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#SpotlightOnCLT Developmental & Intellectual Disabilities Guide to Nonprofits

SHARE Charlotte's #SpotlightOnCLT Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Guide to Nonprofits

Each month, SHARE Charlotte brings you a series of highlights and stories that shine a light on nonprofits you may not know of, resources you may need to connect with or share with others, and easy ideas for how to get involved. We call this series #SpotlightOnCLT.

This month, we are highlighting nonprofits whose core work is with our Charlotte neighbors who have Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities. In partnership with our friends at All Things Possible, we're helping to share and highlight these stories all month long across our social media and email channels. We hope you find what you need, learn a new way to get involved, or share with those you love.

Below you will find a guide to nonprofits working in the IDD cause. Please enjoy the stories of impact, volunteer highlights, surprising facts, and more. What's the fastest way to help? Click on each nonprofit to see their SHARE Charlotte profile and follow them on social media to get all the updates on events, fundraisers, volunteer opportunities and more. 

All Things Possible Medical Fundraising - Supports individuals with developmental disabilities by providing converted wheelchair vans, ensuring safe and accessible transportation for those unable to walk. At approximately $40,000 each, the cost of these gently used vans is prohibitive to many families. This initiative enhances their mobility and independence, allowing them the ability to get to medical appointments, school, work, church, visit family, and to participate more fully in their communities.

  • The reality of the need: Tanner Adkins was trapped in a Walmart parking lot inside his old broken-down wheelchair van in temperatures over 90 degrees. The door and ramp wouldn't open, the air conditioning didn't work, and there were holes in the floorboards. His single mother had to call 911 for the fire department to break the door and get him out before the heat caused seizures for this child with Cerebral Palsy. Tanner can now go everywhere with his mother in the safety of a wheelchair van from All Things Possible.
  • ATP needs donations toward wheelchair vans. We have an annual rock concert fundraiser coming up in Charlotte on Saturday, September 21, 2024. We are in search of sponsors to help pay for the venue and the band (a 70's tribute band called Groove Machine). We also need raffle items (sporting event tickets, adventures, gift cards, etc.) and volunteers.

Cakeable Charlotte - a workforce development program for adults who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “We’re on a mission to empower people, businesses, and communities to achieve their fullest potential through inclusive work environments. We offer vocational training opportunities at our Bakery and at Cakeable Cafe.”

  • A sweet treat: “Jacob Gonzalez is a delightful young man who lives with Down syndrome. Over the summer of 2023 he completed the Vocational Training Program in the Cakeable Bakery. While there, Jacob learned baking competencies as well as kitchen safety, sanitation/cleaning, packaging, and labeling. He demonstrated a cooperative, patient, and dependable attitude and was always eager to learn. According to his Direct Support Professional, Jacob’s training at Cakeable improved his skills in working with others, and he has become an amazing team member. His work also opened the socialization door for Jacob, and he more freely interacts with others in both work settings and social settings. Most importantly, Jacob gained the confidence that he belongs and that he has skills that can make a difference. Following his Cakeable training, Jacob was able to gain employment at Poppyseeds Bagels in Matthews, North Carolina.”
  • Ingredients needed for a great recipe: “Our Vocational Training Program has been limited by our production capacity and kitchen space. Currently we rent and share a kitchen with four bakeries, which creates some challenges as we share baking space, equipment, and storage. Space limitations also mean some trainees can come to work only one day a week. In order to expand our Vocational Training Program for adults living with IDD, we will need to be able to expand production of our bakery. New kitchen space will offer management, supervisory, delivery, fulfillment and baker positions with competitive wages for all people. It will be an inclusive, integrated work environment with at least 50% neurodiverse employees in peer relationships, and it will expand our capacity to accommodate the 60+ IDD individuals on our waitlist.”

The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte - provides day and overnight camps for youth and adults with Ds, learning series and workshops, social outings, and provides resources for families and individuals to connect with the community to best meet their needs.

