Project Radius brings ongoing activities for the developmentally disabled
Post Independent Contributor
Project Radius was founded by Cynthia Bartell and her husband, Mike Bartell, as a network to provide ongoing social and recreational activities for developmentally disabled adults.
In 2013, the Bartells moved to Colorado from Illinois where Cynthia’s brother, Brian Sanchez, who has Down syndrome, had participated in many activities through Fox Valley Recreation Association. Brian, who is 36 and lives with his sister and brother-in-law, did not have the same opportunities in his new home. The Bartells, who live in New Castle, knew their family was not alone and set out to change the social scene for developmentally disabled adults in Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley.
The need was particularly great for disabled adults living with their families who are no longer eligible for public school programs. Project Radius works with individuals, families and community partners to help developmentally disabled adults maintain and make new friendships beyond their school years. The organization sponsors social outings such as movie nights and group trips but it also focuses on activities including health and nutrition classes, which help participants improve their all-around quality of life. Mike Bartell, a chiropractor and Project Radius’s COO, provides this essential health component to the organization.
Cynthia Bartell credits Carolyn Nagle, executive director of Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, with helping her manage the details of starting a nonprofit agency. Fox Valley is part of the Special Recreation Association Network of Illinois, which has developed an organizational model that it shares nationally.
Bartell said improving lives through Project Radius’ community connections is her passion. She said one example that the organization “was meant to be” is that it received its IRS nonprofit designation only six weeks after applying. When that happened in August, she immediately started contacting potential community partners and donors. The enthusiastic response helped Project Radius stage its Masquerade Ball at the Orchard on Oct. 25, just two months later.
Bartell is dedicated to transparency and believes it has encouraged the enthusiastic community response that has helped the young, developing organization already provide a number of activities. Project Radius’s IRS designation letter and its State of Colorado Certificate of Good Standing are both available on its website: http://tinyurl.com/projectradius.
One element of that response is Project Radius’s 13 community partners. Partners are businesses and other organizations that provide in-kind donations, discounted services and sponsor Project Radius events. Individuals can also further Project Radius’s mission by donating money, time, or goods and services.
Fundraising and community networking are essential to getting Project Radius off the ground, but Bartell also practices a customer-focused approach. She has sent surveys to families and individual participants to find out what they want from their organization.
Bartell extends her customer focus to the organization’s leadership. Twenty-one-year-old Amy Schuster, has much to offer as a Project Radius board member even though she is living with a developmental disability. She said the best thing of all is coming together with other people to “talk, have fun and figure out ways to solve problems.” She said being a participant and a leader in Project Radius gives her “an amazing feeling of joy and satisfaction.”
By considering individual cognitive levels in designing activities, Project Radius helps developmentally disabled adults be as socially independent as possible. But these activities are also good for participants’ families. Living with a disabled family member is stressful, and knowing that he or she has organized, safe activities to forward to helps families relax.
With Glenwood Springs as its hub, Project Radius serves communities from Rifle to Aspen. Bartell plans to extend its network to include Grand Junction and Vail. She knows this is an ambitious project but is confident the need and community response will make it happen.
Project Radius is planning a Thanksgiving potluck as well as its next big event, the Winter Wonderland Dance at the Orchard, from 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13. Bartell said this will be a “dress your best” event and is working with community members to provide hairstyling and makeup. She hopes to have a dance instructor to teach at least one dance to the attendees and is also seeking donations of festive attire for Winter Wonderland attendees to wear. She said most of Project Radius’ participants rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to really dress up and this event will let them shine.
Cynthia and Mike Bartell, Amy Schuster, participants and community partners agree that helping people shine — letting them shine — is what Project Radius is all about.
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