It was 20 years ago today . . .

Maybe not exactly today . . . But I’ll never forget the day in early 2001 that the Editor of New Town Publication’s Virginia Parent News (VPN), walked into my office – I was the sales manager and a writer for VPN – and told me about a woman who had contacted her with an intriguing idea for an add-on publication to VPN.

The woman was Fran Nickey, a writer/editor from Maryland who had been instrumental in creating A Special Edition, a publication of Baltimore’s Child and funded by the Maryland Department of Education. A Special Edition was designed to furnish information for and about children with special needs, their families and the professionals who care for them. She wanted to create a similar project in Virginia and was in the process of obtaining funding from the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD).

Fran did obtain that funding, an innovative grant from the VBPD; innovative because information for this population had never been put together in quite this way and distributed at no cost to the reader.
So we went to work, writing articles, researching resources, and seeking distribution points for our new publication, which we had named Celebrating Special Children.

And did we have our work cut out for us! It was one of my jobs to verify some of the resources, using piles of pieced together paper files that Fran had brought with her from Maryland. Remember it was 2001 and I was working on my iMAC G3, using my excruciatingly slow dial-up internet connection.

At this point, I want to remember our gratitude to the staff of the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center ( whoprovided invaluable support in the form of writers, tech people and lists of resource materials. It was like being pregnant and giving birth, months of preparation, with PEATC and the VBPD as the midwives, and culminating in our new baby, Celebrating Special Children. We printed 50,000 copies with distribution limited to
Northern Virginia. The publication was so well received that in 2003 the VBPD provided an additional grant to expand distribution throughout the state. In order to better serve the needs of our targeted population, Celebrating Special Children, Inc. was formed in 2003 and received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2004. After several years of creating regional guides, in 2008/09, a single statewide publication was created and distributed to hundreds of locations, including the Special Education departments and Parent Resource Centers of all counties and incorporated cities in Virginia.

Fast forward to 2009 and the global financial crisis. In the midst of creating a new Celebrating Special Children website, we simply ran out of money. What happened next? Our former Chairman of the Board, Ken Plum, Reston delegate to the Virginia Assembly, arranged for Celebrating Special Children to be added to a list of charities that could receive donations as part of the taxpayer’s Virginia state tax return. We did receive monies from these returns and for a time, had a bit of funding to review and update the website and create an online newsletter. However, we didn’t have enough funding to create a new hard copy guide.
What else changed? One important change was the name of the newsletter. Over time our audience had expanded to include all ages and so it seemed necessary to have a new name that reflected our new focus. We want to keep the idea of a celebration; we want to continue the concept of making connections; and most importantly, we want to focus on the idea that having a disability does not mean having an impediment to living a full and complete life. Hence was developed Dis-Abilities Celebration Connection.

But after a time, even that title seemed incomplete. So we changed again, in 2015, to All-Abilities Celebration Connection. And that name stuck until we disbanded the board of directors and closed down the nonprofit in 2018.
I spent a year thinking about what to do next. In the intervening years, broadband and high-speed internet had become more accessible, certainly not perfect… but better.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about ways to give new life to the work of Celebrating Special Children. Hence in 2019, Celebrating All Abilities became the new name on the Facebook page and I designed a new logo image. The next step was to create a new website with the new name. So I bought the domain address and taught myself – with invaluable help from my son, Conor – to use WordPress to populate the site with the information I had saved from the previous site. And I set about to write and post newsletters that could be dessimated. Most importantly, I was not looking to make the site into an income‐producing business. That is to say, I didn’t ask for money– in the form of advertising, sponsorships, donations, or anything else. Celebrating All Abilities was just me, my computer and our community of folks who care for and about people of all abilities.

And now finally, I’m moving on to what may be the most challenging phase. In this past year of the pandemic, with most people at home and the increased sophistication of online forums and websites, I am
coming to see myself as a tech dinosaur; basically an old fashioned paper copy editor, with my rapidly aging Mini Mac and equally aging design programs that I can’t afford to replace.

I am hoping to be able to figure out how to navigate and be comfortable in the ever more rapidly increasing digital world. We’ll see. . .
However, whatever happens with my technical education regarding the quarterly newsletter, I will keep the facebook page and continue to update the Community Resources. Maybe, I’ll even learn how to blog correctly!
Thank you as always for taking the Journey with me.
Stay safe and see you in the Fall!


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