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Sunrise Campaign kicks off; benefits infants, toddlers and adults
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Heather Hoffman, speech-language pathologist at Sunflower Diversifieds Early Education Center, interacts with Landon Cape. The Sunrise Campaign supports this type of personal, professional interaction, and many other services for adults and children with developmental delays and disabilities. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

           When the topic is “personal independence,” children are not usually the first people that come to mind.

          But at Sunflower Diversified Services, one priority is supporting infants and toddlers so they have opportunities to lead more independent and productive lives, Executive Director Jim Johnson said.

          Therefore, children as well as adults will be the beneficiaries of the non-profit agency’s 14thannual Sunrise Campaign. It officially began with Thursday’s Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Coffee and Chris Cakes pancake feed.

          “Children and adults will benefit from our Sunrise Campaign,” Johnson said. “Our priority is to ensure every child and adult who comes to us for help will get it.

          “Sunflower is the only entity in central Kansas that provides services for people with developmental disabilities and delays to all ages – from birth through retirement,” Johnson added. “We provide the support that takes individuals to the next levels of independence so they can have the quality lifestyles they deserve.”

          In addition to raising much-needed funds, Johnson noted, the Sunrise Campaign is yet another avenue to raising awareness about services available.

          In the case of children, for example, the number of families asking for help continues to increase; the level of need continues to increase; and tax dollars have been significantly reduced.

          “These are the reasons we are offering the option of supporting children as a major focus of this year’s campaign,” Johnson noted. “This effort is in addition to our ongoing Invest in Kids Club that zeroes in on the needs of children only.”

          Contributions benefit Sunflower’s Early Education Center, as well as families that have additional special needs as their children get older. These include adaptive walkers, shower chairs, van-lift repairs, ramp access to a family home, travel expenses to out-of-town specialists, communication devices and outside therapy programs.

          “Unfortunately, this list could go on and on,” Johnson said. “It is our moral duty to provide children services that allow them to overcome delays and disabilities. Our professional staff can make the difference in a child’s journey to an independent lifestyle.

          “We hope taxpayers recognize the importance of early intervention,” he elaborated. “Children who benefit from our services oftentimes don’t need expensive, tax-supported special education.”

          The Sunrise Campaign also benefits a wide range of services for adults, including residential and employment programs.

          “Medicaid alone doesn’t provide adequate funding to help people live where and with whom they want to live,” Johnson said. “We learned a long time ago that a bunch of group homes is not the best way to provide quality residential services.

          “It makes more sense to help individuals rent homes of their own and leave property management to local landlords,” he explained. “The Sunrise Campaign makes this possible.”

          Employment programs result in measureable outcomes, Johnson also noted. Personal earnings allow people to help pay their own way and be less reliant on tax dollars.

          “People in our employment program work hard each day and their paychecks reinforce the fact that they are in charge of their lives,” Johnson said. “They can pay bills and treat themselves now and then.”

          For more information, contact Sunflower Director of Development Connie Oetken by calling 620-792-1321.

          Sunflower, which is in its 48thyear, serves people in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.