Running For Freedom and Independence: 2019 Chicago Marathon Team

During Matt Koss’ first marathon, the morning was wet and gray. As he stretched at the starting line, he had one goal in mind: finishing the Chicago Marathon in under four hours. Matt didn’t quite hit that mark last year, but he is back for the 2019 Chicago Marathon to try again, this time as part of Team CIF.

This year, Matt’s goals are a little different. While aiming to complete the 26.2 mile course in under four hours, Matt is also hoping to raise more than $1,500 to benefit Center for Independent Futures. 

Joining a Chicago Marathon Team

Matt became one of the first members of this year’s Chicago Marathon team, ready to hit the pavement training. However, he hasn’t always been a natural runner. Matt picked up running as motivation to quit smoking, registering for a 5K to help him remain focused. After finishing the 5K, Matt signed up for a half marathon and, finally, the 2018 Chicago Marathon.

Marathon runners at the start of the Bank of American Chicago Marathon race.

Training for the Chicago Marathon typically begins in June, and most runners follow strict training plans to hit their goals. With family and friends cheering him on throughout training and racing, Matt is ready to get started training and fundraising.  

Why Matt is Running for Independent Futures

Matt’s motivation in raising money for Independent Futures is personal. His uncle, Patrick Fox, was a participant at Independent Futures for 5 years. After Matt’s grandma died, Patrick moved and stayed with family until they finally found Independent Futures. After beginning to use our services, Patrick found stable housing and fulfilling employment at Jewel Osco. 

My uncle has always wanted the freedom to decide where he could go and when,” Matt explains. “After working with his tutors, Patrick’s quality of life improved. He was happy living on his own and becoming part of a community.” 

Image of Lee Street Beach, blue water and sky in background, tan sand in foreground.

Since passing away in 2016, Patrick has been greatly missed by the Independent Futures community. This summer, activities participants who sign up for the August session of Afternoon at the Beach will have the opportunity to honor Patrick’s memory at his favorite Lee Street Beach. 

How You Can Support Matt

You can help Matt honor his uncle’s memory by donating to Matt’s Chicago Marathon Crowdrise page. Every donation you make to the marathon team supports full lives for individuals with disabilities like Patrick. 

Thinking of Patrick’s experience, Matt says, “A lot of people with disabilities who want independence can’t have it in their current situations. I’m supporting Center for Independent Futures because it makes a big difference in the quality of life for people like my uncle.”

SPARK 2019: Igniting Dreams

Did you miss out on igniting dreams at SPARK 2019 at the Hilton Orrington? Or maybe you were there and just want to relive the fun? This year was the FIRST year we sold out at SPARK! The Hilton’s ballroom was jam-packed, and we enjoyed seeing everyone there to celebrate independent, full lives with us!

Awards and Winners

As always, we awarded three very special honorees the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards! The Awesome Awards celebrate individuals and organizations that embody Independent Futures’ core values. Read our new blog on the Awesome Award winners to find out more.

Preparing for the Golden Ticket raffle drawing. A woman in green stands on the left, next to the golden raffle drum and a woman in red. A man in a gray suit speaks into a microphone as another man pulls the winning ticket.We want to offer congratulations to the winner of our annual Heads or Tails game, Linda Hauser! She won a gift card to Hotels.com plus tickets to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

Finally, we want to say congratulations to Stephanie Olsen, the winner of our first ever Golden Ticket raffle! Stephanie purchased her Golden Ticket before SPARK and chose the live auction item Take Me Out to the Ball Game. She won four behind-home-plate tickets to a Cubs game this summer!

Silent and Live Auctions

People dance at SPARK after the end of the program.2019 was our biggest year yet in many ways! Though our silent auction had fewer items, our supporters still helped us raise more in this area than we could have hoped. Not to mention: this year’s live auction blew past years out of the water!

Independent Futures could not work toward the future we envision without the help of our supporters. As a small gift to all of you: Everyone can now find photos of the night on our Facebook page now!

Thank you to everyone who came to SPARK 2019, donated, or otherwise participated in igniting dreams at this year’s SPARK! We’ll see you next year!

 

2019 Awesome Award Winners

SPARK is an annual celebration of our community, but it is also a chance for us to celebrate the stellar individuals and organizations who support this work every day. Recipients of the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards represent Independent Futures through dedication, innovative leadership, personal integrity, and community-forward thinking.

