Rising Stars

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, PHILANTHROPY & VOLUNTEERING

ONE-OF-A-KIND HOWARD COUNTY PROGRAM EMPOWERS YOUNG FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS

STORY BY Rebecca Kirkman      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

On a Wednesday evening in April, an entrepreneurial urgency seems to fill the room as about 20 young women tackle challenges that come with a start-up business—like what to include in an annual shareholders’ report, or the most efficient way to distribute pre-ordered products to customers. Dressed in slacks and blazers, they sit in groups at BTS Software Solutions in Columbia, typing information into spread¬sheets or jotting down sales numbers on a whiteboard.

Promptly at 6:30, members of the start-up company Boundless gather in a conference room and Ashley Martin calls a weekly huddle to order, hearing reports from the sales, finance, marketing and supply chain departments. Martin is the CEO of Boundless. She’s also an 18-year-old graduating senior at Atholton High School.

“When I first read the flyer online, I almost didn’t believe it,” recalls Martin of learning about Rising Women, an after-school entrepreneurship program for female high school students in Howard County. “I had to question whether we would start an actual company.”

As Martin quickly found out, it was very real. Run by Junior Achievement of Central Maryland (JA) , a national nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people skills for economic success, the 13-week curriculum offers young women a crash course in entrepreneurship—from conceptualizing and establishing a company to fundraising, sales, production, and, finally, liquidation. “It was so unique, even among all of the amazing opportunities in Howard County, says Martin, who has participated in the program’s fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters. “I’m going to be studying business in college, and I came into it trying to find any real-world experience I could get.”

Now beginning its fifth cycle, the Rising Women program was established in the fall of 2015 through a grant from The Women’s Giving Circle, a fund of the Community Foundation of Howard County. Each semester, about 20 young women from a variety of Howard County high schools are accepted into the program after undergoing a rigor¬ous application process.

“The curriculum itself is a capstone of Junior Achievement; it’s been around for decades,” says Hina Naseem, Rising Women coordinator and regional director for Junior Achievement (JA), a program that teaches financial literacy, decision making and entrepreneurship to students in grades k-12. The idea for a female-focused program came after JA observed a gender disparity in Company Program, its in-school co-ed curriculum. “We saw that when we go into the business classrooms it’s usually boys, and the few girls there aren’t taking the leadership roles,” Naseem explains. Rising Women establishes a safe environment where young women can develop business skills and feel comfortable taking risks and speaking their minds. “With the rise of women entrepreneurs, we want to get these girls ready, because entrepreneurship is a huge space for these girls to make their mark,” Naseem adds.

As the only JA program of its kind nationally, Howard County’s Rising Women is serving as a pilot. The student companies (which are liquidated at the end of the semester with profits donated to charity) have increased their profits with each term. The fall 2016 cohort’s company, Medley, which created and sold a community cook¬book, was chosen as one of 15 teams from nearly 700 across the country to compete at the JA National Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., last June. Now, other counties are interested in replicating the program, Naseem says.

  …..       …..   

Part of what makes the program successful is a focus on empowerment. While local entrepreneurs act as mentors, all of the decision making comes from the young women themselves. “Ultimately, each decision made is a decision by the company,” explains Naseem. “We offer feedback,” Naseem says of herself and the other mentors. “We give advice, but the ultimate decision is within the company.” This is one of the many ways the curriculum prepares girls for professional lives outside of school.

The 13-week structure means students have to work fast, jumping right into the spirit of entrepreneurship. “In the first session, we start considering some of the needs in our community, because entrepreneurs solve problems,” says Naseem. The young women head out to conduct informal surveys and interviews within the community, then form groups of potential business ideas based on that market research. Next comes a memorable experience for many of the young women: a “Shark Tank”- style meeting in the third week, where the groups pitch their ideas to a panel of mentors and receive feedback.

