Sharing the Full Life Process

Our partnerships with schools and agencies put our person-centered approaches in the hands of teachers and human service professionals working to support individuals to build full, independent lives. By sharing tools and resources, we help schools like Stevenson High School prepare students for the transition after graduation.

Partnering with a Blue Ribbon School

Logo for Stevenson High SchoolSince opening in 1965, STEVENSON HIGH SCHOOL has been a recipient of four Blue Ribbon Awards for Excellence in Education. As one of the best high schools in America, Stevenson’s Special Education Division works diligently to understand its students as individuals and help them choose their paths through self-advocacy.

As part of Stevenson’s Transition Team, Megan Sugrue has worked to build a program based on teaching the vital skills necessary for life after high school.  The Full Life Process has been an essential addition to their program. “The Full Life Process curriculum is high quality, visually appealing, and focused on skills attainment,” Megan says. “The online application makes it easy for me to find the lesson plans and resources relevant for individual students.”

Working with the online application, Stevenson students are able to have a voice in creating the life they envision. “Some students don’t see themselves as people with strengths,“ relates Marney Orchard, a Center for Independent Futures School and Agency Consultant working with the Stevenson team. “I love how this process allows students to reflect, recognize their talents, and express what they want for their future.”  

Moving Forward with Stevenson High School

Stevenson High School crestMegan has become an advocate for the Full Life Process with other educators. “In addition to the curriculum, professional development and training to use the platform are provided,” Megan tells her peers. “Center for Independent Futures’ professional, responsive, and personable support staff are available to problem solve and troubleshoot as needed.”

Using the Full Life Process, Megan’s days as a transition educator are smoother and more efficient. The Stevenson team is beginning to bring data collected from the Full Life Process into Individualized Education Plan meetings. We are excited to continue supporting transition programs like Stevenson’s across the state of Illinois and beyond.

Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund Created

Individuals with disabilities should have access to all the opportunities that a full, independent life offers. To achieve that access, many individuals need support from organizations like Center for Independent Futures. But what happens when a family can’t afford those services?

A Journey to Community Support

Arnie Schumer and his sister, Karen Berkowsky, could not afford the services provided by Center for Independent Futures, but they knew it was the right fit for Arnie. Through a scholarship fund, we were able to offer Arnie services that supported his needs and provided access to independent living. Before Arnie passed away last May, Arnie had been a part of our community since 2007.

Arnie was a caring, generous person, and Center for Independent Futures helped him further develop his existing skills and talents. Because of the impact this support had on her brother’s life, Karen decided the best way to honor him would be to help others get the support they need, too.

Karen started by taking Arnie’s story to a group called Women Giving Back. Each year, this group of generous women gathers to hear about three local charities three to four times. Then they vote on the story that they would like to support. The winning charity receives a donation from each voting member.

Ann & Megan receiving initial check from Women Giving BackWhen Karen presented her family’s story, it touched many hearts, and also received the most votes. The total donation received was a wonderful gift of $5,550. We will use the donations from Women Giving Back to start a hopefully long-standing scholarship fund in Arnie’s memory. The scholarship dollars from the Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund will be given to qualifying individuals with disabilities and families who need financial help to pay for Center for Independent Futures’ services.

How You Can Help Others Like Arnie

Along with Arnie’s sister, we are reaching out to our community to help provide the same opportunity that Arnie had to others who need it. If you want to donate to the Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund, you may write a check to Center for Independent Futures or donate online. To donate online, click the purple “Donate” button on our website. Once the Paypal Donation window opens,  enter the amount you want to donate and include “Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund” in the “In Honor of” box.

Everyone deserves access to a full, independent life. The Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund is one more step toward creating access for all.

Moving Beyond Diversity

Thanks to Evanston Cradle to Career, some staff members attended a two-day seminar on moving beyond diversity. What does that mean?

It means that if we are going to create a society that treats everyone equally, we can’t only consider diversity. We must reconsider the ways we are taught to think about abilities, race, class, and gender. Together, our community needs to think of the diversity of experiences people have – not just diversity of skin color.

