Project Radius brings ongoing activities to developmentally and intellectually disabled
If You Go...
Who: Project Radius
What: Masquerade Ball
When: 5-7 p.m. on Saturday
Where: The Orchard, 110 Snowmass Drive, Carbondale
How Much: Suggested donation of $20 online, $25 at the door, promo codes for free entry at www.projectradius.org/#!events/c23d3
Brian Sanchez moved to New Castle with his sister, Cynthia Bartell, a little more than a year ago. He works at the Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs, straightening displays in the home and sports departments. He says he likes the work and the people he’s met, and he loves the Colorado mountains, but something fundamental is missing from his life here: friendship.
“Being here for the last year, I found that he was getting more depressed,” Bartell said. “He actually cried in my arms saying he has no friends here.”
Sanchez has Down Syndrome, and while the valley offers sporadic events for the developmentally and intellectually disabled — like Special Olympics or camps — there is no ongoing programming that allows for real relationships to develop and grow strong.
So Cynthia and her husband, Mike Bartell, are starting Project Radius, a non-profit whose mission is to offer ongoing events, gatherings, days out and activities for people with disabilities. The organization’s first event, a masquerade-themed dance where costumes are encouraged, is from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Orchard. A suggested donation of $20 per ticket bought online and $25 per door ticket will help Project Radius raise money to grow.
Cynthia Bartell said the idea for Project Radius was inspired by Fox Valley Special Recreation, an organization Sanchez was a part of in Illinois, where the family lived before moving to New Castle.
“It provided social and therapeutic avenues and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to connect and build relationships within a public setting, within the community,” Cynthia Bartell said. “So when we came here a little over a year ago, we noticed that there wasn’t that connection. It was either adaptive sports, or there were camps, but there wasn’t an ongoing program — for instance every Tuesday night, have art class, or Thursday night bowling nights.”
Mike Bartell said just like anyone else, Sanchez and other people in the valley with developmental or intellectual disabilities want to have opportunities to maintain their relationships.
“These guys want to keep their friendships and develop friendships just like everybody does,” Mike Bartell said. “Nobody wants to sit around all the time. We want friends and interaction. That’s what makes you feel good. So that’s what we’re trying to give them.”
The way Project Radius hopes to offer ongoing opportunities like regular lunch dates, dances, karaoke nights, movie nights, sports activities and more is by pairing up with other businesses and organizations in the community. After Project Radius received its 501(c)(3) non-profit designation in August, Cynthia Bartell said she immediately began reaching out to community partners. According to the Project Radius website, the organization already has a partnership with nine other businesses or groups: Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, The Orchard, Sweet Coloradough, Two Rivers Productions, Midland Fitness, New Castle Family Fitness, Smoke Modern Barbeque, Arc Thrift Stores and the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association.
“They love it,” Cynthia Bartell said. “Basically I send them an email describing what a community partner is. A community partner is somebody who is going to support the mission by helping provide an opportunity — they can do it by donating their services, providing their services at a discount or becoming a sponsor.”
The Bartells said their goal for the Masquerade Ball is to provide a fun, informational experience no matter how many people show up. All they know is that Sanchez and Mike Bartell’s son, Zach Bartell, who also has Down Syndrome, are looking forward to it.
“Zach and Brian are awesome buds,” Mike Bartell said. “And they’re really looking forward to having something set up out here so when Zach’s done with school in the middle of next year, he’s got a place to work. He can actually work for Project Radius, because he’s a social butterfly, and I want him to have that. There’s nothing wrong with wiping a table at Subway, but I want him to have a lot of friends because life’s too short, and he needs to have that.”
Sanchez said he’s hoping to meet some friends on Saturday, when he’ll be appearing at the Masquerade Ball as Spider-Man. He’s even hoping to meet a girl.
“The main thing is that you want a happier life, right? With Project Radius?” Cynthia Bartell asked Sanchez.
“Yes,” he said. “A new life.”
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