On April 26, we honored three community members who embody these qualities with the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards. These awards are given to a staff member, a participant, and a community partner. Read on to learn more about this year’s honorees!

Stellar Staff: Jackie Eddy

Jackie stands with Jane to accept the staff Awesome AwardWith more than 20 years of service, Jackie has been with Independent Futures since day 1. Really, she has been here since before day 1, meeting Jane at the bus stop where their children were picked up for school. The two bonded over the need for better access to future opportunities for people with disabilities.

Since then, Jackie created the “voice” of Independent Futures, mentored new staff, and developed the New Futures Initiative training program. Jackie’s work at Independent Futures means new opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be independent across the country. Jackie demonstrates passion and commitment to creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities to fully live, work, and give back in their communities.

Professional Participant: Nestor Gonzalez

Ann, Jane, and Nestor stand together with the framed Awesome Award certificate.Since joining Independent Futures’ community, Nestor has grown in a variety of ways. He is a hard worker, a leader, and an active community volunteer. Over the last few years, Nestor joined the Young Professionals Board where he acts as a liaison to the Advisory Council.

As a member of our community, Nestor seeks new and creative ways to maintain a productive relationship between our young professionals and participants. He enjoys his job and a healthy, loving relationship – all with grace and a professional demeanor!

Creative Community: Evanston Community Foundation

Marybeth of Evanston Community Foundation stands next to Jane and Ann with their new, gold Awesome Award statue.We awarded our final 2019 Awesome Award to Evanston Community Foundation. The foundation has walked alongside Independent Futures since the beginning. Evanston Community Foundation awarded Independent Futures our very first grant many years ago.

Since that first grant, the foundation has generously provided many new collaborative grants, funding opportunities like our Transportation Camp and Life Skills Camp. The support of Evanston Community Foundation helps us make Evanston a more just, vibrant, and inclusive place for individuals with disabilities.

Congratulations once again to each of this year’s winners! As one of our core values, community means everything here at Independent Futures. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for walking this path with us.

Developing Inclusive Technology in Chicago

Stage at 1871 Chicago event with six blue chairs and purple lights highlighting 1871 logos behind stage.Last Thursday, Center for Independent Futures hosted an educational and engaging panel event at 1871 focusing on inclusive technology in Chicago. When developing our online learning management system, My Full Life, Independent Futures chose to focus on creating inclusive technology that would support adults with disabilities. In the last year, our consultants have met other technology professionals doing similar work. We were honored to bring these experts together for a conversation bringing accessibility and inclusion to the technology field.

Inclusive Technology in Chicago: What’s Next

Jake Joehl introduces our panel and moderator using assistive technology like braille and a screen reader.One of our community members, Jake, kickstarted the event by explaining how technology helps him in his daily life. Using screen readers, Jake is able to navigate the world and stay informed. His phone and computer both support him in living his full life. In fact, Jake used a screen reader to introduce our moderator, Roger Liew of Impact Engine.

Throughout the discussion, Liew asked important questions of our panelists about the future of technology and accessibility. Richard Brown (Infinitec/UCP Seguin), Cameron Kempson (SimplyHome), Chrissy Dale (My Full Life), and Marcelo Worsley (Northwestern University) broke down exactly why they think inclusion is the next forefront of technological innovation.

At Northwestern University, Marcelo researches how to build accessibility Panelists listen to each other speak on inclusive technology in Chicago on stage at 1871.into the design process for developers. He noted, “Accessibility at big companies tends to start with compliance, but it has to move forward.” Cameron agreed, but she says even that isn’t enough. “People should start to look beyond big tech to companies like these that are developing with accessibility and inclusion in mind.”

As businesses start to realize what a large market people with disabilities and their families are, they will figure out that accessible technology is just good business. Moving beyond compliance with the ADA is the next step for companies designing tech solutions.

Designing For All: Focusing on the Individual

Part of person-centered planning centers the concept “dignity of risk.” That means that each individual is afforded the ability to try new things and encounter the risks that comes along with new experiences. At 1871, Chrissy explained that legislative changes and technological advancements helped us spread My Full Life throughout the country. “Starting with asking someone about their hopes and dreams, My Full Life allows individuals with disabilities to learn independent living skills and branch out on their own.”

