Michelle Mullins CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPA CTP, Owner & Director of Training at Honest To Dog “As a dog behavior consultant, I have a passion for keeping dogs with their families through behavior and training services. I’m equally passionate about VET Fund as their mission aligns with mine. Years ago, my husband and I faced an emergency with our first dog and could barely afford the needed care. I’m so honored to support an organization that works to make sure other families won’t face care choices based on cost.” When Kitrinka noticed a pale liquid on her dog’s bedding, she thought it might be vomit or even feces. The liquid was also on Nikki’s rear end. However, after Kitrinka gave her 11-year-old dog a bath, the pus-like substance was still there. Kitrinka felt her anxiety rise. She said a prayer and took Nikki to the vet. The doctor diagnosed the Pomeranian/Pekingese mix with pyometra, an infection of the uterus, which required that Nikki be immediately spayed to eliminate the infection. Nikki’s surgery and veterinary care were estimated at over $1,000, which was beyond Kitrinka’s means. The vet recommended that she contact VET Fund. This nonprofit, which helps fund life-saving veterinary care when pet owners can’t afford it, helped cover some of the expensive veterinary costs for Nikki. After the hour-long surgery, Kitrinka was able to take Nikki home and began giving her pain meds and antibiotics as well as feeding her a special diet. She also had to keep her recovering pup from jumping or licking her incision, which Kitrinka said wasn't difficult because of her dog's sweet disposition. Nikki celebrated her 12th birthday in November. Forever grateful to Dr. Mason and the supporters of VET Fund, Kitrinka declares: “You will always [...]
Susan Winiecki, Associate Publisher and Editorial Director of Richmond Magazine “A safe, stable home with a room in which a child can do homework and, more importantly, dream is priceless. Habitat provides a roadmap to get there." Rakeisha was determined to move her two young sons, sixth grader Qua’melle and his younger brother, Maurquel, who has autism, out of Creighton Court. While the boys were forced to share a bedroom in their small apartment, that hardship was minor compared to the fact that her sons couldn’t even play outside because of the increasing violence in their neighborhood. Despite her best efforts, Rakeisha wasn’t able to improve her family’s situation on her salary as a receptionist at a hearing loss clinic (she has hearing loss herself). That’s until she found Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity’s affordable home ownership program. Rakeisha applied for Habitat’s program and was accepted. Then the real work began, including 10 financial and homeownership education classes, monthly one-on-one budgeting sessions, and 350 hours of "sweat equity" building her own home and the homes of other Habitat homeowners. Finally, after much hard work and dedication, this mom received the keys to her new home and achieved her goal of giving her sons a safe place to live. Rakeisha will make affordable payments on a zero percent interest mortgage and build valuable equity while doing so. “Owning my own home will provide a safe environment to raise my children,” says the proud home owner. “A home to build stability and to pass down to my family in the future.” Help build homes, communities and hope by donating or volunteering to Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity!
Sue Kindred, Owner of SK Consulting LLC “Veterans and Athletes United is an all-volunteer nonprofit founded by combat veterans with disabilities and run by veterans and caring professionals. They are committed to ensuring that all wounded, disabled and ill veterans can live their lives to the fullest.” Sua was wounded in combat in 2008. His injuries left the Army Special Forces veteran a quadriplegic and on a roller coaster ride, both mentally and physically. By sponsoring the wounded warrior in quad rugby competitions, Veterans and Athletes United (VAU) presented Sua with new athletic challenges and empowered him to work toward goals that were not impeded by his disabilities. Sua competed in both the Invictus Games (created by the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry) and the Warrior Games, where he received a Gold Medal. Sua presented this symbol of his achievement to VAU. Sua also enjoyed a fun respite at one of VAU’s accessible retreats with his son and nephew. The family participated in adaptive fishing and surfing together, plus Sua used an adaptive, all-terrain wheelchair to go on the beach for the first time since his injury. During this retreat, the boys were able to spend time with other children of disabled veterans, which was both a bonding and healing experience for them. The veteran credits VAU for the ability to move forward with his life: “Thanks to you [VAU], I have been able to progress and better myself physically and mentally.” Help empower wounded warriors to reach goals beyond their disabilities by volunteering or donating at Veterans and Athletes United.