Continue reading to find out what each staff member discovered at Beyond Diversity.

Sharon Purdy

As our facilitator said, “public learning is hard.” My best learning happened when I was most uncomfortable.

Why did I show up? I wanted an action plan. I wanted something I could do every day to be more aware and continue to learn from others’ perspectives. It’s great that our small group of colleagues at CIF has continued the conversation. I look forward to continued work together in hopes that we can keep this important conversation and resulting ideas and actions in the forefront of the work we do.

Niki Moe Horrell

I grew up in a mainly white community where there were distinct prejudices against people of color and this was against the threads of who I was, yet, this was where I lived. During the seminar, my mind was opened to some harsh realities:

Five staff members who attended Beyond Diversity pose for photo

I would not know how it feels to be racially profiled and followed by the police. I would not know how it feels to be watched in a department store. I would not know that the lighter the skin tone, the more privileged the person is.

People of color mentioned each of these experiences at the seminar. We all need to put ourselves in others’ shoes and create a change, for people of every color matter and every color creates the human race.

 

Claudia Quijada

Diversity and inclusion are becoming an important topic nowadays. However, there are always big challenges that societies face and these challenges, sometimes, become stronger than the willingness of good people. We can only achieve an inclusive goal when a society finds support from local governments. They must create policies specifically for the protection of the rights of minority groups.

Kathy Lyons

In championing inclusion for people with disabilities, we can be allies with others who face discrimination because the community of people with disabilities is as diverse as the population of people without.

The work of becoming racially conscious is deeply personal, often uncomfortable, and on-going.

Chrissy Lewis

Courageous Conversations logo

The opportunity to participate in the Beyond Diversity training for two days was a professional gift. The facilitator was willing to take risks and allow the people participating in the training to drive the conversation on race.  When these personal conversations took place, I learned the most about ideas like colorism and having courageous dialogues.

Although Evanston is a diverse community, it isn’t integrated. I spent time reflecting on my role in white dominance and the privileges that I am afforded. Finally, I reflected upon what conversations to take back to the Center for Independent Futures community on race.  

Connor Larsen

The most important aspect of being aware of race is possessing an ability to talk about difficult issues. The Beyond Diversity seminar provided us with tools for productive and valuable conversations about race, white privilege, and “whiteness.”

I am excited to work at an organization that encourages its staff to take racial differences and community building seriously. While there is so much work to be done in the world-at-large, the best thing we can do is start at home. We will continue to have these difficult conversations among staff and community partners, and I hope that we can spread the tools we learned.

A Jam-Packed Life

This story was featured in our 2017 Annual Report, which can be found on the Media Gallery page on our website. Check it out to learn more about our partnerships with families, schools, and agencies across the country.

Just Adam Being Adam

Living a full, independent life is something most people want as they grow up. Adam Wiser is no different. Over time, Adam knew he wanted to live on his own. He wanted to explore the world around him with a jam-packed life full of activities he loves.

Adam smiles at past Something's Cooking fundraiserA road trip offers a chance to experience new places, broaden horizons, and have fun. For Center for Independent Futures participant Adam Wiser, a road trip seemed like a great opportunity to bond with buddies. So last year, Adam and two of his friends went to Pittsburgh, singing along to Billy Joel and enjoying the “thrill of the open road.”

When Adam moved to the Chicagoland area, he left his family behind in Indiana. He fell in love with Evanston, and built a life filled with work at Nordstroms Café, cruising around on his Diamondback, and hanging out with friends. These days, Adam loves movies on the big screen and prefers comedy and action films. “You need to see the second Thor movie,” Adam advises. “It’ll really make you laugh!”  An avid sports follower and loyal Cubs fan, he enjoys an occasional chance to see them play. “It feels awesome to be at Wrigley Field,” he shares. “I am not really into the SOX.”