Panelists pose for a photo on stage after a successful and engaging event!Richard expanded on this idea, explaining the biggest barrier for some people with disabilities has simply been “the technology catching up to they want to do. With technology, they can live their best full life.”

Building Inclusive Technology, Designed For Everyone

Do you want to learn more about accessibility in tech? Reach out to us today to learn more about My Full Life and how it could benefit your community! Inclusive technology in Chicago is only a starting point. The need for technology solutions like these are widespread and growing each day.

Missed the 1871 event? We filmed the panel, so keep an eye out for the video, coming soon!

Ignite Dreams at SPARK With Us!

In just under a month, we will be dancing the night away and sharing the dreams of our community at SPARK. A night for our community to get together and celebrate all we have achieved this year, SPARK is a night out you don’t want to miss. This year we have some new and exciting features, plus we have been making changes to guarantee you will have the most fun possible!

Silent Auction Prizes

One part of the evening that won’t be changing is our silent auction! We have roughly 70 wonderful packages for guests to take home at the end of the evening.

Florida house view over the ocean with deck railing in frame

From wonderful dining experiences to enjoying excellent theatre performances, we hope that our guests will all find something to bid on! A few examples include a weeklong stay at a condo in Florida, two roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the U.S. from Southwest Airlines, an astounding package from SPACE, and so much more.

Watch for chances to start bidding early about a week before SPARK!

The New Golden Ticket Raffle

In past years, SPARK featured an awesome raffle where the winner was able to “split the pot” with us, but we are trying something new this year! We are happy to be introducing the Golden Ticket raffle!

Sunset in Costa Rica with palm trees in frame, the sky is painted different shades of blue, pink, orange, yellow, and purple.We are selling a limited 150 Golden Tickets, meaning you have a 1/150 chance of winning when you purchase a single ticket. Golden Ticket holders choose their prize selection at the time of purchase from our amazing live auction items. Whether you want to go to Costa Rica or see a Cubs game with stellar seats, we have an item for everyone’s needs.

Winners need not be present to win, but we hope you will stay the whole evening to dance and ignite the spark of our community’s dreams with us!

Changes to Our Program

This year, we are making exciting changes to our program! It is our hope these will allow us to better ignite dreams at SPARK. We will be shortening the program to allow for more of everyone’s favorite part of the night – dancing! We will still be honoring stellar supporters through the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards, but we will end earlier so your dancing shoes see some awesome moves!

Thank You Sponsors, Entertainment, and Guests!

Finally, we want to thank some amazing individuals and businesses who are supporting us at SPARK this year. First, our entertainment, Euphoria Band, will be putting on a great show for us again this year.

Crowd of guests dancing at SPARKNext, thank you to our sponsors because we could not put together such an amazing celebration without each of you. Thank you PSAV, Sidley Austin, Inland Bank, Byline Bank, Monahan Law Group, Rubin Law, Northwestern University, Oak Wealth Advisors, Simon Cordwell Buenz, and Nike Whitcomb & Associates for your support!

And last but never least, we thank our guests at SPARK who will join us in honoring this community. None of the hopes and dreams we help make reality could ever be possible without every one of you! Get your tickets today!

New at SPARK: Golden Tickets & Live Auction Prizes

Every year before SPARK, we are so excited to announce the fabulous live auction packages available to our guests for bidding. Today, we are announcing the five prizes attendees will be able to bid on, plus a thrilling new way to experience SPARK!

Introducing the Golden Ticket

For the first time, we will be offering Golden Tickets to our community! Golden Tickets are a new way to participate in our favorite night of the year. There will only be 150 Golden Tickets sold, so you know what your chances of winning are! If you purchase a Golden Ticket, please make sure that you have selected your prize at the time of purchase. Winners need not be present to win. Each Golden Ticket is $100, and the prize is something special!

The winner of our Golden Ticket drawing will get to choose from the live auction prizes before any bidding even starts! If you win the raffle, you will receive the prize you choose at time of purchase, and that prize will be removed from the live auction. Are you ready to find out your options?