  • How to lend a hand: “Make a difference in someone's life by volunteering at our Camp Horizon – a 100% volunteer run camp. Male counselors (18+ years) are needed to serve as camp counselors who play side by side with a camper. Counselors give our campers their full attention, love, patience and respect. In return, they are repaid a thousand times with the knowledge they have helped our campers increase self-esteem, independence, make new friends and give our campers wonderful memories. Counselors enjoy great activities alongside campers including swimming, music, sports, water games, crafts, field games and more.

Arin's Good Girl Dog Treats - offers employment opportunities and career advancement pathways for individuals facing intellectual and developmental disabilities – addressing a staggering 79% unemployment rate within this demographic. Their approach prioritizes tailored accessibility and usability measures to ensure every team member can thrive in their role.

  • A super story of volunteering: Teri Wilson epitomizes the spirit of volunteerism at Arin's Good Girl Dog Treats, generously devoting her time to various roles within our organization, whether it's assisting in our baking kitchen or lending a hand at farmers' markets. As a retired teacher, Teri's patience and dedication to teaching extend beyond the classroom, fostering an environment where our team members can grow and thrive independently. Her invaluable contributions not only ensure the smooth operation of our activities but also enhance our team's efficiency and effectiveness. A delightful twist to Teri's story is her connection to our organization's roots, having been Arin's sister's preschool teacher—a heartwarming reminder of the meaningful relationships that span generations within our community.
  • How to help: Arin's Good Girl Dog Treats is currently in search of dedicated community supporters to join our board of directors. We are seeking individuals who possess a deep connection and passion for supporting individuals with differing abilities, as well as expertise in finance, fundraising, retail, sales, and marketing. If you are committed to making a meaningful impact in our community and have skills and experiences that align with our mission, we encourage you to consider joining our board or volunteering your time and helping us further our mission of empowerment and inclusivity.
    • Additionally, we are welcoming volunteers to support us at our baking kitchen and farmers markets as well as supporting our long-term goal of having our own space.

Exceptional Children's Assistance Center ECAC -  helps parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs in navigating health care systems, early intervention, special education and the transition to adulthood. We provide free information, support, training and resources to assist families caring for children with special needs from birth to age 26. We also support youth and young adults with disabilities with job exploration counseling, workplace readiness, self-advocacy and leadership opportunities.

  • Learn more: ECAC's Youth Advisory Team and Junior Youth Advisory's Team members starred in and wrote the script for newly released Self-Advocacy video.
  • Lend a hand: ECAC's greatest need right now is continued funding for the Matthew C. Graziadei Achievement Scholarship Award. This annual award is open to any North Carolina high school senior with any type of disability. This award includes a $1,500 scholarship, to be used for any post-high school learning experience/training or for equipment/technology needed for employment. ALL North Carolina students with disabilities are eligible for nomination, including students enrolled in the Occupation Course of Study, students who will be receiving a Graduate Certificate and students enrolled in the Future Ready Course of Study.

LIFESPAN Services, Inc. - helps to illuminate the abilities of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing education, employment, and enrichment opportunities to live, work, and play in their communities throughout their lifetimes.

  • One of our individuals, Kevin, joined LIFESPAN in March of 2021. LIFESPAN helped Kevin to attend employment training and self advocacy seminars in order to develop his leadership skills. Kevin has since been hired as a Support Specialist to manage the day to day needs of our pilot program at LIFESPAN called the Mosaic Makers Market!
  • Right now, we are looking to bring more awareness to our organization by inviting people to our SOLI/DD START Tours. These tours take place at our facilities where everyone can see first hand the work we do to serve our individuals!

Camp Blue Skies - Camp Blue Skies offers a traditional camp experience to give adults ages 21-60+ with developmental disabilities a safe, fun place to develop life skills and more confidence, widen their social network, and create cherished memories.

  • Where is camp? Camp Blue Skies isn’t a physical place. We rent existing camps in the spring and fall for our sessions: Georgia (March), North Carolina (October), and South Carolina (date varies).
  • Needed: Cabin counselors and volunteers (weeklong and day). See what it’s like to volunteer.