Following Adam’s Dreams

Adam poses with friends he has made through Center for Independent FuturesAdam’s parents, Tom and Gloria, encourage him to follow his dreams. “We want our son to grow as an individual, expand relationships, and have the support he needs to become who he is meant to be…his best self,” shares Tom. With Center for Independent Futures support, Adam is part of a genuine community and has a full life with authentic connections. “If anything comes up, serious or not, someone is there to support him through it,” says Tom. “For parents living away from their kids, that’s a lifesaver.”

“It’s an absolute joy to be part of Adam’s team and to watch his confidence and capabilities grow,” relates Community Builder, Aby Karottu. “He brings so much humor, positive energy, and liveliness to the community, and he always lends a helping hand.” Aby adds, “I consider myself lucky to support such a caring, charismatic, and kind young man.”

Adam’s Pittsburgh adventure included the symphony, a Pirates game, and the Heinz Museum, where he learned all about the city’s transportation history…and ketchup. When Adam thinks about his goals, more road trips and see new things are at the top of his list. Adam’s next destination: The Mall of America in Minneapolis. Anybody ready to hit the road?

Inclusive Fun at Charity Night HamBingo

Hamburger Mary’s is a staple in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, featuring a dining room, an upstairs cabaret with karaoke, and a brewing company next door. On July 1st, participants, family, board members, and staff gathered at Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville for a fun evening of charity night HamBingo.

Fun With Charity Night HamBingo

Participant poses with Granny at Hamburger Mary's charity night HamBingo in front of a curtain with a brocade design. We rounded out June’s LGBTQ Pride month with this inclusive fundraiser. At HamBingo, bingo players pay $15 for 10 games of bingo or $25 for 20 games, and the numbers are called by Hamburger Mary’s in-house drag queen divas.

The bingo callers are not the only part of HamBingo that is unique though. There are nearly two dozen different ways to win bingo at Hamburger Mary’s, depending on the caller’s choice before the round begins. There was a performance at intermission, but first our bingo caller, Granny, left the stage to prepare for the performance.

While Granny was gone, two members of the Auxiliary Board took the stage. David Jacob called a round of simple bingo, while Auxiliary Board Chair Anu Rajendran called a more complicated game. “It was great to see the Auxiliary Board take charge of this event,” shared Development Director Niki Moe Horrell.

We played ten rounds of HamBingo with Granny’s intermission performance in between. Granny entertained us with a fun rendition of “Believe” by Cher. After throwing in an impressive high kick out on Hamburger Mary’s patio, Granny returned to finish calling our bingo games.

Thanks to Chicagoland Community

We ended the night with lots of laughter as our community fully enjoyed the offerings of Hamburger Mary’s. This evening of fun and fundraising included a diverse crowd of attendees offering support to Center for Independent Futures. We want to extend a large thanks to each of our attendees, as well as to Hamburger Mary’s. Thanks to their hospitality and space, we raised over $1,000, which will support our growing community.

The First Annual Backyard BBQ

When summer finally comes to the Chicago area, we all have to maximize the fun we have in the sun. Now that temperatures are finally rising, it is time to get outside and see all our friends in the community. Whether you and your friends are ready to hit the beach or go for a long bike ride, the one thing most of us can agree on is BBQs.

Group chats at first Backyard BBQ, surrounded by colorful balloons to celebrate.That’s why our Advisory Council put together Center for Independent Futures’ first annual Backyard BBQ. At Hub 930, members of the Advisory Council gathered with community members, staff, our Board of Directors, and family members. We had a great afternoon together, complete with refreshing beverages and satisfying meals.

Board of Director co-chair Ira Mitchell acted as our grill master, flipping burgers and hot dogs with ease. Members of the Advisory Council helped Development Director Niki Moe Horrell prep the rest of the food, including fruit, veggies, and – of course – delicious desserts. By the end of the BBQ, there was almost no food left – a sure sign of a successful cookout!

The Backyard BBQ was an opportunity for the Advisory Council to work as a group planning, organizing, and decorating for a fundraiser entirely their own. Many members of the council help set up for other events at Center for Independent Futures, like SPARK, but this was the first fundraiser the group planned.

