The State, University & UW Health Employees Combined Campaign of Dane County

Success Stories

What happens to the money you contribute to various charities as a Partner in Giving?

Your gift may go directly to people and families in need. Or it may go to support a cause and the staff behind it. It just depends on what specific charity or charities you choose – and there are over 500 to choose from! What follows are only a few examples of how your donation directly impacts people, families, communities and causes around the globe and makes a tremendous difference. These are stories from Partners in Giving charities and their clients about how state employees in Dane County are making communities across the nation and around the world a better place:

 

Access to Community Services ‐  Options in Community Living: Jenny

Jenny has two jobs supported by Options in Community Living (OCL). She works at both OCL where she shreds and scans documents and Westmont Law office where she also shreds documents.  Jenny has benefited greatly from the vocational support that we have been able to give to her.  Because of the one on one job site support we are able to provide to Jenny her skills have flourished.  She has worked hard with her job coach to improve her range of motion and her ability to grip the documents independently.  She has also worked hard to decrease her hand over hand coaching from us, to independently being able to use both hands to initiate her equipment to help her start shredding. Because of Jenny’s hard work and her job coaches’ ability to successfully learn and adapt to specialized equipment, Jenny was able to learn and execute a new skill when she started scanning documents. Because Jenny is able to receive repetitive coaching on a daily basis and has an impeccable willingness to learn, her skill base has improved tremendously.   This skill base has greatly benefited her employer and increased Jenny’s confidence for a very bright and successful future at her jobs.

 

Community Health Charities ‐  Make‐a‐Wish Wisconsin: Owen & Cronkite

When Owen was just 4 months old, he suffered his first seizure. At first, the episodes didn’t seem like they were a big deal, but before long, Owen’s seizures became more and more regular. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy, and his parents’ lives changed drastically. “When you are the parent of a sick child, you feel completely helpless,” explains Owen’s mother, Jill. “All you can really do is hope that something the doctors are trying will make things better for your baby.” Suddenly, the family’s days revolved around physical therapy sessions, new medications and consultations with specialists. Shortly after his 1st birthday, Owen underwent a risky surgery that severed the connection between the hemispheres of his brain. But nothing stopped the seizures. As he grew older, Owen’s seizures became more frequent and dangerous. Then one day, Owen’s mother read an article about dogs trained to help kids with epilepsy. By sensing seizures before they occured, these dogs were able to warn parents and keep children safe. It was exactly what Owen needed most. Owen first met his new service dog Cronkite in November. It didn’t take long for them to become best buddies. Most amazingly, Owen has been completely seizure‐free since January. He is doing well in his therapy sessions, and is almost at the point where he’ll be able to walk on his own. Cronkite has a special harness that can help him with that, too! “Make‐A‐Wish did more than give my child a dog,” says Jill. “They gave our family hope during a time when we felt most helpless. I can’t begin to explain what that means to me and my family. It was hard for us to accept the help, but it’s even harder to express our gratitude, because it is truly immeasurable.”

 

Community Shares of Wisconsin ‐  Housing Initiatives: rebuilding lives for those like Paul and Julie

“We had it all: jobs, a home, a life.” Then Julie and Paul, a Vietnam vet who still struggles with PTSD, both lost their jobs in their early 60’s. Evicted from their home of 18 years, they spent five years living on the streets under a bridge before Housing Initiatives moved them into a permanent apartment home. “The thing I missed most was a hot meal. Nearly all the food we ate for 5 years was mostly out of cans. We are so grateful for our home. I’ve been cooking up a storm ever since!” said Julie. Housing Initiatives knows how to solve the problem of chronic homelessness due to mental illness. This nonprofit has an innovative, successful model for ending chronic homelessness, with over 95% of program participants never returning to live on the streets.

