I’m proud to work for an organization that advocates to enhance the dignity, expand the opportunities, and protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. We serve 500 people in the Eugene and Springfield areas of Oregon, and support them in any way we can. But we cannot do this work alone to make the impact we must make to help people live their fullest lives.
While 83 percent of U.S. households have a computer, only 25 percent of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities own one. We are working to close this gap through our partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal. A 2016 grant helped us create the Comcast Technology Learning Lab at our center as well as a "Keys to Success" class that focuses on making the world of technology accessible to all.
We partnered with our local Comcast team to make sure families in our community knew about the Keys to Success project. That’s how I met Comcast Community Investment Director Rebecca Brown. As I talked with her about what we do, I mentioned one of our families. Laura and Rob Dahill are the proud parents of 12-year-old twin boys, Ethan and Jackson. Ethan has autism and as a small child often ran away. This left Jackson at risk as Laura chased her other son. There are no parks in the area that are fully gated and free of the safety risks nearby traffic can pose. Ethan is not alone; there are over 800 children in the area who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities who we know would benefit from an enclosed park.
The Dahill family prompted our dream to build the "Arc Park." Over three years, we formed focus groups and started research, but we did not have a partner to make this a reality. Rebecca jumped in and arranged for us to kick off our new initiative during Comcast Cares Day, the company’s global celebration of its 365-day commitment to strengthening communities.
On Saturday, April 22, more than 150 Comcast NBCUniversal and community volunteers banded together to build a fence around the site of a future three-acre park that will be available to kids of all abilities. The day was a flurry of nail guns firing, paint flying and garden beds being planted. Volunteers put up over 500 fence boards, painted 10,000 square feet of program space in The Arc’s building and planted dozens of flowers on the facility grounds. I have never experienced such passion and dedication from the community. It was amazing to see everything come together in such a short period of time. The volunteers were a well-oiled machine that drove the progress and shared the vision I hold so close to my heart.
Patrick Hunter, a maintenance technician at Comcast and one of the project coordinators, has declared himself a volunteer for life. He jokes that The Arc will never get rid of him. He has big plans to build an "ark" for the new park. While there is still a lot of fundraising left to accomplish, planning is moving forward. Comcast NBCUniversal has joined The Arc in planning for the Arc Park and the big project for Comcast Cares Day 2018 will be assembling the play structure. While we are grateful for the partnership and how it is helping dreams become reality, we know this project is bigger than just that– it is a concept for the community to come together and play together.