Friendship Circle of Charlotte - Creating real and lasting friendships between children & teens with special needs and their typically-developing peers. We are committed to building a more inclusive community by offering engaging opportunities for these “unlikely friends” to meet and get to know each other.

  • Making a difference: “A recent letter from a mom: Dear Sue, I hope this message finds you well! I wanted to provide you with some feedback on Ella's experience with the Friendship Circle. In a word, it has been Wonderful! Ella has created a very special relationship with her new friend Lexi and looks forward to every Thursday. As you know Ella personally, I believe you recognize how significant this is for her. Ella, like many young adults in her community, has a need for authentic relationships with peers, particularly outside of school. The Friendship Circle has filled a true void and created an environment for a connection without stress or demands. The facility is inviting, relaxed and fun, but the most exceptional part of the program is Ella’s new friend Lexi. Lexi welcomes Ella with a warm smile and hug. She listens to Ella talk about her day at school and generously shares her time. She is kind, sincere, patient, and an exceptional representative for her community. Ella’s time with Lexi at Friendship Circle has very quickly become an integral part of her personal growth.”
  • Lend a helping hand: Adult Volunteers needed to help with our group programming and overseeing our 1-1 friendships.

RyzAb0ve Fitness - Provides group exercise classes and socialization opportunities for teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as Autism and Down Syndrome, to inspire them to live a healthy and more fulfilling lifestyle.

  • A rising star: “RyzAb0ve Fitness means that I can be myself without being judged for who I am, and I am truly grateful for that! I have made many friends within our RyzAb0ve community! Plus, because of the exercise classes, I have become very athletic and ventured out into playing tennis and pickleball."
  • How to help: “We are raising funds to offer more scholarship opportunities to families in need. Our scholarships grew over 400% between 2022 and 2023 and the need is continuing to rise in 2024. We are also looking for both sponsors and volunteers for our Obstacle Challenge events coming up in August and November.”

Champion House of Care - Supporting individuals, aged 13 or older, with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “We are dedicated to providing them opportunities for continued education to accomplish life skills, connect with peers, and get involved in their community.”

  • One parent of a Champion wrote: "During the summer of 2015, after a career at Metro School, Ms. Kinard realized the need for a day care center for the population of young adults with disabilities. These young people needed a path once they graduated from the county school system. Champion House of Care opened in 2016, under the guidance of Janette Kinard. This new setting has been a lifeline to these kids. They have educational activities in the morning and fun activities in the afternoon. Ms. Janette keeps the kids involved in many recreational events such as dances and game nights. Not only is my daughter learning new things, but she also has a social life, which is something she never had before. Now she is also learning to prepare and deliver meals to the unhoused children on the I-85 corridor. She is learning that this work is helping people. I have watched my daughter mature into a more responsible and giving person.
  • What’s needed right now: Financial aid, iPads and a handicapped accessible van.

Allegro Foundation - Combines movement instruction with educational and medical expertise creating new techniques to teach children living with disabilities to enhance their quality of life. Allegro teaches over 800 children with intellectual disabilities, Down Syndrome, Autism, orthopedic challenges (wheelchairs and walkers), spina bifida, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, muscular dystrophy, visual and hearing impairments, children "at risk" and children living with cancer in FREE classes every week!

  • The impact: “The impact of your organization helps to remind families that we are not alone in our journey and that there are compassionate individuals committed to making the world a better place for all, regardless of ability.” - An Allegro Parent
  • Charlotteans could best support the Allegro Foundation by contributing financially. There are over 17,000 children with disabilities living in the Charlotte-Metro area and we are able to teach 800 children with disabilities each week. With more funding we would be able to add new programs to our schedule from our waiting list. Allegro Foundation, a local charity, founded by Charlotte native, Pat Farmer, would also be honored for introductions to companies and individuals that could help support Allegro and the work that we do with children living with disabilities!