 

EarthShare Wisconsin ‐   Ice Age Trail Alliance: Additional Acreage Added to Ice Age Trail Property in Town of Middleton

Due to the generous donations from two adjoining landowners, nearly 30 acres of land were added to the Valley View Preserve in the Town of Middleton, which now totals nearly 110 acres. The property includes a scenic section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail as well as several loop trails among acres of restored oak savanna and prairie. Each year, volunteers from across the state and beyond flock to trail building and maintenance events at different points along the Ice Age Trail. This process allows the trail to grow and maintain its status as one of the premier hiking trails in the United States.

 

Hunger Relief Fund ‐  Central City Churches: Frank

Frank was a successful engineer, living in a three‐bedroom suburban home in Franklin. He lived there with his wife and daughter until his company made cuts and he lost his job. Despite his best efforts, he could not find new employment in the tough economy. His family’s savings were drained within months. He lost his house because he couldn’t make payments, and finally, could no longer afford to even put food on the table. He had to send his wife and daughter to a homeless shelter so they would have a bed and meal each night. He slept in his car. Being separated from his family was devastating for him. Frank came to Central City Churches for help. The staff helped get him back on his feet, providing his family with emergency food and hot meals throughout the month. He kept searching for work and was finally able to land a new job. Alicia, the pantry coordinator at Central City, noted how grateful Frank was for the extra help. “It’s scary to think how quickly your situation can get bad,” Alicia said. But the pantry food and meals really helped him get by…he just need a little extra push to get him through a bad spot.”

 

United Way of Dane County: Play and Learn program

At our Stoughton Play and Learn site, we started having a couple of stay‐at‐home dads come to Play and Learn with their small children. After participating in the Play and Learns for a few weeks,  they decided to start a “dads” support group. Each Friday they met at McDonalds Play Land with their kids and talk about “dad” stuff. Every time a new dad came to Play and Learn, they would invite him to the group they had started on Fridays. One of the dads said he has Play and Learn to thank for this!  Not only is Play and Learn important for children’s learning, but it is so vital for parent support, community building, and reducing the isolation of parents – all critical to supporting a child’s development towards kindergarten readiness.

 

Wisconsin Environmental Education Foundation: Mequon Nature Preserve

Mequon Nature Preserve just launched a new initiative that will introduce youth to water monitoring equipment and digital observation technology. These technologies will enhance students’ outdoor experiences and give them skills to help in their future schooling and careers. The multi‐year program will follow hundreds of elementary and middle school students into high school, preparing them for occupations using similar technology, such as the fresh water industry. The program will focus on two sets of technology that students will use during their science‐based lessons. First, the water quality monitoring equipment will monitor temperature, nitrates, phosphates, turbidity, alkalinity, and pH  levels. Cataloguing aquatic organisms will continue as well to supplement digital data on water quality. Second, digital observation technology exposes tiny details in plants, small animals, and soil making visible the complexity and diversity of the micro‐habitats. The captured data will help design pollution v. prevention programs and habitat v. restoration actions. Students’ experiences at the Preserve will connect them with larger conversations relating to the fresh water scarcity and the health of the planet.

 

America’s Charities ‐  American Brain Foundation: Julio

College student Julio seemed to have everything going for him. He was attending the University of Utah on a scholarship, majoring in pre‐med, and applying to medical school. Outside of school he was very active: skiing, winning a medal in tennis, and playing the piano. That all changed on October 4, 2011. Weakness, speech and communication difficulties, and paralysis on his left side all led Julio to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a stroke. “I was in a wheelchair for about two months until I actually got the courage to say: ‘Okay, you need to do this…you need to walk.’ I was a fighter. I knew that I had to be strong for my family. I knew that I had to get better.” After taking a leave of absence from school to participate in aggressive speech, occupational, and physical therapy, Julio recently received news of re-admittance to the University of Utah where he is on track to graduate with a degree in health care, a field to which he owes everything. “I couldn’t tell you how much I need to thank my doctors and my surgeons for really saving my life.” Help support research into causes, prevention, treatment, and cures for other fighters like Julio.