“We had to explain how we planned on making the product, how much we expected it to cost, and how we expected to distribute it,” recalls Josie Yodzis, a 15-year-old freshman at Marriotts Ridge High School, whose group was chosen to be one of the companies. “I’m not one for public speaking, so it was a little nerve-wracking, but everybody was really encouraging and they walked me through it when I got stuck,” Yodzis says. “It was pretty cool.” Her group’s idea—manufacturing and selling headbands sporting Howard County high school logos—became HoCo Heads, one of the two companies formed during the spring 2017 semester. Yodzis chose to be part of the finance department because she likes math and because her dad used to work in finance. And even as a ninth grader, she has an eye on how the experience could affect her future. “Even if I end up not going into business, it’s good to have an idea of how it all works for when I’m doing things on my own,” she points out. “Like buying a house.”

Mentors find value in the experience, too. “I wish I had something like this when I was their age,” says Patricia Diaz, an entrepreneur and business consultant based in Columbia. “It’s really neat to see their learning process, how they solve problems and the emotions around all of the different challenges they face throughout the process.”

In the fall 2016 semester Medley, the cookbook company, ran into a printing challenge. “There was this conversation about a failure, and the CEO was in front of the room talking to the team in a strong way, saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get it together,’” Diaz recalls. “It was encouraging to watch them as a team come together—all of them owning up and saying we have to run the business differently.”

Mentors see big changes in the young women over the semester. “Self-confidence is what stands out to me,” says Diaz, who has taught a variety of Junior Achievement classes. “They realize, ‘I do have a voice, and I’ll act on my voice.’”

The students recognize growth within themselves as well. Ashley Martin, Jelena Chen and Annabelle Gao sit on a couch during the spring 2017 semester, studying a laptop, animatedly discussing Boundless’ annual report. When asked what she’s gained from the experience, Chen, a graduating senior at Mt. Hebron High School who is the company’s vice president of supply chain, says, “For me, it was talking to adults in a professional manner, because you don’t really get too much experience with that in school.” Chen continues, “I’m naturally pretty shy, so when it comes to talking to people, strangers especially, I get pretty nervous.” After participating in the ‘Shark Tank,’ she says, “I feel like I’ve really honed that skill.”

The friendships they have formed here will also last a lifetime. “There was a group of five of us from the last cohort, we all go to different schools, we didn’t know each other whatsoever,” says Martin. “Now, we talk in our group message every day—we talk about things that don’t even relate to business,” she adds with a laugh. “Having that much work and being so invested in the business made us close friends.”

And what do they think of the focus on young women? “It’s amazing,” says Martin. “It’s cool to see all the support we have, since we are a minority in the business world. Everyone wants to be involved.” *

Pioneering Women

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FIVE WOMEN WHO HELPED CREATE A COMMUNITY

Heather Kirk-Davidoff, Amanda Loudin

March 2017/April 2017

Everyone knows that Columbia is a “planned community.” But who, exactly, planned it?

James Rouse and his staff, along with the 14 experts who constituted a “Work Group,” came up with the design for streets and houses. They designated areas for commercial and recreational use. But they knew their plans alone wouldn’t breathe life into the community. “Rouse would always say, our work is to build the structures that will allow the people to form community,” says Barbara Kellner, director of the Columbia Archives. So while the Columbia plan called for indoor and outdoor gathering spaces in each village center, it was up to community members to figure out what should happen there.

But Rouse and his team may have underestimated what women would want. “The thought had been that women would be looking for things like art classes and coffee klatches,” says Kellner. But this was the early 60’s and these were, by and large, college-educated women.” When the first families arrived, she says, “There wasn’t much here.” During this period, a time of social change, Kellner points out, “Many of these women had greater ambitions for themselves and their community.”

The Columbia Women’s Center became a place where women could come together for consciousness raising circles. They got together and shared ideas, coming up with plans with which to create the changes they wanted to see in their community. These women started a cooperative nursery school, a women’s art gallery, an orchestra and many of the nonprofits that continue to serve the county today.

“If you were here in the beginning, you were a charter member of everything that happened,” explains Helen Ruther, a Columbia pioneer. “If you wanted something to happen, you had to start it yourself.”

