Panel discussion offers support for parents of disabled children |

Panel discussion offers support for parents of disabled children

Jeanne McGovernThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

EL JEBEL – When Valley Life for All was founded earlier this year, its goal was clear: “Inclusiveness … being included in everyday life in every stage of life; being a contributing member of the community,” said valley resident Margaret “Gary” Bender, who co-founded the nonprofit organization with Katie Grange of Aspen. “It’s pretty simple, but so difficult at the same time.”Indeed, the idea of a nonprofit that connects the Roaring Fork Valley’s resources for people with disabilities is straightforward. But the road to success isn’t exactly straight, as VLFA organizers must shift their focus from one core area of concern to another.According to Bender and Grange, those areas include: attitudes and awareness; career and recreational opportunities; housing and transportation; and respite, families in isolation that need support.Valley Life for All recently received some validation that its focus is the right place. In September, the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council unveiled its five-year plan at a meeting in Glenwood Springs. The plan, which includes five specific goals with targeted objectives, in many ways mirrors the work VLFA is doing locally.”We were so honored to know that the state council really believes in what we are doing,” Grange said. “To have them essentially say, in their official five-year plan, that concepts like self-advocacy, community coalitions and inclusions are the directions to go was very empowering.”It has really given us a boost as we continue to grow and reach out locally.”Toward that end, VLFA is hosting its bimonthly speakers’ panel from 5-6 p.m. Monday at the Eagle County Community Center in El Jebel. Titled “Connections – Learning from our Community,” the panel discussion includes a moderated Q&A with four parents of disabled children, all of whom are now adults. Their focus will be on both parenting disabled children, as well as parenting disabled young adults. They then will take questions from audience members, and also be available to talk during a “members gathering” afterward.”The speakers series gets to the core of our mission: bringing people together, providing information, educating the community,” Bender said.For more information, email or call (970)