Help our Bike the Drive Riders Soar

Before dawn on Sunday, May 28, Lake Shore Drive will become a quiet expanse of pavement, emptied of cars. When Bike the Drive 2017 begins, thousands of cyclists will fill the road to enjoy beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Though the sights are stunning, some riders are hitting the street for more than a nice view.

Bikers representing Center for Independent Futures’ Dream Team will ride to raise funds for our mission: creating innovative service models that support individuals with disabilities and their families to live full, independent lives. The Dream Team has a goal to raise $10,000, and our riders need your support.

The team is a community of adults with and without disabilities including participants, staff, and other community members, many of whom are riding with us for the sixth year in a row. They’ll gather in Evanston before sunrise and travel to the city together for the ride of a lifetime.

Our bikers are busy training, spreading the word, and getting their bikes tuned up. To support our riders, visit the Dream Team’s Crowdrise online fundraising page at this link. You can donate to the efforts of individual riders by clicking on the photos toward the bottom of the page, or support the entire team by clicking on the orange “Donate to this fundraiser” button.

To learn more about the Dream Team and how to support our riders, contact Niki Moe at nmoe@independentfutures.com or (847) 328-2044.

SPARK 2017 Live Auction Preview

SPARK 2017 is around the corner on April 28! Get a preview of one of the most exciting parts of the evening: the live auction. This year, the auction includes tickets to two of Chicago’s most-anticipated musical events, airfare for two and four nights in Orlando, Las Vegas, or Arizona, an incredible Evanston staycation, and a piece of original artwork.

CHOOSE YOUR GETAWAY
Four nights in Orlando, Las Vegas, or Arizona in a two-bedroom condominium that sleeps four
Airfare for two
Value: $2,100.00

JOSHUA TREE TOUR: U2 AND THE LUMINEERS
Two (2) tickets to see U2 and The Lumineers on June 4, 2017, at Soldier Field
With an overnight stay at the luxurious Fairmont Chicago and gift certificate to Boeufhaus
Value: $775.00

A NIGHT OUT WITH BRUNO MARS
Two (2) tickets to the Bruno Mars 24K Magic World Tour on August 16, 2017, at The United Center
With an overnight stay at the luxurious Fairmont Chicago and a gift certificate to Girl and the Goat
Value: $675.00

ORIGINAL PAINTING BY ROB LARSON
Storm Clouds Rolling Out At Dawn
Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 24″
“There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
From the artist: I woke up at 4 AM on my birthday to paint the sunrise over Lake Michigan, and when I got set up on the beach, a large storm was on the horizon. As the sun started to rise, the dark storm clouds were transformed into a full array of blues, purples, and pinks. Instead of rain, the sunrise brought the light. The sky was reflected in the water and the sunlight filled the space with color.

AN EVENING AT SPACE AND UNION
Enjoy a night out at one of Evanston’s best venues with a $100 gift certificate for tickets to any show at SPACE, a $100 gift certificate to Union Pizzeria, and an overnight stay at the Hilton Orrington.
Value: $550.00

Philadelphia Organization Trains to Create Housing Options

When Sara Crimm heard about Center for Independent Futures’ New Futures InitiativeTM housing process, she decided to fly across the Midwest to see it for herself. Sara is the executive director of Families CCAN, an organization in Philadelphia led by families and individuals with disabilities seeking new solutions.

“I was following other housing projects across the country, and they were giving promises about visions and dreams, but there was nothing there. I looked at Center for Independent Futures and said wow, these people are really doing this. They have a track record,” Sara said.

Proven successful in our Community Living OptionsTM in Evanston, the New Futures InitiativeTM provides family groups and organizations with the tools and materials needed to create housing solutions. The process helps families tap into professional and community resources and offers the flexibility to create solutions that work for a range of support needs.

In November 2016, eight families gathered by Families CCAN came to Evanston to begin the workshops that make up the New Futures InitiativeTM training. During this trip, the families coalesced as a group, determined their methods of working together, and took inventory of their assets. For Lisa Nicholson and her husband, touring individuals’ homes was especially memorable. “Reading something and looking at a binder is one thing, but to see these young people in their own homes, and thriving—there’s nothing more impactful than that,” Lisa said.

When the group returned to Philadelphia, they began moving toward their vision using the tools they developed during the training. “Our meetings are productive and organized because of the framework, wealth of information, and guidelines about the timeframe of specific action steps. The structures Center for Independent Futures has provided are very powerful,” group member Amy McCann said.

As more members of the Families CCAN community prepare to take steps toward creating housing solutions, the organization will be ready to facilitate the process on their own. Two individuals are being trained by Center for Independent Futures to become process facilitators, providing Families CCAN with a sustainable way to continue creating solutions.

“We are really inspired by Center for Independent Futures,” Sara said. “Our vision for the future is to establish a variety of housing settings in Philadelphia that work for adults with disabilities. The more things that get developed, the better it is for everyone.”