And that’s how Columbia really got planned. The families that moved here wanted ways to connect, ways to advocate for their interests and ways to enrich their lives. More often than not, it was the women who formed the relationships and founded the organizations that made those things possible. Here are some of those women. Just a few of the many who made Columbia the community it is today. – H.K.D

PAT HATCH

Pat Hatch couldn’t have realized in 1981 that her early vision for improved immigrant services in Howard County would be needed more than ever 35 years later. At the time, Hatch was a church volunteer helping resettle families. “I saw that most of them were struggling,” she says. “The programs available to them back then were one-size-fits-all and they are not one-size-fits-all clients.”

Her determination to better serve the county’s immigrant population led to a joint effort between Howard Community College and the Columbia Foundation called the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network (FIRN). Hatch was a one-woman show, who led “lots of volunteers” to work with 90 people that first year. “By the end of the third year, we were serving 600 people and we applied for a second staff person,” she explains.

Today the organization provides immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from more than 75 countries access to community resources. Hatch spent 16 years guiding and running FIRN and then decided to move on.

Hatch’s work with FIRN very much formed what she does today as a retiree, working full time leading refugee and immigrant resources ministry for the Mission to North America for the Presbyterian Church in America. “As I got ready to retire, I told people I was looking for my next step,” she says, “and that led me to this.”

While the work has never been easy, Hatch’s strong sense of community and faith have kept her at it. “It’s amazing how it has all unfolded,” she says. “ – A.L.

MAY RUTH SEIDEL

“I was interested in the two things that have been the least successful parts of Columbia,” May Ruth Seidel explains. “Public transportation and affordable housing.” Seidel says that Jim Rouse counseled that public transportation would have to wait until Columbia was fully populated, she says. “Well, we’re there and we’re still waiting.”

Seidel didn’t wait for affordable housing— she promoted it while serving on Howard County’s Housing and Community Development Board through the 1980s and she organized the Howard County Housing Alliance in 1987. She also played a key role in establishing Howard County’s first homeless shelter, the Audrey Robbins Shelter.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Seidel moved to Columbia in 1970 with her husband, Henry, a pediatrician who founded the Columbia Medical Plan. “The year we moved here, my youngest son went away to college and I retired, so I put my energy into the community,” she says. The Community Action Council (CAC) was the focus of her attention at first—she joined the board of directors in 1971 and served as president from 1972 to 75. Together with CAC staff Dotty Moore, Seidel promoted Head Start throughout Howard County.

The Columbia Forum is the work that Seidel likes to talk about these days. The group formed out of an effort to engage the community in a conversation about what Columbia could—and should—become. “We started with eight or 10 people who sat around my table and talked about community over sherry and cheese and crackers,” she says. Ten years later, the group engaged the whole community to celebrate Columbia’s 25th anniversary with a “Columbia Voyage.” The “Voyage” began with a conference, led to a series of task groups and resulted in “An Agenda for Columbia” with input from over 1,000 people. – H. K. D.

HELEN RUTHER

Helen Ruther moved to Columbia with her husband and two young children four months after the community officially opened. Six weeks later, she found herself sitting next to the president of the Howard County League of Women Voters, Anita Iribe, at an elementary school meeting. Before long, Ruther was a board member. “If Jim Rouse was the father of Columbia, Anita Iribe was the mother,” Ruther says. “The league ended up acting as a kind of liaison between the county and Columbia in the early days.”

Through her work with the league, Ruther came to know many of the elected officials in Howard County. She served as the Town Center representative to the Columbia Association board from 1974 to 77 and was later appointed to the Planning Board where she served for 15 years. “I didn’t know a thing about planning when I started, but it was so interesting. I learned a lot.”

Ruther’s interests extend far beyond politics. In 1968, she and a friend, Marsha Gorrie, founded the Columbia Film Society. “The first movie we ever showed was a Japanese Western called “Yojimbo,” she says. “It was so violent!” A number of people walked out before the movie ended, Ruther says. “Marsha and I hid in the bathroom so we didn’t have to face them.” Fortunately, people returned the following month, and things improved after that. The club is still running, 49 years later, and Ruther still serves as the society’s treasurer. – H.K. D.