Virginia Voice's audio describers at a Science Museum of Virginia’s IMAX movie Ben Dacus, Director of Creative Services at Zeigler/Dacus Marketing Communications “Art and music have always been a centerpiece for my life. My career is all about creating, and I play guitar and sing on occasion. So, when CultureWorks approached me in 2009 to serve on its board, I was most flattered to be a part of an organization whose goals and efforts are to create a stronger ecosystem in the Richmond area for artists and art/culture organizations.” A mom brought her three daughters all the way from Harrisonburg to Virginia Repertory Theatre for a Children’s Theatre performance. The whole family was excited to see the show. But what's so extraordinary about this event is two of her children are blind. Thanks to Virginia Voice’s Live Audio Description for Theater, this family was able to “see” a live performance together for the very first time. Virginia Voice’s innovative wireless technology allows audio describers, who are back stage, to explain what’s happening on stage (in between the actors’ dialogue) to those without sight. This technology was made possible by CultureWorks, a nonprofit that inspires, enables, and cultivates world-class arts and culture in RVA. CultureWorks' funding helped Virginia Voice not only purchase the equipment, but also hire and train staff, train volunteers, and provide the audio services for six different performances. Virginia Voice is now also using this technology with other organizations like SPARC (watch for their own #SpreadtheGoodwill story) and the Science of Museum of Virginia. After the Virginia Rep performance, the mother from Harrisonburg overhead one of her daughters without sight enthusiastically describing the play to a friend. This seemingly ordinary conversation exemplified the significance of the event [...]
B.J. Kocen, owner of GLAVE KOCEN GALLERY “Milk River Arts is important to me because Sally (executive founding director) is all in. I see through her workshops that she and her mentors are pushing abilities, challenging these artists, AND selling their work!” When Will’s family moved from California to Richmond, his parents were concerned about how their son would adjust. Will has developmental disabilities and is a visual artist, musician and, as his dad puts it, “has always been a creative soul.” The family found Milk River Arts. At this small, joyful studio, Will draws, paints, and creates collage and found object sculpture alongside professional artists who take his talents seriously. His parents say the Milk River Arts community has validated their son’s abilities over and over again. By supporting and celebrating his work, mentor artists continue to inspire Will to create and also elevate his artistic voice. Milk River Arts promotes and sells work made by artists with disabilities in its studio and in partnership with local galleries and exhibition spaces. Will has been creating and selling his work at Milk River Arts for three years now, which means he’s a professional artist! That’s yet another validation for him and his fellow artists at Milk River. “As parents, one of the most important things we want for our children is for them to feel valued and feel like they are making a contribution to the world," says Will's dad. "Milk River Arts has been pivotal in making this happen for our son.” Help support a neurodiverse community of artists by volunteering or donating to Milk River Arts.
Paul Keevil, Restaurateur, Millie's, LuLu's, Tio Pablo and Café Clang “The organization does great work, hosts awesome events and spreads the word of their commendable deeds through amazing art. What's not to love?” Barkley, a five-year-old lab/hound mix, completed his training to become a therapy dog and went to work with his mom, Kathleen, who is an RN at Tucker Pavilion at CJW Medical Center. Thanks to his gentle and empathetic nature, the dog was extremely effective in reaching patients with mental illnesses ranging from depression to psychosis, patients whom the staff often couldn’t even reach. However, just five weeks into his new role, Barkley was diagnosed with liposarcoma in his left rear leg. His prognosis was good if the leg was amputated. In fact, the tumor might never come back, and Barkley could live to a ripe, old age. Says Kathleen, “Barkley is my best friend and a beloved member of our family and I will do anything to save his life.” However, she simply couldn’t afford the diagnostics, MRI and surgery at the staggering cost of $7,000! Kathleen reached out to FETCH a Cure to help fund Barkley’s treatment. Not only does FETCH a Cure raise pet cancer awareness and provide education for pet owners and the veterinary community, but through its Companions in Crisis program, the organization also helps fund lifesaving cancer treatments for pets throughout Virginia, Maryland and D.C. After the complex amputation surgery, Barkley was up and walking the next day. And it wasn’t long before he was again by his mom’s side at Tucker Pavilion and brightening countless patients’ days. Help make cancer treatment a more affordable option for pet owners by volunteering or donating to FETCH a Cure.