2016 Annual Report Shares Stories of Connections

Center for Independent Futures is excited to share our latest annual report, sharing stories of our community and supporters. Read the annual report at this link!

In the 2016 annual report, you’ll find updates on our work with individuals, families, students, and other organizations. Read about how we support Nestor Gonzalez to live his dream of independence and how we’ve partnered with Equip for Equality to help students to plan for community life. Learn how we work with Lo Que Puede Venir to support Hispanic communities and get the update on our nationwide housing work.

The annual report includes a list of our supporters during the past year, including gifts given in tribute to or recognition of individuals. This edition of the annual report features a special update from Center for Independent Futures’ co-founders, reflecting on fifteen years of supporting hopes and dreams. We are grateful to all of our supporters and community members for another successful year building on this legacy.

 

Collaboration with Lo Que Puede Venir Creates Connections

Every community, like every individual, has unique resources and needs. In 2016, Center for Independent Futures worked in communities in the Chicagoland area on our Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, an effort made possible by an investment by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In Chicago’s Little Village, Cicero, and Berywn neighborhoods, we worked with Lo Que Puede Venir, an organization that supports individuals with disabilities and their families in the Hispanic community. Through the Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, individuals with disabilities connected with other community members with shared interests to attend events, volunteer, and enjoy their hobbies.

To make these moment possible, Lo Que Puede Venir and Center for Independent Futures each contributed organizational assets and collaborated to overcome obstacles, explained Maria Castillo, Program Director of Lo Que Puede Venir.

“Center for Independent Futures said, we might not speak Spanish, but we’ll look for ways to make it work. Our office might not be located in the center of your community, but we’ll bring the program and our efforts to you,” Maria said. “This approach makes all the difference in the world.”

Building on the success of the Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, Center for Independent Futures will expand efforts to create community-wide changes, allowing more individuals to access the opportunities of full community participation. Through changing mindsets about what’s possible, this work has already begun, shared Consuelo Puente, Executive Director of Lo Que Puede Venir.

“Everyone had a story to share about how expectations changed through this project,” Consuelo said. “Families realized that there are possibilities for their child with a disability and that there are ways to engage in the community rather than being isolated.”

Partnering with Equip for Equality for Brighter Futures

When graduation appears on the horizon, most high schoolers are excited to transition to their next educational or employment opportunity. But for students with disabilities, the thought of leaving the support of school services often creates fear and uncertainty.

Center for Independent Futures believes that all individuals deserve bright futures after high school. Over the past year, we collaborated with Equip for Equality to support Chicago Public Schools students to create person-centered transition plans based on their hopes and dreams.

Center for Independent Futures School Coordinator Sharon Purdy worked with students identified by Equip for Equality to create plans and resources, meeting with students and their supporters in their neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Sharon used our Full Life ProcessTM to support individuals to identify resources, set goals, and make plans, starting by encouraging the student to articulate their goals.

“It makes a huge difference when the families know what their students want to do. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can ask students what their dreams are,” Sharon explained.

With those dreams in mind, Sharon and the students created a portfolio of resources to support their transitions to community life after high school. They took inventory of each student’s assets and interests, identified any potential obstacles and support needs, created a map of the student’s personal network of supporters, and then set goals in all of the areas that make up a full life.

Throughout the process, the students had the opportunity to express their own hopes for the future. Margie Wakelin, a supervising attorney at Equip for Equality’s special education clinic, said that seeing students build these skills of self-expression was the most remarkable outcome of the collaboration.

“Center for Independent Futures empowers our students to direct their own transition planning and learn to self-advocate for the support they need,” Margie said. “Through using the tools Center for Independent Futures has developed, the student understands the importance of his or her voice.”

Whether a student is creating a transition plan or an individual is setting goals for the future, the voice of individuals with disabilities forms the core of our Full Life ProcessTM. Through our comprehensive, person-centered planning tools, individuals with disabilities and their families share their dreams and find the tools and resources they need to fulfill them. Our collaboration with Equip for Equality will lead to more students leading fuller lives in the community after graduation.

“Center for Independent Futures’ work has been instrumental in placing our students in a strong position to achieve their transition goals and enter adulthood with a solid foundation,” Margie said.

Preparing for a Starry Night at SPARK 2017

In less than two months, Center for Independent Futures celebrates its fifteenth year at our signature event, SPARK, on Friday, April 28.

We are grateful to our sponsors who will satisfy our sweet tooth and our thirst, including the decadent flavors of Nothing Bundt CakesFlat Top Grill‘s famous brownies, and fine wines from E. & J. Gallo Winery. Our exciting silent and live auctions will include packages like Chicago getaways with tickets to see Bruno Mars at the United Center in August and U2 with The Lumineers in June at Soldier Field.