Bethany's Butterflies Foundation - Empowers individuals with complex medical needs by providing personalized support and resources tailored to their unique needs. “Our core work focuses on fostering independence, enhancing quality of life, and creating inclusive opportunities for growth and community involvement.”

  • “Hi, my name is Rachel. I was awarded the Bethany’s Butterflies Grant for my son Noah, who had a perinatal stroke. With the intensives, we always see Noah doing new and amazing stuff and right now he's so close to walking.”
  • The need right now: “Volunteers and fundraising to support our kiddos. This year we’ve helped 41 kids and their families.”

ZABS Place - Focuses on making career dreams come true for young adults with disabilities. “We help identify areas of talent and ability and work with each individual to help them become contributing members of the community in their area of talent.”

  • “I was gobsmacked by the diligence that the ZABS team put forth to empower Maria during the training process. Maria’s coach came along with her for every training shift. The folks at ZABS honored Maria’s individuality, ability, and dignity throughout the process. They advocated for and worked tirelessly to empower her to achieve her unique dreams. The value they add to our community via their proactive, energetic, and rigorous pursuit of the success and inclusion of adults who live with disabilities is truly unquantifiable.With gratitude,Christina” (a workforce business participant).
  • Next steps to get involved: Volunteers needed to join our Pajama Walk Planning Team. Our Pajama Walk is scheduled for November 17th and we need high energy and enthusiastic volunteers to help plan it!

Next Step Clubhouse - Social programs at Next Step Clubhouse play a crucial role in fostering meaningful connections and promoting a sense of belonging for the IDD community. The Clubhouse is a vital next step in this social programming journey, offering a unique and empowering environment for individuals with IDD to thrive.

  • Making connections: "My sister enjoys community and having a sense of independence. NSC gives her the daily community that she needs and the freedom to make her own decisions (within reason). NSC is a unique opportunity unlike any I’ve ever seen. The members are a family where everyone has a place at the table, and everyone will be championed to be and do their very best."
  • Next Step Clubhouse is having their View N Brew on September 25th from 5:30-8:00pm at NoDa Brewing Company. This event showcases artists with special needs who attend Next Step Clubhouse. So, come join us for a beer and meet some amazing artists!

InReach - Empowering people we support to realize that their goals, aspirations and dreams are within reach. Specifically, we assist in 6 core areas: Housing, Employment, Volunteer Opportunities, Community Connections, Independence and Help in Reaching Personal Goals, and Assisting with rent, utilities and critical needs if they are caring for a loved one with special needs. 

  • A direct impact: “My time at InReach was more than just an internship; it was the highlight of my day/college experience. Getting to help individuals with disabilities made me feel warm inside knowing I made them happy, furthered their life skills and helped them to live independently. The individuals I worked with left a lasting impression that I still think of along with the skills such as organization, leadership and implementation that I learned from the InReach staff.”
  • Upcoming event! InReach will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary this year! Our anniversary celebration will be held on November 8th at The Casey and will serve as a fundraiser. 
  • So easy to lend a hand: We are thankful for the support of our volunteers, without whom we could never achieve our success. We offer a variety of projects and volunteer opportunities including coordinating a party or bingo night at one of our group homes, teaching a craft or hosting karaoke at our Day Supports and Activity Center, Pet Therapy and Birthday of the Month. 
  • How else Charlotteans can help: Consider hiring an InReach program participant.  InReach will work with your business to hire workers with I/DD by providing support to increase job success and satisfaction in the workforce. A national study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity found one third of those companies surveyed who had hired individuals with I/DD had positive experiences that exceeded expectations.

Shining Hope Farms - Provides nature-based clinical therapies to individuals with disabilities as well as recreational therapeutic horseback riding. We ensure that everyone has access to these enriching services with an emphasis on serving low-income families. Our clinical therapies include physical, occupational, speech, and mental health therapy and take place on our peaceful, engaging, and sensory-rich farms in Charlotte, Mt. Holly, and Conover, NC.

