State.  If that wasn’t enough the area military leaders decided not to come on board.  The final straw was when a few members of our own team gave up and abandoned the project. 

At this point it seemed easier to quit! This was our defining moment and things were looking pretty bleak. Our commitment was being tested.  Nonetheless,   Eric and I thought it over and felt the issues were too important to give up on.  So we decided to move forward.  

Then something special began to happen!  Business and civic leaders stepped forward and helped us make A Celebration of Freedom a reality.  With their help we were able to put on the play Tell Me What Courage Is, film the documentary In the Name of the Children, showcase a dance presentation by Sweet Silent Spirit, followed by musical performances by Hip Hop Artist Young Truth and Rapper 3D, all in honor of the sacrifices made by our military, and their families on a daily basis.

That’s why it was surprising to receive a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama, thanking us for staying the course.  In her letter dated August 4, 2010 she stated,

“ Military families are close to my heart and constantly in my thoughts.  The strength and courage you show each and every day is an inspiration to me and to countless others around our great Nation. 

America is blessed to have a strong military with dedicated servicemen and women who defend our Nation and keep us safe.  In standing alongside our servicemen and women, you, too, are dedicating your lives to the service of our Nation.  Every day, in cities and towns across America, military families work to strengthen communities and support each other.”

She further added, “We are so thankful for all that you do.  Still I believe that supporting military families is a cause that calls every American to serve.  It is my great hope that all Americans will honor our men and women in uniform by never taking the blessings of freedom for granted and by doing our part to support the families of our military.

The President is committed to doing just that.  From increasing military pay and recruiting additional permanent forces to investing in military family programs, please be assured that this Administration is committed to reducing the stress on service members and their families.

Yours is not an easy path, and you continue to inspire me.  You are truly watching over those who watch over us.  Thank you again for all you do.”

This heartfelt message from the First Lady recognized our efforts and reaffirmed that Eric and I made the right decision.  But the credit is not ours alone.  Without the help of the following government agencies, businesses, organizations and individuals A Celebration of Freedom Day would not have been possible.  So to these individuals we send out a special thank you:

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a roundtable
discussion with military spouses.  Photo By:  Joyce N. 
Governor Steven L. Beshear, City of Radcliff Mayor Sheila C. Enyart, University of Kentucky Military Veterans of America (UKMVA), Youth Performing Arts School (JCPS), Whitney Young Job Corps, Lowe’s, Longshot Productions, U.S. Military All Stars – Heroes of the Diamond, St. Catherine College, K&G Fashion Superstore, Positive Images That Invoke Self-Esteem (P.I.T.I.S.E.) Institute, BeeNetwork, Pritchard Community Center, Brenda Cross, Verna’ Goatley, Charles L. Mitchell (IDMR), Bobby Alexander – Commander, Chapter 3 Disabled American Veterans, Gary Rice, Sr. – Vice Commander, Chapter 3 Disabled American Veterans, The Elizabethtown News Enterprise, WQXE Radio, Carson Helton, Devante Wells, Carlton Oldham, Kara Lowery, Whitney Smith, John Story II, Mechael Guess, Tyler Chandler, Djuan Barners, Karen Mack, Cornelia Moss-Oldham, Reggie Woods, Brandon Reed, Jerrold Edwards, Diava Carter, Joe Blincoe, Samantha Davis, Tyler Gayheart, Michelle Brown, Shawn Hensley, Mark Hagan, Paul Hicks, Dan Moll, Amy Scott, Lela Bond, J.T. Burton, Rod Ussery, Vicki, Terri, Ashley Doyle, Clint Vaught-YPAS, Larry Wooldridge - Principal  – DuPont Manual, YPAS Principal and Staff.

It truly was their belief and support that made this effort a success!  As for the First Lady, we are grateful for her encouragement and confidence as we continue striving to help America’s youth and families.

Other links of interest:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Impacting America’s Youth and Communities

Today’s youth are dealing with a myriad of life changing problems, ranging from drug abuse to homelessness.  They often have no one to help mentor, inspire or reassure them as they contemplate and navigate the road known as life.  Just like many poor southern children during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, I dealt with similar issues and concerns. 

My mom was twice divorced and struggled as a single parent to raise three kids. My step father was a great guy until he served two tours of duty in Vietnam, returning each time to routinely physically and verbally abuse us.  War has a unique way of changing behavior, especially when alcohol and drug addiction are added to the mix.  Many years later he apologized for the way he treated us. I sometimes still wonder how life might have been different had those things never happened?   

  I forgave my step father in order to move on with my life .. understanding that his illness had taken a toll on him as well.  Back then there were few places of solace and most folk opted not to get involved with helping families in trouble.  As a twelve year old and the oldest of three, I felt responsible for keeping my family safe while dealing with racism, gangs, a poor education and drugs. 

However, the scope and depth of these problems for young people and families today are on a scale never before witnessed.  Mostly because so many more lives are affected.  It seems that violence; sexual exploitation and economic hardship are thrown in for good measure.

Excerpt from “Moments in the Shadow of  Greatness”

I provided this excerpt to illustrate that even though my life was not perfect (as many others aren’t) I faced my challenges and disappointments.   I was able to survive them and grow up to be a positive contributor to society.  There were bumps along the way, but because of the people who
saw the potential in me, who took a chance and invested their time, faith and money on a kid they owed nothing too, I say thank you! 

Thank you George Bonds for showing me what a home should be and for Lucy Baldwin for being the mother that nurtured me and helped me understand compassion.  Thank you Fred Bridges for  
teaching me what a true work ethic was and why you should give your best at all times.  They and  countless others encouraged, reminded and motivated me to give of myself in ways that not only enhanced my quality of life, but the quality of life of others.

They gave me two words that helped carry me along the way.  These two words have shown me over the years that they can be more valuable than silver or gold.  Take them to heart and share them freely.  Add these two simple words "Hello and Thanks " to your vocabulary.  Put them into use daily and I assure you the return from them will fill your treasure chest in ways you least expect and that will truly prove to be priceless! 

If service is the rent you pay for your existence on this earth,
are you behind in your rent?