PSAV will help us set the scene and Chicago theatre group Collaboraction will provide the entertainment for this star-studded night. As we commemorate Center for Independent Futures’ fifteenth anniversary, community members will share stories and reflections. At the end of the night, be ready to dance to the sounds of Euphoria Band, a new addition to the event this year.

Tickets for the eleventh annual SPARK celebration, hosted at the Hilton Orrington in downtown Evanston, will be available online soon. For more updates, join the Facebook event here. All proceeds from this event, our largest fundraiser of the year, directly contribute to programming, services, and sustainability.

If you’re interested getting involved with SPARK by volunteering, contributing, or learning about sponsorship opportunities, contact Niki Moe at (847) 328-2044 or nmoe@independentfutures.com.

Join the Dream Team for Bike the Drive

Join Center for Independent Futures for a biking experience like no other at MB Bike the Drive. On May 28, Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive will be closed to cars, leaving eight lanes available to bikers. Watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan and take in stunning views of the skyline as you soar down the open road.

When you ride with Center for Independent Futures’ Dream Team, you’ll be part of a team of individuals with and without disabilities, including participants, staff, board members, and friends. Our team members participate in this incredible event and raise funds for our programs and services in honor of their ride. Center for Independent Futures makes it easy to participate by supporting riders to sign up for the event, helping with fundraising, and taking care of transportation logistics on the day of the event.

We offer incentives for different levels of fundraising, like a refund of your Bike the Drive registration fee and tickets to our annual events. All funds raised by our dedicated riders support Center for Independent Futures’ vision of a future where individuals with disabilities have access to all opportunities of a full life.

To learn more about Bike the Drive and join the Dream Team, contact Niki Moe at (847) 328-2044 or nmoe@independentfutures.com.

Community Members Speak on NU Panel

Thanks to an opportunity from two student groups, members of the Center for Independent Futures community got to share their insight and experiences with Northwestern University students earlier this month.

Participant award winner Matthew LaChapelle poses for portrait with hand on chin in front of teal background.Participant and Advisory Council member Matthew LaChapelle and Executive Director Ann Sickon sat on a panel about understanding and supporting individuals with disabilities. The panel also included the director of Northwestern’s Accessibility Office, a Northwestern student, and a representative from Gigi’s Playhouse, a nationwide organization that supports individuals with Down Syndrome. The event was hosted by Northwestern University Dance Marathon, which is supporting Gigi’s Playhouse as its primary beneficiary this year, and Beyond Compliance, a student group that advocates for students with disabilities.

Matthew shared his experiences living and working in the community, including wisdom from “Back to the Future”: “You make what your life is right now, and you make your own future.”

“It touched my heart to talk about what I’ve been through,” Matthew said.

Matthew, an actor who has two jobs, enjoys speaking about his perspective to contribute toward increased disability awareness and inclusion. He served as the first mentor for younger campers at a camp in Colorado for individuals with Down Syndrome and hopes to have future opportunities to support others facing challenges similar to those that he’s overcome on his path to a full, independent life.

“Matthew did a wonderful job,” Ann said. “The comment he made that I thought was one of the most insightful moments of the evening was that the needs individuals have aren’t necessarily ‘special,’ they’re just the needs that they have to participate.”

Thanks to the community engagement of individuals like Matthew and their work to change perceptions about what’s possible, more individuals with disabilities will have full access to their communities.

New Staff Member and a New Milestone

The first month of 2017 brought a new beginning and a long-term milestone to the Center for Independent Futures staff. Chrissy Lewis joined the staff as a Full Life Process Consultant. With our schools consultation team, Chrissy will support schools to use our innovative Full Life Process software to help students set goals, access resources and curriculum, and communicate with their entire support team.

“My vision is to continue the work that has been done and create new opportunities for students to engage with the software,” Chrissy shares. “The Full Life Process software will allow students to access a comprehensive life skills curriculum and support their individual growth through a student-centered approach.”

Chrissy began her career in sales and marketing before earning her master’s degree in education. She gained experience as a teacher, case manager, and guidance counselor in Chicago Public Schools while receiving a master’s degree in counseling. After transitioning into the non-profit sector, Chrissy joined Center for Independent Futures to advocate for educational access and resources for students with disabilities.

While welcoming a new member, the staff also commemorated a milestone as Cynthia Witherspoon celebrated ten years of working for Center for Independent Futures. Currently a Community Life Coordinator and Life Skills Tutor, Cynthia has also worked on the school consultation team and supported the administrative operations of the organization. We’re grateful to Cynthia for all of the effort, insight, compassion, and humor she has shared with us over the past decade.

Success Stories

wed17jul4:00 pm5:15 pmVolunteer Club

wed17jul6:30 pm7:30 pmBike Club

fri19jul6:00 pm8:00 pmLadies' Night

sat20jul3:00 pm5:30 pmHeARTwords Workshop

sun21jul11:00 am12:45 pmBowling

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