Kansas Supreme Court Justice Dan Biles visited Great Bend Saturday, in order to deliver the opening remarks at the 13th Annual Rosewood Rodeo for the second time in two years. His relationship with Rosewood Services dates back nearly 19 years, when he was asked to represent the organization as a practicing lawyer. The opportunity allowed him to get to know some of the nearly 50 participants competing in the annual rodeo, and he took a moment to reflect on his years of advocacy with people with disabilities.
In 1989, Biles was asked to represent a Johnson County organization, Community Living Opportunities, Inc., in a construction lawsuit. His service led to an invitation to serve on CLO’s board of directors, which he did for 20 years. In the late 1990s, Tammy Hammond asked him to represent Rosewood Services as they negotiated some of their first contracts with Sunflower Diversified Services.
He has also represented five other organizations that provide services for people of disabilities.
In that time, he’s witnessed the growth of Equine Therapy programs.
“Here’s the fun part for me. When I was a lawyer for the program, I got to know some of these clients from other settings, and I’ve watched them improve over the years,” he said. “I haven’t been to the rodeo every year, but I’ve been a lot of the years. Some of these folks, I remember from the early days, and I’ve witnessed how they’ve developed better balance, and ways to care for themselves, all because they are riding on a horse.”
Last year, Biles spent the day at the Rosewood Rodeo, and was there to hand out awards to winners. The experience touched him.
“Watching these people win stuff is really cool,” he said. “They understand competition. They understand they are being recognized.”
Looking back, Biles remembers when providing day services was tough for organizations like Rosewood.
“When I first got into (advocacy), trying to do day services sort of meant sitting around a table, and having a contract to tie garden hoses together, something rather menial,” he said. Getting contracts from outside sources wasn’t easy either. He sees value in the way Rosewood Services approaches day services. They identify and build a market, bypassing outside parties.
When Biles became a Kansas Supreme Court Justice in 2009, he stepped away from his CLO chairmanship in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest that could arise in the course of carrying out his duties. Still, he has a place in his heart for those with disabilities and the people who serve them, he said.