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Monday, November 24, 2014

Memories of special Thanksgiving parade for special children



By JERRY WOLFFE

When I was a child attending an orthopedic in downtown Detroit, my dear mother would wake me and my younger sisters, Rene and Nancy, before dawn and get us dressed up to go watch the then Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
For myself and the 180 or so other kids with disabilities at Leland School for Crippled Children, it was a really special and unforgettable day.
We’d dress up warm in snowsuits and wait anxiously for the yellow bus that said “Leland” on the side to turn down our street on Detroit’s northeast side.
We’d climb on the bus with the other children with disabilities and their parents and the bus would take us down to Woodward near the former J.L. Hudson’s building. The building had the world’s largest flag on its side. It was several stories high and looked especially immense to a young child who was all excited about seeing Santa.
We’d stay in the bus once we got to the end of the parade route and we had a spectacularly close view of the floats.
They would start coming our way as we heard bands playing Christmas music. The floats were gigantic. They were colorful. The people on them were dressed in fancy outfits, clowns, elves and the floats would come one after the other for what seemed like forever. We didn’t mind because we all knew that sooner or later Santa Claus would come.
The clowns would carry giant balloons or cartoon characters. I would always wait for my late Uncle Tom Opatich who worked as Hudson’s. But at Thanksgiving he would turn into a clown and volunteer to be part of the parade. He would get all of the other clowns to come on our bus and give us big hugs because we were the special children with disabilities who were receiving loving treatment from great souls on a wonderful day.
My sisters always thought it was cool that their big brother went to an orthopedic school because they got to go with him and our mother, Carol who died this past June at 98, to the Thanksgiving Day parade for a special treat.
When we started hearing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” we’d really get excited because Santa would jump off of his red sleigh and leave all the reindeer, including Rudolph, Dancer, and Prancer behind, and hop up the three steps of our bus and go down the aisle and ask:
“Have every one of you children been good boys and girls this year?” And we’d scream back in unison: “We sure have Santa.”
And then Santa would ask what we wanted for Christmas. Most of the time I wanted a bow and arrow or chess set. My sisters told Santa they wanted dolls or clothes and mother would say she didn’t need anything as long as her children were happy.
And after a few minutes, Santa would climb off the bus and go back and hop on his sleigh and welcome the tens of thousands who came to downtown Detroit in the 1950s to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade.
Our bus would wait a while until traffic of maybe a million people would clear out and then the bus would make its way back to drop each of us off at our homes.
There never was one tear about not being able to walk or talk or having to wear braces because we, the students, had a disability. We were special and we knew it. We had just received the hearts of many generous clowns and a special hug from Santa that upon looking back now at age 68, lasted a lifetime.
Jerry Wolffe is the Writer-in-Residence and Advocate-at-Large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.


By JERRY WOLFFE
Special to Digital First Media
Memories of special Thanksgiving parade for special children
When I was a child attending an orthopedic in downtown Detroit, my dear mother would wake me and my younger sisters, Rene and Nancy, before dawn and get us dressed up to go watch the then Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
For myself and the 180 or so other kids with disabilities at Leland School for Crippled Children, it was a really special and unforgettable day.
We’d dress up warm in snowsuits and wait anxiously for the yellow bus that said “Leland” on the side to turn down our street on Detroit’s northeast side.
We’d climb on the bus with the other children with disabilities and their parents and the bus would take us down to Woodward near the former J.L. Hudson’s building. The building had the world’s largest flag on its side. It was several stories high and looked especially immense to a young child who was all excited about seeing Santa.
We’d stay in the bus once we got to the end of the parade route and we had a spectacularly close view of the floats.
They would start coming our way as we heard bands playing Christmas music. The floats were gigantic. They were colorful. The people on them were dressed in fancy outfits, clowns, elves and the floats would come one after the other for what seemed like forever. We didn’t mind because we all knew that sooner or later Santa Claus would come.
The clowns would carry giant balloons or cartoon characters. I would always wait for my late Uncle Tom Opatich who worked as Hudson’s. But at Thanksgiving he would turn into a clown and volunteer to be part of the parade. He would get all of the other clowns to come on our bus and give us big hugs because we were the special children with disabilities who were receiving loving treatment from great souls on a wonderful day.
My sisters always thought it was cool that their big brother went to an orthopedic school because they got to go with him and our mother, Carol who died this past June at 98, to the Thanksgiving Day parade for a special treat.
When we started hearing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” we’d really get excited because Santa would jump off of his red sleigh and leave all the reindeer, including Rudolph, Dancer, and Prancer behind, and hop up the three steps of our bus and go down the aisle and ask:
“Have every one of you children been good boys and girls this year?” And we’d scream back in unison: “We sure have Santa.”
And then Santa would ask what we wanted for Christmas. Most of the time I wanted a bow and arrow or chess set. My sisters told Santa they wanted dolls or clothes and mother would say she didn’t need anything as long as her children were happy.
And after a few minutes, Santa would climb off the bus and go back and hop on his sleigh and welcome the tens of thousands who came to downtown Detroit in the 1950s to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade.
Our bus would wait a while until traffic of maybe a million people would clear out and then the bus would make its way back to drop each of us off at our homes.
There never was one tear about not being able to walk or talk or having to wear braces because we, the students, had a disability. We were special and we knew it. We had just received the hearts of many generous clowns and a special hug from Santa that upon looking back now at age 68, lasted a lifetime.
Jerry Wolffe is the Writer-in-Residence and Advocate-at-Large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SCAMP to stay open despite cuts