SPARK 2019 Live Auction Packages

From golfers to travelers to art lovers, we have a winning package for anyone’s interests. Don’t miss out on your chance to secure the package you know you want – get your Golden Ticket today! And if you don’t win, there’s still a chance to win your item in the live auction. Check out the live auction prizes today.

Golfing With A Pro

You and a friend will join Hans Larson, PGA head professional, at Westmoreland Country Club, accompanied by member Jim McClure. Your day on the course will include 18 holes of golf, caddies, tips & playing lessons from Hans, and lunch. Date to be mutually agreed upon among all parties.

Magnificent Views in Costa Rica

Enjoy a weeklong vacation at Villa Vista Magnifica in Costa Rica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and gorgeous beaches Playa Prieta and Playa Penca. Villa Vista Magnifica is a 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath villa staffed with 2 full-time employees. You and 9 of your friends can relax in luxury with such features as an outdoor shower, a private patio, an infinity edge pool, and an upstairs terrace view. Airfare not included; average airfare to Costa Rica is $450 per person. High season is from May through July.

Dinner With Easter Seals Vice President
Please join our Executive Director Ann Sickon & 8 other guests for a four-course gourmet dinner with fine wines in a newly renovated 1882 row house in Little Italy on a Friday or Saturday night this summer. Our hosts Tom LeClair and Carlyn Berghoff will prepare an amazing evening that also includes lively conversation on trending topics in the world of disabilities.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Four seats to your choice of two 2019 games decided upon in conjunction with the donor. These seats offer an extraordinary opportunity to experience Wrigleyville’s favorite team from premium seats only 10 rows behind home plate.

Rob Larson’s Water Lilies

Inspired by Claude Monet’s use of color and expressive brushstrokes, our own Rob Larson has created his own rendition of Water Lilies. Using oil on canvas, the painting celebrates the beautiful relationships found in nature through reflections in the pond and the flowering water lilies.

What Are You Waiting For?

Group enjoying games at Evanston fundraising event, SPARKTickets are on sale now! Early bird prices are available until March 31st, and then all ticket prices will increase by $25. While you’re getting tickets to SPARK, you can also purchase your Golden Ticket and Heads or Tails glamour glasses. Don’t forget to indicate which prize you’d like if you bought a Golden Ticket, and let us know your dinner choices too!

We can’t wait to see you at SPARK and start igniting dreams together!

#GivingTuesday and #ILGive a Success!

At Center for Independent Futures, we feel honored to be part of such a generous community, especially after #GivingTuesday and #ILGive! Because of each of you spreading the word and donating, we were able to surpass our donation goals!

#GivingTuesday and #ILGive

Giving Tuesday image of woman laughing in purple striped shirtOn Tuesday, November 27th, countries around the world celebrated #GivingTuesday. In Illinois, we also participate in #ILGive, an initiative from Forefront that hopes to show Illinois is one of the most generous states in America. This year was a big year for their #ILGive project: registered Illinois nonprofits raised $1,720,107 in just 24 hours from 6,902 donors!

While #GivingTuesday was a very big day for nonprofits across the world, it was also a huge success for Center for Independent Futures. Our community helped us raise $24,038 from just under 100 contributors! We not only surpassed our $20,000 goal – we also raised about $8,000 more than we have in previous years.

The funds raised through #GivingTuesday contribute to the services and activities we are able to provide to our participants, like heARTwords, where members are encouraged to express themselves through writing prompts. Activities and services like heARTwords provide a sense of community to this community that too often feels lonely and excluded. Your support truly makes a difference and helps us continue providing a sense of belonging to our participants.

Matching Grant for #GivingTuesday

Man smiling in a baseball cap with bracelets on with #GivingTuesday and #ILGive imageryAs if raising more than $24,000 in one day wasn’t exciting enough, we were also offered a matching grant opportunity. For every donation of $175 or more, we received an additional $175 thanks to the Coleman Foundation. As a result, Center for Independent Futures will receive an additional $10,000!

With your help, we raised a total of $34,038 on November 27th! That makes this year our most successful #GivingTuesday yet, and it is all thanks to you, our wonderful community. We cannot thank you enough for your generosity during this giving season.

There Is Still Time To Give!

Did you forget to give on #GivingTuesday and #ILGive? That’s okay! There is still time to give this year. If you want to make a year-end gift to Center for Independent Futures, please contact Niki Moe Horrell or call our office at (847) 328-2044.

