Newsletter – April 2024

Another Family Fun Night, Another Big Hit!

Everyone loves the annual Family Fun Night, a special, fun time to gather and enjoy the many benefits of community at First Place–Phoenix. This year’s event was no exception and turned out to be magical—literally! Along with carnival games, burgers on the grill and an ice cream truck, residents and their families were treated to a mesmerizing magic show. Huge thanks to First Place staff who so lovingly and avidly put it all together.

Vote the Spectrum™ in the National Conversation

Diana Diaz-Harrison, lead founder, executive director and board president of Arizona Autism Charter Schools—and longtime First Place champion and Learn4Independence® licensee—is a fearless advocate for people with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities. Recently, Forbes gave her the opportunity to write about one of her favorite causes: Vote the Spectrum! Enjoy Diana’s inspiring article here.

The First Place Global Leadership Institute Goes to Washington

The First Place Global Leadership Institute (GLI) took a train to Washington D.C. in April—well, figuratively. The Institute was invited to our nation’s capital by the Office of National Autism Coordination from the National Institute of Mental Health to present “Sound Tracks,” the GLI-produced, train-inspired film capturing the life journeys of photographer Blair Bunting and musician Laura Nadine, two artists with autism.

Along with Blair, Laura and director John Schaffer, First Place AZ Founder & President/CEO Denise D. Resnik spoke about the transformative power of self-expression and creativity. In addition to a filled auditorium, more than 100 people from across the U.S. joined on Zoom. A lively Q&A followed the panel discussion.

The GLI makes the most of every opportunity; so, while in D.C., the Phoenix contingent met with members of Congress and their staffs—from Arizona and beyond—to discuss the future of healthcare and housing for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities. There’s much more to come!

Community Life: Residents Are Out and About!

In honor of Earth Day, residents and staff took a trip off the beaten path to the Arizona Worm Farm to tour the 10-acre urban property. Everyone dug deep as they learned about red wriggler worms, compost, carbon capture, waste reduction and worm breeding. It was a down-to-earth day, to say the least!

Chef Titina and residents recently spent a perfect day out by the grill whipping up tacos, pico de gallo and guacamole. Everyone turned the prep into a party—dicing tomatoes, chopping onions, scooping out avocados, shaking spices and grilling chicken. Chef Titina, you are the tac-o-First Place!

When the Arizona Diamondbacks took the field for their annual Autism Awareness Night game, residents were in the stands cheering for the home team. While the D’Backs didn’t come out on top, it was still a winning time!

A hands-on science lesson ended up on residents’ wrists when Harper Hipps, local high school student and creator of Immerse Pop-Up Science Club, recently returned to First Place–Phoenix. After making bracelets using binary-coded beads, the group learned about capillary action using paper towels, water and food coloring. What will brainiac Harper think of next?!

Residents and staff recently took advantage of the fine Arizona spring weather to visit the African savannah—at the Phoenix Zoo! Their friendly guide showed them some of the most popular residents, including the cheetahs, lionesses and rare white rhinos. It’s always a long sign-up sheet for this seasonal outing!

Turning Fitness into Fashion

Longtime First Place AZ champion K2 Adventures Foundation continues to dazzle through the annual “Summer in the City" Luncheon and Fashion Show fundraiser. Residents were front and center at Scottsdale’s Westin Kierland Resort and Spa as they strutted their stuff in stylish summer outfits to the audience’s (and models’!) delight. This amazing event supports individuals with disabilities and their families across Arizona through K2’s various programs focused on health, wellness and, as always, FITNESS!

First Place Global Leadership Institute: People are Listening!

“I am capable.” “I am different, not less.” These were words heard at the first of several Listening Sessions offered to jobseekers with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD) and job coaches through the Global Leadership Institute’s groundbreaking Be Ready™ employment initiative.

The sessions are designed to cultivate more neuro-inclusive workplaces with the participation of adults with A/I/DD and job coaches encouraged to share their successes and challenges on the employment journey.

Key workplace hurdles shared include a lack of employer understanding regarding their disability, adapting to evolving routines and inconsistent working environments. This kind of encouragement serves as a powerful motivator, igniting their passion for work, fueling their commitment and a profound sense of purpose. Such insights are helping shape strategies for more inclusive and supportive workplaces for all. Stay tuned for more session info!

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