Aerial view of Backyard BBQ attendees chatting outside near a tree.Niki says, “Our first annual Backyard BBQ was so much fun! The Advisory Council did so well planning and prepping for the event.” There was plenty of food for everyone, and all the brightly colored decorations were perfect for a summer event.

We are already looking forward to the second Backyard BBQ next year. We plan to make this an annual event where everyone is welcome. Hope to see you all next time!

Finding Community Through the Chicago Marathon

Elizabeth runs in the Chicago Marathon in a bright yellow tank top, waving at supporters near the Charity MileWhen running has been part of someone’s life for a long time, the next logical step might seem like completing a marathon — 26.2 miles of feet hitting the pavement and sweat dripping down your face. A ton of hard work goes into getting ready for a marathon. You might find yourself asking, “Why would anyone put themselves through a marathon?”

A familiar face many members of our community will recognize has an answer. Elizabeth Male began running at about age 10, and she completed her first half marathon in high school. She completed her first Chicago Marathon in 2012. This experience running leads you to believe she has always loved the sport, but Elizabeth used to hate running.

It wasn’t until she was in college that she started to enjoy running. “When I ran in college, it helped me balance my mental health and de-stress from classes,” Elizabeth says. This will be Elizabeth’s sixth time running the Marathon, partly because she enjoys the challenge but also because of the community she has developed.

Running the Chicago Marathon

In 2014, Elizabeth ran the Chicago MarathonElizabeth stands with another woman post-marathon in a heat sheet and running gear, demonstrating finding community. as part of Team CIF for the first time. The introduction of the lottery system meant she could secure guaranteed entry to the race by running for a charity. Luckily, Elizabeth had access to a great team at her fingertips. She took over planning for the team and decided to join the team to help with motivating other runners.

For Elizabeth, running as part of Team CIF is about the community she is part of. This year, she made the commitment to run the marathon before leaving her job at Center for Independent Futures. It has been an exciting way for her to remain involved after finding community. Elizabeth says, “I miss everybody, and I’m happy to be able to stay involved.”

Tips for Fellow Marathon Runners

One of the team’s most experienced runners, Elizabeth has advice for team members, plus anyone interested in joining next year. “The journey will be full of hard work, but it’s about achieving a challenging goal.” While having more experience running long distances might make this race less daunting, Elizabeth avoids falling into a trap by remaining motivated. No matter how many marathons she has run, Elizabeth needs to do the work like everyone else.

Elizabeth poses in front of Chicago skyline in orange tank top with her medal after Chicago MarathonAt the moment, Elizabeth is training for a race in July, and then she will begin preparing for the Chicago Marathon. She is looking forward to the race, especially getting to the Charity Mile, where our core group of participants and friends will be waiting to cheer on Team CIF! You can help Elizabeth meet her $1,500 fundraising goal by going to her CrowdRise team page and clicking the big red “Donate Now” button.

If you are interested in joining the 2019 team, reach out to Connor Larsen at (847) 328-2044 or by email. It’s never too early to think about your own hopes and dreams!

Auxiliary Board and Advisory Council Build Friendships

This week, Center for Independent Futures’ Auxiliary Board and Advisory Council held a joint meeting to get to know each other better and build friendships. The Auxiliary Board, made up of young professionals with and without disabilities, plans fundraisers and events like SPARK. Participants join the Advisory Council to help with events and plan their own fundraisers, like the upcoming Backyard BBQ.

Members of the Auxiliary Board & Advisory Council pose after playing charades to build friendships and community
Members of the Auxiliary Board & Advisory Council pose after playing charades

To start a great night, the groups introduced themselves and what brings them to Center for Independent Futures. Over the last few months, several new members have joined the Auxiliary Board. This meeting offered the opportunity to get to know the Center for Independent Futures community better in a fun and exciting way.

Build Friendships With a Game

At this meeting, the two groups decided they would play charades as a fun community building activity. Anu Rajendran, Auxiliary Board chair, chose a game, and the group divided into two teams, mixing the groups together. The group shared lots of laughter and joy through this game. But this carefree fun wasn’t the only way these groups celebrated.