By JERRY WOLFFE
Special to The Oakland Press
Children and young adults with disabilities will continue to enjoy summer camp, known as SCAMP, despite funding cutbacks for the program by state lawmakers.
“We do not intend to ever close down Clarkston SCAMP despite any potential cutbacks in state funding,” said Tina Collins, executive director of North Oakland SCAMP Funding Corp.
“We have about 200 youths and young adults with disabilities who attend our summer sessions,” she said Thursday in response to 2014-15 funding cuts to nonprofits that support the camps.
SCAMP, which starts the last week of June and goes to the end of July, costs $1,200 per student. “However, no child is ever turned away for financial reasons to attend the summer camp,” Collins said.
Sessions are held three times a week for five weeks. Activities include arts and crafts, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, games, field trips, music and picnics, she said. “The curriculum concentrates on developing a positive self-image, improving social interaction and developing and improving motor skills.
“We also have several onsite visits from entertainment groups that are part of our normal activities,” Collins said.
“Our campers come from the general Clarkston area as well as Avondale, Brandon Township, Holly, Huron Valley, Lake Orion, Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester, Waterford and Grand Blanc in southern Genesee County, she said.
SCAMP, a nonprofit started in 1976, has the mission to provide funding for a summer camp program offering fun and social and recreational opportunities for youth adults and children who are disabled.
SCAMP works in conjunction with the Clarkston School District which “lets us use one of its elementary schools for our activities.”
Collins also said we have a lot of support in the community from businesses, residents, chambers of commerce, the Knights of Columbus and other entities in the region.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Carhartt workers take on Red Wings Alumni to benefit those served by MORC

Carhartt employees will take on the Red Wings Alumni for the 10th year to benefit children and
adults with disabilities served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center (MORC). It’s part of
Carhartt’s 125th Anniversary Celebration.

The Carhartt game will raise money to buy food and gift cards for our people with disabilities at
Christmas.

Everyone is welcome: people with disabilities, caregivers, families, MORC and Carhartt staff
and the public. We need you to come out to support the cause!
The event is at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at the Dearborn Ice Skating Center, 14900 Ford Road in Dearborn.

Tickets are FREE for people with disabilities and caregivers or family members who accompany them.

Please RSVP at (248) 390-0788 to let us know how many will attend. You will receive your tickets at the door on game day.

General public tickets are $10 and will ONLY be available on game day at the arena.
Wheelchair accessible. Discount prices on hot dogs and pop.