DORIS LIGON

Doris Ligon’s husband always told her to “stop thinking about it and do it” when it came to establishing an African art museum in Howard County. After about five years of thinking, she finally did. That was in 1980 and today, Ligon continues to bring the artworks of Africa to the community.

“I was learning how to become a docent in the 1970s and I realized that not many people were learning about African art and people,” she explains. “Finally I decided to start an educational institution with the plan of encouraging a positive view of African art.”

Ligon’s vision brought the first museum to the county, and she poured her own knowledge and financial backing into making it a success. She also ensured that the museum formed a partnership with the public school system and Howard Community College to expand its education mission. Young people, she says, are receptive to learning, and at the same time, honest. “They’ll tell you when they are bored,” she says. “If you don’t do your job well, it encourages no one to learn about your subject.”

Today Ligon’s impact on the community is far reaching and her love of the subject matter keeps her going. That said, the 80-year-old ball of energy is looking forward to finding the right person to carry on her work sometime in the near future. “I didn’t start this to stop it,” she says. “But I am searching for the next leader to take it over.” – A. L.

FRANCES DAWSON

Howard County has always treasured the arts and at the center of that passion is the Columbia Pro Cantare, a mixed volunteer chorus of more than 100 members. Director Frances Dawson founded the chorus back in 1977, inspired by the Rouse vision of Columbia as a place where residents could find and grow their artistic talents. “We started by filling a summer need with the BSO, but it became clear that the cantare was of value to the community,” she explains. “Over time it became a full-time job for me.”

Today the cantare continues to entertain throughout the region, offering up performances of works spanning centuries and from around the world. Through it all, Dawson has remained a tireless champion of the arts in Howard County. “I hear from new people moving to the area all the time and this serves as a sense of community for them,” she says. “I never tire of hearing their stories. It’s rewarding to hear what the cantare means to people.”

There’s no question that the cantare has been Dawson’s life’s work, and she worries about its future, as audience sizes dwindle and fundraising becomes an ever more daunting task. “This is something everyone in the arts is facing,” she says. “But the sound of the music and the friendships I have made reinforce why I do it.” Columbia Pro Cantare will celebrate its 40th anniversary as Columbia celebrates its 50th with a concert in May, 2017. – A.L.

 


We Remember…


Libby Rouse was married to Columbia founder James Rouse until 1973. Libby was instrumental in the formation of the Family Life Center, a resource for children and families that still operates today, and was part of the team that founded the Kittamaqundi Community, an ecumenical church in Columbia Town Center. A statue of Libby Rouse as a child, sculpted by her son, is nestled by a pond in the church’s Sacred Garden on Vantage Point Road.

Florence Bain moved to Columbia at age 70 and made sure that the concerns of seniors were considered in Columbia’s early development. Bain served on Howard County’s Commission on Aging and advocated for the creation of a senior center, which finally opened in 1983 and was named for her.

Louise Eberhardt came to Columbia in 1969 to work for the Columbia Cooperative Ministry. She soon began to gather women for support and consciousness raising. These groups led to the development of the Women’s Resource Center which opened in March 1973.

Peg Zabawa, founder of Mrs. Z’s, an early Columbia restaurant that offered homemade soups and breads and served as a gathering place for the community. After the restaurant burned down in 1979, Zabawa continued to offer a monthly dinner in her home to people involved with the Growth Center, a day program at Kahler Hall for people recovering from mental illness.

Ruth Keeton was elected to the Howard County Council in 1974, along with a full slate of Columbia residents, and served until 1988, chairing the council from 1979 to 1984. An advocate for affordable housing, Keeton was appointed to the Maryland State Housing Task Force. An assisted living facility on Ruth Keeton Way in Columbia is named in her honor.

Wylene Burch founded the Howard County Center of African American Culture of Columbia in 1981, with displays based on her extensive personal collection and passion for teaching Black history.

Maggie Brown arrived in Columbia in 1970 with her husband and three children. After some time as a community volunteer, she worked for the Columbia Association in a variety of capacities for more than two decades until she was appointed president of the CA in 2001. She served until 2010.

