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Sunflower clients travel to Topeka
new slt Sunflower-SACK
Sunflower Diversified Services clients and staff members gather in Topeka for the annual conference sponsored by the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas. Sunflower has a years-long history of supporting the event. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

             While the agenda was jam-packed with information for people with developmental disabilities, one of the highlights at a recent conference was the topic of leadership.

          Twenty-two Sunflower Diversified Services clients attended the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK) conference June 19-21 in Topeka, with the support of five staff members.

          SACK is a statewide organization that advocates for people with developmental disabilities, while teaching people to speak up for themselves. The goal is always the highest level of independence possible, said Amanda Urban, Sunflower training/advocacy coordinator.

          “Those of us with a history of attending the SACK conference always expect to learn about the most important and up-to-date information available,” Urban said. “Our expectations once again were exceeded.”

          Ed O’Malley, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), used his keynote address to talk about the importance of leadership, Urban said, noting he is a former state legislator.

          “Mr. O’Malley talked about what it takes to be a leader and the fact that anyone can fill this role,” she said. “He discussed how advocates can be leaders in a number of ways – from being a leader among a group of friends, or a leader at the state level, or something in between.”

          Another KLC representative, Lynette Lacy, indicated that leadership is an activity that someone engages in, not a position someone holds.

          “She addressed how this concept empowers self-advocates to be leaders in their day-to-day lives,” Urban said. “Audience members discovered ways to be leaders at home and work, and in the community.”

          KLC is a strong SACK supporter that equips people to make positive changes for the common good; it helps people realize their potential to become leaders, Urban explained.

          Another big conference topic, Urban noted, was SACK funding. “Budgets are uncertain and there is no guarantee money will be available for the annual conference next year,” she explained. “Sunflower will do all it can to emphasize how important this meeting is every year.

          “SACK gives folks with disabilities the opportunity to get together and learn about what is happening around the state,” Urban continued. “These are issues that affect all persons with disabilities every day.”

          Other agenda topics included: employment opportunities; self-determination; home- and community-based services; managed care organizations that offer insurance; small business ownership; independent living; nutrition; legislative issues; respect; and special needs trusts.

          “The agenda demonstrates the broad scope of what we learned about,” said Urban, who has been accompanying Sunflower clients to the conference for a decade. “It is so important that we keep up with our peers throughout the state. We must stay informed to be effective.”

          Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults with delays and disabilities in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.