RSVPs, Special Needs, Questions? Call Joe at MORC (248) 390-0788. PLEASE WEAR YOUR CARHARTT! Check out

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chamber asks businesses to help nonprofits on Day of Giving



By Jerry Wolffe, The Macomb Daily
POSTED: 11/14/14, 2:39 PM EST |
The Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry has reached out to hundreds of businesses to make the National Day of Giving one that will help nonprofits throughout Macomb and Oakland counties.
The chamber sent emails to its 1,400 members, asking them to give gifts directly to nonprofits in celebration of Dec. 2, the “National Day of Giving,” said William Griffith, manager of the chamber’s Business Reliance Groups (BRAG).
Each nonprofit gets to list “five of its greatest needs” they would like to be fulfilled by chamber members, he said.
Nonprofits are to put their needs in written form, or a wish list, and hopefully send them to the chamber by Nov. 21, he said. Each nonprofit is to give contact information such as a name of a person and a telephone number that a business can contact to find out what a nonprofit desires.
“We will then send the responses to the businesses,” Griffith said. The businesses will buy what the nonprofits request and then arrange to deliver the gifts to the nonprofits.
Some of the nonprofits to be helped among the 70 include Kiwanis Clubs, MCREST, an association of churches that open its doors to give shelter to the needy; Shelby Community Foundation of Shelby Township which channels donations to needy businesses and families; the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc., of Clinton Township which provides services to those with disabilities and mental illness; Trinity Community Care of Shelby Township, a human services organization, and Families Against Narcotics of Macomb and Oakland counties, Griffith said in naming a few of the nonprofits.
The chamber met with a focus group of nonprofits in mid-November to figure out the details of how the businesses could help the nonprofits on the National Day of Giving, Griffith said.
“As many local businesses are looking for ways to give back during the holidays, this initiative will help to raise awareness of the many nonprofits in the area and their most critical needs to make the giving process easier,” said Lindsay Calcatera, MORC’s Manager, Development and Communication.
Griffith said it was fine if there were duplicate requests from nonprofits for the same item because “nonprofits have needs and we’re helping to fulfill them.”
“Companies can donate whatever they want,” he added. “They can even go to their employees and take up a collection for some of the requests so we really can make it a day of giving.”
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mr. President, Congress: People with disabilities need your help



The Hill
November 10, 2014, 11:00 am

By Barbara Merrill
The historically underfunded system of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the direct support workforce that is the backbone of home and community services are rarely mentioned in current policy debates in Washington, D.C.  But recent changes in federal and state government policies to expand health insurance coverage and address income inequality are increasingly resulting in a Hobson's Choice between quality services for the people with disabilities or doing right by our workforce.  This can be and should be addressed by the president and Congress.
(In Oakland County, Michigan alone, funding for the care of those with disabilities and mental illness for the 2014-15 fiscal year has been cut about $22 million. As a consequence, the most vulnerable people in our society will lose the help they need to survive -- Jerry Wolffe, voices of disability columnist)
Direct support workers are the cornerstone of our nation’s long-term care system, and the quality and stability of this workforce is of fundamental importance to the well-being of the millions with disabilities that rely on them for essential care, services and support. 
(In Michigan, the average pay for a direct-care worker is $9.06 an hour.--wolffe)
Unfortunately, insufficient Medicaid funding to providers across the country result in employee turnover rates currently ranging from 30 percent to 80 percent.  Furthermore, with demand for quality services only accelerating with an aging baby boomer population, meeting this need will be extremely difficult to achieve without a committed, stable and well-compensated direct support workforce — and elected officials who recognize this need. 
For nearly 15 years, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) under its National Advocacy Campaign has pushed to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by fighting to expand access to the resources needed to recruit, train and retain a highly qualified and sustainable workforce. We will not have a complete solution until Congress and the president acts.
(The Macomb-Oakland Regional Center of Clinton Township, Michigan began moving people out of state institutions 40 years ago into their own homes and apartments with community supports. However, all that could come apart if funding continues to be cut.--Wolffe)
Medicaid is essentially the sole source of funding for services for people with intellectual disabilities and the workforce that enables people to live and work in their communities. Commercial insurance is virtually unavailable and private payment is rare. Therefore Mr. President, Congress, we urge you to work with us to find solutions, and to take immediate action to revise federal Medicaid rules to ensure that payments to providers are sufficient to absorb the additional employer costs associated with the ACA, minimum wage increases, and other actions that increase compensation, benefits and training requirements for direct support workers.
By working together, your actions can lift up thousands of direct support workers across the country without diminishing or compromising essential community services for people with disabilities.

Merrill is vice president for Policy, and CEO-elect, of the American Network of Community Options and Resources, based in Alexandria, Virginia