  • A story of hope: “Meet Shivay, a spirited four-year-old with a love for farms and cows, adopted from India at 18 months old. Shivay faces the challenges of heterotaxy syndrome, including a missing spleen and low muscle tone, which initially hindered his ability to walk. After finding traditional clinic-based therapy ineffective, his parents turned to Shining Hope Farms. Here, in a natural and engaging environment, Shivay began therapy under the skilled direction of Dr. Delane Clark, incorporating equine movement through hippotherapy. This dynamic setting has led to significant progress in Shivay's physical development, with each month bringing more milestones. His therapy horses play a crucial role in his journey, helping him maintain balance and posture. Shivay's mom, Courtney, expresses her hope that he will continue to thrive and catch up to his peers, enjoying the freedom of a normal childhood. At Shining Hope Farms, we are honored to witness and support such remarkable transformations, celebrating hope, progress, and the extraordinary bond between humans, animals, and the natural environment.
  • How to help: “Right now, Shining Hope Farms is at a critical point in actively expanding our services by 200% to meet the community's need for our services and to eliminate our waitlist. We are seeking donations from individuals and organizations to help us expand our capacity and your support is crucial in helping us achieve this goal. Specifically, we are raising funds to enhance our nature-based therapy offerings, making them more robust and building out engaging sensory experiences beyond the horse. By building out these offerings, we will not only open up more capacity but we will be able to provide more comprehensive and impactful support to our clients that can easily transfer to their daily lives in their natural environment. Your contributions can make a significant difference in helping us reach and transform more lives.”

Kids with PossAbilities - Provide grants to families of children with developmental delays to be used towards private school tuition, special needs camps, therapies, or assistive technology devices.

  • The impact: “The Kids with PossAbilities grant has been an incredible blessing for my family, and I want to express my deepest gratitude for its impact on my son, Porter, and myself. Being approved for this grant enabled Porter to receive crucial speech and occupational services, which have made a remarkable difference in his development. Thanks to this support, he entered Kindergarten with confidence and readiness, achieving significant progress in both speech and fine motor skills.
  • How you can help now: Our highest need currently is additional funding. We received more grants for our April deadline than we had the funding to approve. It is heartbreaking to have to turn away families who qualify for financial assistance. Our next event is on July 31st Divine Barrel from 6-9 pm.

LiveLearnPlay - On a mission to support and empower special needs children ages 2-5 through therapeutic outdoor learning. Not only are they located on a 3-acre farm to allow for multiple sensory experiences, but they also take a whole child approach through combining occupational therapy, therapeutic art, therapeutic horticulture and livestock care to create happy and healthy lifelong learners.

  • A family testament: "We had a family who joined us due to looking for a nature-based school but other local options did not have diverse classrooms and were not truly built to meet the needs of their special needs child. This child came to us following a heart surgery and with behavioral issues. This child transitioned to kindergarten stronger, happier and confident to make new friends and now this same family has sent his younger brother to us."
  • How to help now!: LiveLearnPlay appreciates any help the community can offer! They currently have a fundraising campaign currently going on to support families to provide low-cost quality childcare, they are in search of volunteers to improve our school grounds (signage, obstacle course, treehouse, fencing) and are hoping to clear out our Wishlist prior to August. They also have our back to school event in September and are on the hunt for sponsors/community partners to make this event a success.

The Philips Academy - Philips Academy is all about Real Learning For Real Life. Their middle and high school provides a life-centered education of academics, job training, and social/life skills to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in middle school and high school. The Bridges program helps young people launch into a purposeful adulthood.

  • Meet Emma: Emma's mother shares, "Can't is a word that's used a lot. When she came to Philips Academy, they said SHE CAN. It's been life changing, not just for her but for us as parents to come alongside each other. She is thriving!"
  • Make an impact now: Shop their Amazon Wishlist for most wanted and needed items for the 2024-2025 school year.


Share With Us!

We have so much great news to share from our nonprofit partners about their amazing work. But, we'd love to hear from you. Let us know if you have stories you'd like to tell and we'll make you a guest blogger!!