Join Chicago Marathon Team – 5 FAQ

A Team CIF runner smiling on the Chicago Marathon course 2018On October 13, 2019, thousands of dedicated runners will line up at Grant Park, ready to take on the Chicago Marathon course. Out of the thousands of runners, there are hundreds of generous marathon participants who sign up for guaranteed entry by choosing to support a charity team.

We have put together a frequently asked questions blog about our Chicago Marathon team. If you’ve ever thought about running a marathon — or know someone else who has — take a look! Even if this opportunity isn’t for you, please help us spread the word! Forward this blog to your friends, family, and coworkers to let them know about this chance to be part of a Chicago tradition.

What is the Chicago Marathon?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an opportunity for runners around the world to achieve a remarkable feat: running 26.2 miles through many of Chicago’s unique neighborhoods. Runners sign up in late October and November, and then they train hard to complete the course in under 6.5 hours.

Can My Family and Friends Watch Me Run?

Of course! There is room for spectators along the whole course, but Mile 15 is really where the party’s at. At Mile 15, there is the Charity Block Party, where cheerleaders from charity partners like Center for Independent Futures will be waiting to cheer on our team — and all the other runners, of course! Your friends and family are always welcome to join us at the block party!

What Are the Team Requirements?

At Center for Independent Futures, we only ask that our Team CIF runners meet the minimum fundraising amount required by the Bank of America Chicago Marathon organizers. That means each runner will be asked to raise $1,250 to support the hopes and dreams of individuals with disabilities.

What Team Supports Do You Offer?

When you join Team CIF, you are becoming part of a community. We will help you every step of the way from working on individualized fundraising ideas to helping you remember important steps. Plus, you will have the chance to join the Chicago Area Runners Association at a discounted rate because you are running with us.

How Do I Sign Up?!

It’s easy! Just email team coordinator Connor Larsen and let her know you want to join the team! She will walk you through the two-step registration process and make sure you are registered to the team. Then Connor will help you get set up with fundraising tools and training tips throughout the following year to make your Chicago Marathon course successful. Don’t wait to claim your spot – there are only 15 left!

Explore Housing & Supports with Experts

We are proud to announce our 2018 housing conference Community Partnerships: Creating Housing and Support Options for Individuals with Disabilities.

Join us at National Louis University’s Northshore campus on Friday, October 12th from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, and hear from a variety of professionals working to create and support housing options for individuals with disabilities. Purchase tickets on the event page.

We are pleased to offer Human Service Professionals and Educators a certificate for 6 CEU/CPDUs for the day.

Options in Inclusive Community Housing

Young woman smiling into camera in front of blurred backgroundOur keynote speaker, Micaela Connery, is the founder and CEO of The Kelsey. Inspired by her cousin Kelsey, Micaela has been working on inclusion in communities her entire life. She has seen firsthand the housing crisis facing adults with disabilities and their families. She spent a year studying this issue in detail at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Kelsey exists to turn the challenge of disability housing into the opportunity of an inclusive community.

Community Partner Panels: Supports & Housing

Developers across the country are partnering with stakeholders to create supported alternative housing solutions. Representatives from The Kelsey, HODC, Scioto Properties, Rainbow Village, Movin’ Out and Three Oaks Communities will present how they are creating exciting opportunities.

Our remote support provider panel features Night Owl Support Systems, LLC, Rest Assured, and Simply Home. The panelists will explore how technologies are being used to support individuals with disabilities in living more independently.

Hear from families working to create community-based alternative housing options using our New Futures Initiative. With funding from The Coleman Foundation, we have partnered with agencies like Clearbrook  and the families they serve to work toward creating alternative housing options.

Engage Civic Leaders for Support

Former Oak Park Mayor David Pope Our endnote speaker, former Mayor David Pope, will share how you can effectively engage elected leaders and city administrators in your community. David now works with Oak Park Residence Corporation to create diverse communities in Oak Park.

Clark McCain (The Coleman Foundation) will provide closing statements on building community partnerships within our own communities.

Interested in learning about community-based housing alternatives? Don’t wait! Get your tickets for this conference today!

For more information and questions about registration, email our office or call (847) 328-2044.

Sponsors

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Success Stories

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