A Helping Hand

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December 2016/January 2017

Once the shock had worn off from the July 30 flood – or perhaps even before – Howard County citizens began taking action. Neighbor helped neighbor and business helped business. No one, it seems, was content to sit still in the wake of the devastation.

As you can see from the list below, Howard County took care of its own. There are far too many efforts to list in this space, so here is a sampling.

Turf Valley Resort
Offered up five conference rooms to retailers from Main Street to establish “pop-up shops” so that they could childrencontinue to sell what inventory they had left. Eleven retailers have been displaying their wares every Friday, Saturday and Sunday just down the hall from Alexandra’s restaurant since late August. Plans are to continue the makeshift Main Street through December and possibly beyond.

Historic Ellicott City
The organization hosts its annual Decorator’s Show House each fall. This year’s version – its 30th – ran from September 22 to October 23. Old Ellicott City donated a portion of sales to the Ellicott City Recovery fund. In addition, the Mt. Ida-based organization offered its lawns to the Old Ellicott City Farmer’s Market, normally held on Main Street each Saturday from late August through the end of its normal season at the end of October.

Allen & Shariff
The design and architecture firm immediately opened its office space to businesses displaced from the flood. Two offices had located to the space as of early September and are using the offices indefinitely.

conf_room

The Artists Gallery
The gallery donated a portion of all earnings in August to help with the recovery efforts. In addition, individual artists who regularly show in the gallery donated their own funds. The gallery had planned to move into Main Street space, but has put those plans on hold until damage to newly installed floors can be repaired.

Victoria Gastro Pub
Victoria Gastro Pub hosted an #ECStrong Challenge event on August 27 that raised $100,000 for recovery efforts. Joined by matching partners like the Craig Northrop Team, Howard Hughes Foundation, Waverly, Syntonics and more, the event drew a big crowd with open wallets, all in the name of helping neighbors get back on their feet. More than 18 local breweries and five local restaurants/food suppliers offered up the food and drink, and Edward Arthur Jewelers donated Pandora bracelets to the event.

Blossoms of Hope
The organization held a jobs event (Blossoms of Jobs) on August 11 at AIDA Wine Bistro to connect job seekers and employers, as well as raise money for the recovery efforts. Some 130 people attended the event and helped raise $8,000.

Iron Bridge Wine Companyglasses
The restaurant held a six-course wine dinner for $275 a head that “thrilled and delighted” owner Steve Wecker. George and Holly Stone, owners of GreenStone Ventures, matched the ticket sales and vendors donated wine, bringing the evening’s proceeds to $40,000. Guests took home goodie bags filled with truffles from Ellicott City’s Sweet Cascades Chocolatier. *

TAKE THE HOWARD COMMUNITY COLLEGE 5K CHALLENGE!

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

If you’re going to blow a hamstring, it ought to be for a great cause. Luckily, the Howard Community College (HCC) 5K howard-community-collegeChallenge is one of the best. Now in its third year, the “run, climb, crawl” race promotes wellness and raises scholarship money for HCC students, nearly half of whom rely on some sort of financial aid. The college works with key partners like the Columbia Association, according to Kari Ebeling, special events manager at HCC. The October event involves a 3.1-mile course outfitted with several feats-of strength activities, including a tire drill and medicine ball carry. Even so, weekend warriors are encouraged to join in. “People of all athletic abilities can participate — runners and walkers alike,” says Ebeling. “We want to encourage people to engage in healthy habits.” The Howard Community College 5K Challenge Race takes place October 30, 2016, at 8 a.m., on the HCC campus in Columbia. howardcc.edu.

THE MILLIE BAILEY FUND SUPPORTS AREA ELEMENTARY SCHOOLERS

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Vivian-Bailey

Running Brook Elementary’s motto is Reaching the Best in Every Student. Now, thanks to a Community Foundation of Howard County fund named for one of Running Brook’s biggest supporters, the Columbia school will have more resources to fulfill its important mission. The Millie Bailey Fund, established by Mary and Earl Armiger in honor of Bailey – the Community Foundation’s 2015 Philanthropist of the Year – is a permanent fund whose proceeds will directly benefit Running Brook, a Title I school with a large population of minority and lowincome students. Bailey, who was born in 1918, moved to the nascent Columbia in 1970 and is known for collecting gifts for both armed services and the local elementary school. “Millie is passionate about her areas of interest and is a grandmother to every child at that school,” says Beverly White-Seals, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “Anyone who meets her will end up writing a check to benefit the children of Running Brook!” For more information, call 410- 730-7840 or visit cfhoco.org.

