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DMD conference attracts positive feedback at Sunflower Diversified
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James Potter, representing Sunflower Diversified Services, helps run the concession stand at the Job Olympics at the Celebration Center in Lyons. Potter attended this year’s Disability Mentoring Day conference.

James Potter, a Sunflower Diversified Services client, spoke for himself and his peers when he said, “we loved the whole thing.”

Potter was referring to the recent Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) mini-conference in Great Bend where local groups shared information about community-employment resources for people with developmental disabilities and delays.

But Potter and his peers were not the only ones who were impressed with the event, said Cody Harris, Sunflower’s community employment specialist.

“We have heard a lot of positive feedback – locally and statewide – because local entities worked so well together on our comprehensive agenda,” Harris said. “Since word has circulated about this quality event, we have already gained additional sponsorships for the 2019 DMD.”

Several local businesses and other entities joined the three Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) in sponsoring the conference. The MCOs are Aetna Better Health of Kansas, UnitedHealthcare and Sunflower Health Plan. They help people with special needs have access to medical care.

Statewide accolades came from Martha Gabehart, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns, who congratulated Harris and his team. “I had no idea how far our first news release would travel,” Harris commented.

In addition to Sunflower individuals, people who rely on Rosewood Services and The Center for Counseling & Consultation participated in the DMD conference. Barton Community College helped organize the event and supplied facilitators for breakout sessions; Harris was the event coordinator.

“In our breakout sessions, we talked about topics such as job readiness and personal hygiene,” Harris noted. “Applicants have to get out there and demonstrate they are willing and able to work. We supplied information to help them do that.

“We did not use a lecture format,” he added. “Instead, each of the sessions was interactive. We talked with the people in the audience, not at them. I hope we opened some eyes about community-employment possibilities.”

Harris said Tami Allen, keynote speaker, did a great job when she talked about “Charting a Trajectory Toward a Good Life.” Allen is program director at Families Together in Garden City.

Allen said her keynote discussion was “an interactive presentation designed to help participants understand what they want and what they don’t want for a good life. We discussed what steps to take as they aim their trajectories toward the things they want out of life.

“Participants mentioned good health, employment and happiness as ingredients for a good life,” she continued. “Things to avoid included loneliness and bullying.”

Allen also noted that event organizers “came together for a meaningful conference. It was a pleasure to work with Cody Harris and his committee. He was enthusiastic and energetic about the opportunity to provide this unique event to people with disabilities.

“And he is already extremely excited to make it even bigger and better next year. I was impressed with the energy and encouragement throughout the conference. I was honored to be a part of it.”

Sunflower, a non-profit agency, serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 52nd year.