Unicorn Children’s Foundation is a 25-year old nonprofit organization that is creating cradle to career pathways for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as supporting their families. We envision a world where all children, regardless of their disabilities, will have every chance to be accepted, included, and provided with opportunities for meaningful engagement in their community. We are helping community members re-imagine how they can help people with unique abilities by advocating for inclusive opportunities and raising expectations of what is possible. With 1 of every 6 children being diagnosed, the challenges associated with raising a child with special needs will affect many of your friends, families, co-workers, and personal networks. To meet these increasing needs, we must expand our facility, increase staff, and invest in technology infrastructure to assure the needs are met for those who face economic, transportation, and geographic barriers to accessing critical programs.
Lisa was the mom of a 3-year old daughter who had been diagnosed with autism and two beautiful twin babies. After establishing a routine that met all their needs, she had to face a devastating life decision to relocate to another state, thus losing her natural and therapeutic supports. Fortunately, she called Unicorn Children’s Foundation to help her find the resources she needed for her family in a new community. While adjusting to her new normal, she feared that one of her twins was experiencing developmental delays. Unicorn Children’s Foundation was, once again, there to help Lisa and her family navigate the complex system of accessing care for her newly diagnosed son.
Fast forward twelve years, her daughter had overcome many of her challenges and was preparing to enroll in an Honor’s College, but Lisa continued to have significant concerns about her Adam. He frequently ran away from his classroom at school and expressed his frustrations through frequent and physical assaults against teachers and staff. The team at Unicorn Children’s Foundation visited school after school to help find the best fit for Adam. Upon the realization that there was no “perfect” fit, Unicorn Children’s Foundation set out on a fundraising campaign to open the Unicorn Village Academy, a specialized high school that focuses on academics relevant to daily living, life-skills, vocational training, and community integration.
Nationwide, 19.3 % of individuals with special needs will enroll in a post-secondary program or become employed. Since its launch in 2013, all graduates of Unicorn Village Academy have gone on to post-secondary programs or become employed. Adam needed an additional year of support through a pre-employment internship program following graduation which Unicorn Children’s Foundation was able to establish with a community partner. Adam is now one of those graduates who was hired at a local store and has even received his first pay raise following a performance review. For the first time in Lisa’s family’s life, the future is much brighter as she takes comfort in knowing that Adam has found meaning and purpose as an engaged member of the community and that he has built natural peer supports.
Lisa’s story is one of many that we have heard. As a result of Lisa’s experience with Unicorn Children’s Foundation, they have become donors and supported our efforts with their time, talent, and treasure. Families like Lisa’s need our support now more than ever before! Payroll giving will provide a steady stream of income that we can count on throughout the year to ensure that children with intellectual or developmental disabilities can live a life with dignity and purpose and we can help more families like Lisa’s navigate their challenging journey.