Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “goodbye” are known as developmental milestones for children. And while all children develop at their own pace and it is impossible to predict the exact ages certain skills should develop, milestones serve to give parents and guardians a general idea if a child is developing at an average rate alongside their peers. When these milestones are continuously not being met, signs begin to point to a developmental disability (CDC).
Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions that result from an impairment in one’s physical, mental or behavioral growth. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime (DreamscapeFoundation).
In Mecklenburg County, around 8.8% of our neighbors are living with some form of a developmental disability - that’s just over 90,000 people (Census). The GOOD news? There are local organizations that work to better the lives of individuals challenged with a developmental disability.
Check out the list below of our local nonprofit partners who serve individuals with developmental disabilities in a variety of ways and VOTE NOW for the organization you would like to see take home $5,000 from the Amy and Brian France Foundation!
LIFESPAN empowers children and adults with disabilities by providing education, employment, and enrichment opportunities to live, work, and play in their communities. LIFESPAN is a nationally accredited agency with a 43 year history that empowers lives in innovative ways. LIFESPAN has community programs across North Carolina giving individuals opportunity and choices. VOTE NOW for LIFESPAN!
Allegro Foundation, which has been in operation for over 29 years, combines movement instruction with educational and medical expertise, creating new techniques to teach children with disabilities and enhance their quality of life. This local nonprofit has helped thousands of North Carolina’s underserved children with disabilities, providing medical, social, emotional, and educational benefits. Their basic philosophy emphasizes the total learning process by combining cognitive and muscle memories together to stimulate sequential and conceptual learning, problem-solving skills and communication, while also building motor skills/physical coordination and eliciting strong emotional and physiological changes in the body. They are “a champion for children with disabilities!” VOTE NOW for Allegro Foundation!
Special Olympics North Carolina
Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) offers year-round sports training and competition for nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. These athletes inspire greatness through their success and provide motivation to the thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide. SONC offers Olympic-type competition in 19 sports on local and state levels. Special Olympics NC-Mecklenburg County includes over 3,000 athletes and 1,500 volunteers and athletes never pay a fee to participate. VOTE NOW for Special Olympics of North Carolina!
Camp Blue Skies
Camp Blue Skies provides recreational and social opportunities for individuals 21 and older with developmental disabilities. Their camps focus on the camper's physical, mental and emotional well-being through continued development of a healthy lifestyle and positive social skills. Camp Blue Skies offers adults with developmental disabilities the chance to make new friends, experience new activities and learn skills for individual independence. They provide life-changing and life-affirming experiences for campers, parents/caregivers, and volunteers. VOTE NOW for Camp Blue Skies!
Dream On 3
Dream On 3 is a nonprofit wish granting organization headquartered in Charlotte that provides children who are living with a disability or life-altering condition an opportunity to live out their ultimate sports dreams. They bring dreams to life by creating customized personal experiences with a favorite athlete, sporting event, or sports team. Perhaps for just a day, an afternoon or weekend, recipients get to escape their reality, get in the game, and realize that through teamwork anything is possible. Their Day Dream Program partners with local sports teams and organizations serving kids with special needs to provide a sports dream that impacts 100’s in just one day! VOTE NOW for Dream On 3!
Shining Hope Farms
Shining Hope Farms is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enable children and adults to reach their full potential through the use of equine assisted activities and therapies. They currently serve 200 children and adults weekly between programs including physical, occupational, and speech therapy, therapeutic riding, and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. They are the only provider of the Hippotherapy treatment strategy in the Charlotte region. 90% of their participants have made significant functional gains that help to improve their quality of life (and their family's) after receiving services. VOTE NOW for Shining Hope Farms!
UMAR's mission is to promote community inclusion, independence and growth for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through residential, employment and cultural enrichment opportunities. In North Carolina, they have 21 group homes, 9 apartments and 3 art centers which provide day programming. UMAR serves more than 400 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout western NC. VOTE NOW for UMAR!
InReach provides innovative housing, employment, community services and emergency financial assistance to support people with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities and their families. They assist people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities in six core areas: good places to live, jobs, volunteer opportunities, community connections, independence and help in reaching personal goals. Services are tailored to the specific needs of the individual while respecting their right of dignity, opportunity and inclusion. Through their unique programs, InReach strives to reach their vision: Empowering people they support to realize that their goals, aspirations and dreams are within reach. VOTE NOW for InReach!
Ace & TJ's Grin Kids
Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids is dedicated to enriching the lives of terminally ill or chronically disabled children. Each year, they invite qualified children between the ages of 5 to 12 and their families on a 5 day, all expense paid vacation to Disney World. To date, they have taken over 400 terminally ill - chronically disabled children and their families on a VIP Magical experience to Disney World. VOTE NOW for Ace & TJ's Grin Kids!
ZABS Place is a nonprofit thrift boutique that employs young adults with special needs (or, as they like to say, special talents). They find talent where no else thought to look and see ability where all others see disability. They see special talents where others see special needs. VOTE NOW for ZABS Place!
Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte
Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for all people with Down Syndrome by empowering individuals, families & professionals with information and support through education, social programs and community partnerships. While this organization has a paid staff today, it was run solely by volunteers for 24 years and the majority of their programs are still volunteer led! VOTE NOW for Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte!
Nevins, Inc. aims to improve our society and workplace culture through community-based integration and employment of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are dedicated to the principal that all individuals deserve the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential through a person centered approach. Nevins offers comprehensive care and employment support services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities They believe all individuals should have the opportunity to engage in their community to their highest ability and personal level of comfort by seeking competitive employment, learning new skills, volunteering and utilizing community resources.
Their services include: Supported Employment, Vocational Support, Innovation Services, Adult Day Support, Community Activities, Art & Music Therapy, Horticulture Experience, Volunteer Opportunities, Respite, Private Pay Programming, Adult Education Classes. VOTE NOW for Nevins!
The Exceptional Foundation of Charlotte
The Exceptional Foundation of Charlotte, located in the First United Methodist Church in Uptown Charlotte, is a nonprofit organization where individuals ages 14 and over with intellectual and developmental disabilities meet to enjoy social and recreational activities. They provide a broad range of daily activities, which take place both in their facility and out in the community, promoting healthy living, supporting social relationships, exploring the arts, improving functional skills and fostering community involvement. VOTE NOW for The Exceptional Foundation!
Holy Angels, Inc.
Holy Angels, Inc.’s mission is to provide compassionate, dependable care and opportunities for high-quality living to those with intellectual developmental disabilities and delicate medical conditions through physical, social, spiritual, educational, vocational and emotional support. They currently serve 94 children and adults, ranging from 10 months to 73 years, who have intellectual developmental disabilities and are medically fragile. They have provide supported employment opportunities through Cherubs Café/Candy Bouquet in Belmont and at Cherubs Market in Cramerton. VOTE NOW for Holy Angels!
ACEing Autism, a volunteer-driven organization, provides the most effective sports-related intervention for children with autism by improving their social skills, motor skills and physical fitness. Since its inception, ACEing Autism has introduced over 1,400 children with autism to tennis! VOTE NOW for ACEing Autism!
Best Buddies International - NC
Best Buddies North Carolina is dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Their mission is to help people with IDD form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self advocacy and communication skills and feel valued by society. VOTE NOW for Best Buddies International!
Philips Academy of NC
Philips Academy of North Carolina is a school unlike any other in the greater Charlotte area, serving students with complex learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities and autism. We take a life-centered approach to education, providing individualized academic, job and social skills training in order to maximize each student’s ability to live and work independently. Their vision is to see young adults with cognitive disabilities and autism who are ready to enter the work force, live independently and lead self-determined lives. The need is real- families from Raleigh, Morganton, South Carolina and Iowa have moved to Charlotte so their children can attend Philips Academy. VOTE NOW for Philips Academy of NC!
Exceptional Children's Assistance Center
Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center is dedicated to empowering families and improving lives, particularly for North Carolina families raising children ages 0 to 26 with disabilities. They are “an organization by parents for parents.” They assist more than 15,000 families each year and want to ensure that ALL parents in North Carolina feel empowered to advocate for the needs of their children. VOTE NOW for Exceptional Children's Assistance Center!
Disability Rights & Resources
Disability Rights & Resources is an advocacy-based, consumer-controlled nonprofit agency advocating with and serving as mentors for people with disabilities in Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus, and Gaston counties. Last year, 171 people with a disability were mentored, 61 received independent living skills training, 63 received information about rights, and 1,457 trained by this organization. They aim to remove barriers in the community, so that people with disabilities can be as independent as they choose to be. VOTE NOW for Disability RIghts & Resources!
Empowering Hands for Life
This local nonprofit endeavors to support and empower individuals and families dealing with special needs or extraordinary challenges through education, support groups, social events, resources, and personal coaching. They publish newsletters, hold educational seminars on things such as financial management and taxes for special needs families, as well as develop support groups for fathers and families, social events and I do personal coaching for fathers who want to talk or are wanting to hear more of my experiences. They are also developing a Research & Wellness Resource that will provide a forum for interaction between people affected by special needs with access to doctors, researchers, nutritionists, counselors, and other professionals. VOTE NOW for Adam & Matthew Group 4 Dads & Families!
Autism After 18
Autism After 18 was created to help young adults with autism progress toward independent lives, by giving them opportunities to interact in the community on a social, professional and educational level. Their events are free to all adults with autism and made possible through fundraising and donations. They help create social and professional opportunities for young adults with autism. VOTE NOW for Autism After 18!
Autism Charlotte was founded by five individuals in 2006, all directly impacted and inspired by their own special children living with autism. Experiencing first hand the day-to-day challenges of caring for a child with autism, these parents saw first hand a lack of programming, services and support available to our community and committed themselves to helping the families facing the same challenges of raising a child with autism. Their current programs include: Extended Learning & Development, PATHS (Preparing Adolescents to Transition from High School), University Autism Outreach and iCan Bike. Autism Charlotte's goal is to transform Charlotte-Mecklenburg into a model community for the support and inclusion of children and families living with autism. VOTE NOW for Autism Charlotte!