A NEW SCHOLARSHIP BENEFITS YOUNG BOYS

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

The Community Foundation of Howard County’s new Carlessia Hussein Scholarship aids an oft-overlooked group of kids: middle school boys. Hussein, former director of the Maryland Minority Health and Health Disparities, has dedicated her life to supporting disenfranchised populations, says Beverly White-Seals, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. She created the scholarship so that disadvantaged boys can attend character development and other enrichment programs. With her new scholarship, Hussein is doing just that. For more information, call 410-730-7840 or visit cfhoco.org.

ALL INCLUSIVE

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Rec and Parks’ sports programs don’t leave anyone out

BY Barbara Pash      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

MARCH/APRIL 2016

Jena Jones plays sports practically year-round. From early fall to the end of October, she plays volleyball. January to early March is basketball season. From early March to the end of June, all_inclusive_1there’s swimming. Somehow, she also manages to fit soccer into her schedule.

“I’ve been doing sports most of my life. I love it,” says Jones, a Columbia resident who participates in both Special Olympics Howard County and Howard County Recreation and Parks Department therapeutic sports program.

Jones, 33, a graduate of Wilde Lake High School, doesn’t have a favorite sport, though she has advanced enough in Special Olympics volleyball and swimming to become an assistant coach in both disciplines. “I’ve made a lot of friends through sports,” she says. “I enjoy playing the sport and being with them.”

Jones is not alone. Howard County offers three therapeutic sports programs for adults and children – the Recreation and Parks’ therapeutic recreation and inclusion services, the Howard County Public School System’s Allied Sports and Special Olympics Howard County. These programs serve an estimated 3,200-plus residents annually. During the summer, the county’s recreation and parks department’s inclusion camp attracts 600 children alone.

Susan Potts, recreation manager for the county Recreation and Parks Department’s inclusion services, oversees 23 different programs, from basketball and bowling to soccer and swimming. Some, like swimming, are in partnership with Special Olympics.

all_inclusive_2“Howard County has a large population of people with developmental disabilities, intellectual and/or physical,” says Potts. “Traditionally, they lead sedentary lives. It is critical to combat that lack of activity. Otherwise, they might sit and watch television all day.” But there’s more to these programs than physical activity. Therapeutic sports, says Potts, “enhance participants’ quality of life, enhance their self-confidence.” In addition, she says, they develop participants’ “ability to be adaptable.”

Diane Mikulis, director of public relations for Special Olympics Howard County, agrees. She cites Special Olympian Zoë [not her real name], a visually impaired teenager, as an example.

Last spring Zoë participated in track, held at Oakland Mills High School. She could see well enough to distinguish the white lane lines on the black track surface. At first, she wouldn’t go far, and she needed guidance even for a short distance. But during each practice, she was able to walk a little further. By the end of the season, Zoë could walk the perimeter of the track by herself.

Shortly afterwards, Zoë’s mother got a call from the special education school she attends. Zoë, who was once escorted from class to class, no longer needed that help. “She walked to her classes by herself, an accomplishment her mother attributed to her participation in Special Olympics,” said Mikulis. “She had enough self-confidence to do it herself.”

Potts makes a distinction between adaptive and inclusion therapeutic sports. Adaptive refers to
altering equipment to allow a physically disabled person to participate, often competitively. Prosthetic metal running “legs” and basketball wheelchairs are two examples.

Potts says the department tried offering adaptive programs but couldn’t compete with the existing programs in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Among them is Baltimore’s Adaptive Recreation Services, a nonprofit that offers “high adventure” sports like outrigger canoeing, wheelchair soccer and snow skiing.