 

Global Impact ‐  FINCA International: Yvrose

Yvrose had a little grocery shop she started with her husband. But they lost everything in Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Rebuilding from scratch seemed impossible without access to credit. Anything they earned went to feed and care for their two young children and there wasn’t any money left to invest in their business.  Then one day Yvrose was talking about their struggles and her neighbor told her about FINCA. Yvrose thought it was probably a long shot but, willing to do anything to make a better life for her kids, she applied for a loan.  “It was a nice surprise when FINCA decided to accord me faith. It was the first time I was managing a loan, but thanks to the support of my credit agent I did it well.” she says now. Yvrose repaid her first loan in full and took out a second to further invest in rebuilding her family’s business and secure their livelihood. She started putting away some savings, too.  Her two children are in school now, and together with her husband, she’s working hard to give them the best she can. “We hope they will finish with school and go to university in order to have an important profession,” Yvrose says.

 

Independent Charities of America ‐  American Brain Tumor Association: the Fatula Family

Five‐year‐old Lindyn and eight‐year‐old Lauryn left for school filled with the excitement and anticipation only little princesses can muster knowing they soon would be leaving for the most magical place on earth‐Disney World. Unfortunately, their family vacation, and the world as they knew it, would abruptly change. “Thinking back on that day, I remember trying to pick the right words to explain what’s going on with Mommy, why we weren’t going to Disney World” said Brian Fatula. “I could see that they were terrified, and I was trying my best to share what I felt was appropriate for their age so it wasn’t too big, too much, but at the same time, answer their questions the best that I could.” Taking on the role of caregiver for his wife Katy who was diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma brain tumor was something Brian never expected. He cherished his role as a loving father and husband, and now the role of caregiver was not only unexpected but foreign territory that he quickly needed to navigate. Many individuals like Brian who are suddenly thrust into caregiving for a spouse or loved one feel the added responsibilities can challenge them in ways they never imagined. “Caregivers often feel the stress of the immediacy of becoming an expert not only in attending to their loved one’s physical needs, but also in managing the details and communication with doctors, pharmacists, insurance companies, employers and especially family,” explained Mary Lovely, PhD, RN, CNRN, senior advisor, American Brain Tumor Association. “Brian found he quickly needed to balance his daughters’ needs with his wife’s needs, and often, caregivers like him ignore their own needs in the midst of caring for others.” While it took Brian nearly a year before he felt ready to do something just for himself, he still can’t shake the feelings he had when he left the house that day. “I decided I was going to go out and play golf, but I had nothing but guilt on my mind. All I kept thinking was, I’m out here trying to enjoy myself and my wife’s at home with someone else taking care of her,” Brian recalls. “That day was my first  step in realizing that I too needed some help and support. If you don’t take care of yourself first, then you can’t take care of somebody else to the best of your ability.” The challenges of balancing work, family, and a caregiver’s own needs, while caring for someone else and fulfilling day‐to‐day responsibilities are unique to each caregiver. “Because everyone’s situation is different, we encourage caregivers to call or email us anytime with questions so we can help them find information or resources to help them cope,” added Lovely. “Caregivers are not alone in this journey. The ABTA is here to help.”

 

Neighbor to Nation ‐  Care Net: Lori

Lori’s life had not gone according to plan. Shortly after divorcing an abusive husband, she was raped by a man she thought she could trust. When she learned she was pregnant, she believed abortion was the answer. That way, “I could put it all behind me and forget the whole thing.” But her situation was so difficult — she had no support — she considered ending her life. Somehow, she hung on. Before her abortion, Lori confided in a friend, who urged her to visit a local pregnancy center called the Pregnancy Test Center. Lori tearfully agreed.  At the Pregnancy Test Center, the caring counselors gently listened to her. Lori returned often for support and remembers, “The counselors gave me insight. They encouraged me and prayed for me.” Looking back, Lori says, “If it weren’t for [my Care Net pregnancy center], Mari Olivia would most likely not be here today. They walked hand‐in‐hand with the Lord for me and my daughter . . .”