Niki Moe, the liaison between the two groups, picked up a couple of extra-large pizzas from Gigio’s Pizzeria. The board and council greatly appreciated the pizzas, and purchasing the pizzas supports Center for Independent Futures too. Throughout the month of June, you can contribute to building independent futures too. Just order any kind of extra large pizza from Gigio’s, either by walking in or over the phone, and Gigio’s will donate $2.00 to Center for Independent Futures.

Growing Friendships to Build Community

After playing charades and enjoying pizza together, the Auxiliary Board and Advisory Council members went their separate ways – but that won’t be the end of these relationships. As we move forward, the two groups look forward to building deeper friendships. With plans to have more joint meetings, expect friendships to grow and communities to expand.

Runners Get Ready to Race

Chicago Marathon runners cheered on by supporters
Chicago Marathon runners cheered on by supporters

Have you ever dreamed of running a marathon? The challenge is tempting for many people, but especially for the 18 runners participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for Team Center for Independent Futures this year. On October 7th, these runners will gather at Grant Park to run 26.2 miles — or a collective 471.6 miles.

In the next four months, the runners on our team will be working hard to train safely. Training plans help marathon runners track their mile times, build endurance, and maintain a nutritious diet throughout preparation for the marathon. To help the runners prepare, you can support the team by helping them fundraise through their team pages on CrowdRise.

To donate, go to the Team Center for Independent Futures CrowdRise. You can select a specific team member, or you can donate to the general team page. Click the big red “Donate Now” button on the right side of the page to help the whole team, or click one of the runners’ names below to help a runner.

All of the funds raised by this team will help Center for Independent Futures continue creating innovative housing and planning solutions for individuals with disabilities and their families. Contact Connor Larsen or call (847) 328-2044 to learn more about supporting our Chicago Marathon team. Thank you for supporting Team Center for Independent Futures!

Chicago Marathon Center for Independent Futures Team

Kim Benton

Past team member Lucille holds arms out in victory after completing Chicago Marathon
Past team member Lucille holds arms out in victory after completing Chicago Marathon

 

Carlyn Berghoff

Ellen Burke

Kaitlin Dunn

Alex Finnegan

Will Kerns

Mark Kriston

Elizabeth Male

William Meyers

Ann Sickon

Jordan Sickon

Leslie Sickon

Marie Sickon-Burke

Susan Sickon

Alex Swift

Emmy Swift

Taryn Westra

(More team member pages will be added as we move forward.)

Smooth Riding for Bike the Drive

Lindsay and Mary Grace enjoying the sun after Bike the Drive.

For the seventh year, Center for Independent Futures’ Bike the Drive team joined thousands of other local bicyclists in the early morning on Sunday, May 27th to take advantage of a rare opportunity to bike Lake Shore Drive. Our team met at the office in Evanston just after 5 am, and then they were ready to go into the city and take on the Drive.

Though the day was one of Chicago’s hottest yet, our team stayed hydrated from beginning to end. Two staff members accompanied our team of nine participants and one family member along this unique stretch. For a couple of team members, this was their sixth year of riding with Center for Independent Futures, but the team also had a couple of new members this year too.

Bike the Drive may be just nine miles from its starting point, but most of our team chose to ride all the way back to Evanston! Though some of our newer team members chose to go back separately, the rest of the team each helped on the bike ride back to the office, from showing new riders directions to bringing up the caboose and keeping the team together.

For the rest of the summer, many members of our team will continue to go to Bike Club and practice the rules of the road. If you would like to contribute to the Bike the Drive team, you can still help them reach their fundraising goal!

How to Help the Dream Team

You can donate to an individual team member by clicking on their team member page, or you can donate to the whole team by clicking the bright orange “Donate Now” button. Each donation helps keep the Center for

12 members of Bike the Drive team pose for group photo.
Center for Independent Futures’ Bike the Drive team poses for a group photo.

Independent Futures calendar full of great activities for our community, supporting individuals in fulfilling their hopes and dreams.

Thank you for supporting Center for Independent Futures’ Bike the Drive team again this year!

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