Inclusion refers to instances when those with disabilities participate in a sport whose rules, playing field and/or equipment might be modified to allow them to play with their peers in a team setting.

Potts’ focus is inclusion. She points to the lacrosse program, which uses standard rules but also modified sticks and restricted physical contact. Not all offerings succeed, though. A strider (aka balance) bicycle program didn’t attract enough participants to make it a go.

all_inclusive_3One of the department’s oldest – and most popular – programs is bowling. Potts can often be found on Saturdays at an Ellicott City bowling alley where 80 participants, ages 13 to senior citizen, play in four leagues. The program uses standard scoring but also ramps into which balls are inserted.

“For many, it’s a social event. Some keep score for Special Olympics rating. Others find it a challenge even to be in a bowling alley – loud and busy, food smells, waiting your turn,” Potts explains. Recently, an autistic teenage boy was able to do without the ramp and throw the ball on his own. “It took two years to get him to that point,” she says.

Howard County Public Schools’ Allied Sports also emphasizes inclusion. Begun in 2010, the program is open to high school students with disabilities, physical and/or intellectual, and their nondisabled peers.

Chuck Struhar, program consultant, estimates 160 young people participate annually, of whom about 40 percent are nondisabled. All teams are coed for fall soccer, winter bowling, and spring softball and golf.

“It is as close to the regular athletics program as possible,” he says. Student athletes wear uniforms, have pep rallies and cheerleaders, and can earn varsity letters.

In soccer, for instance, the ball and the field are smaller than standard, and rules are adjusted as all_inclusive_4needed. “A person in a wheelchair couldn’t ‘run’ the full soccer field,” Struhar says. “But they’re still playing the sport. They’re still getting the joy of accomplishment.”

In 1996, Bob Baker got involved in Special Olympics Howard County through his daughter, Stephanie, then 12. “She loved participating, not only for the physical fitness but as a social activity,” says Baker, a computer scientist and Elkridge resident who serves as the organization’s director.

Over the years, Stephanie, now 31, has participated in several Special Olympics sports, from bowling and cycling to golf – “her least favorite but she does it for me,” says Baker, who plays alternative-shot golf with his daughter, the two averaging 55 strokes for nine holes.

Stephanie’s favorite sport, though, is swimming where she competes in the 1500-meter, or 60-length, events. “When she started, we didn’t have too many expectations of what she could do,” Baker says of himself and his wife, Peggy. As it turns out, Stephanie is an accomplished long-distance swimmer. “We are very proud of her,” said Baker.

Christine Towne, a 28-year-old Ellicott City resident, began participating in Special Olympics a decade ago. Like Jena Jones, Towne is involved in one sport or another year-round. Volleyball, basketball, track and field, and equestrian, Towne runs through the list.

“I do them when they are offered each season. I like the sport. I like the healthy lifestyle. I like being on a team,” says Towne, who serves as a Special Olympics “global messenger,” giving talks at fundraising events and sporting competitions.

Alex Barnes, a 35-year-old Columbia resident, has participated in Special Olympics swimming and tennis, but his favorite sport is bowling, where he is currently training to assist as a coach. “I’ve been bowling for 20 years and I needed a change from competing to coaching,” he says.

In 2014, Barnes attended a national Special Olympics bowling tournament, held in New Jersey. He remembers it fondly. “I met athletes from different states,” says Barnes. “I can’t think of a better experience than that.” *

—–Inclusion refers to instances when those with disabilities participate in a sport whose rules, playing field and/or equipment might be modified to allow them to play with their peers in a team setting.—–

POWER OF THE PURSE 2015

Written by admin on . Posted in news, PHILANTHROPY & VOLUNTEERING

Pam Long Photography

SEPTEMBER /OCTOBER 2015

potp2

The 2015 Power of the Purse fundraiser, held at Fretz Kitchen Showroom in June,
was the most successful in its four-year history. The event, which features both gently used and new purses for sale, raised more than $18,000, with proceeds going to Blossoms of Hope in support of the Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center at Howard County General Hospital. *

 

potp1Christie Lassen, Howard County
Library director of public relations
and Lene McCollum, a Blossoms
of Hope staff member.


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