Lee Ware, Virginia Delegate “Having spent three decades teaching History and Government to young people, naturally the wellbeing of our children in school is of immense importance to me. How well children can read can determine the quality of their learning, and poor vision is by definition an impediment to reading. Consequently, I admire—and support—Conexus in its mission to expand vision-testing for school pupils.” When 5-year-old Preston went to school one day, there was a lady there to check his eyes. It was important, his teacher told him, because he needed to be able to see well to read and learn. Preston was a little nervous, but the lady showed him the box that she would be using to screen his vision. It looked a little bit like the pad he used to play games and watch cartoons. All he had to do was stand still for a few seconds while she looked at him through that box. It was over before he knew it! This quick and easy screening, called VisioCheck and conducted by Conexus, determined that Preston had astigmatism. Astigmatism can cause blurred vision, which can impact reading and many other activities. Because one in four school-age children have vision problems significant enough to affect their learning, Conexus provides free vision screenings to thousands of children in Richmond, County of Henrico and Chesterfield County schools. Free optometrist’s exams and eyeglasses are also provided to qualified families through Conexus’ Mobile Clinic Program, in partnership with Impact 100. “I encourage everyone to try and imagine what it would be like to live your life with your eyes closed,” says Preston’s grandfather. “Now imagine being a child like Preston, knowing that because of Conexus, you will see [...]
Photo by Scott Elmquist Paul Spicer, editor and publisher of Grid “The Next Move Program gives all young people – regardless of their different abilities – hope for the future through education, work readiness skills, and job training. Best of all, over 80 percent of the program's graduates have gained competitive employment or have been accepted into post-secondary programming.” Like most new graduates, Justin was nervous about taking that huge step from high school to the working world. However, this young man’s anxiety was even more justified because approximately 70 percent of Virginia grads with a disability, like Justin, are unable to find or keep employment. But Justin was determined to overcome his anxiety and succeed. In the summer after graduation, he entered The Next Move Program. Next Move offers job training and internships for graduates with disabilities at businesses throughout the Greater Richmond area and Williamsburg, including Quirk Hotel, Ledbury, Wells Fargo, The YMCA of Greater Richmond, The University of Richmond, and The College of William and Mary. Not only do interns develop work skills in the program, but they also receive instruction and vocational coaching from Next Move’s team of special educators to help them sustain employment. Once Justin completed his internship, he was accepted into a competitive vocational program at a community college and graduated in the spring of 2017. “I am capable because I like to overcome my challenges and push myself,” says Justin. The self-starter now works full-time in a mail room, plus serves on The Next Move Program board to inspire other interns. Help empower other young adults with disabilities by volunteering or donating at The Next Move Program.
While stopped at a light, Trey was rear-ended by a drunk driver who was traveling at more than 50 m.p.h. The 20-year-old was severely injured, sustaining a broken neck and a traumatic brain injury (TBI). For the next four months, he underwent treatment in acute care and rehabilitation facilities. While that period was difficult for Trey and his family, they had no idea of the challenges ahead. Trey was semi-conscious for weeks, and during that time, the Brain Injury Association of Virginia (BIAV) provided his family with the information, support and referral assistance they needed to get the young man on a path to recovery. The nonprofit also connected Trey with a community-based brain injury program, which allowed him to develop job skills and start to regain his independence. Most importantly, BIAV gave the family hope. BIAV also introduced the family to Camp Bruce McCoy, where Trey made physical and mental strides while also having fun with new friends. Not only that, the camp gave his mother and caregiver a much-needed respite. Trey went to camp the first year in a wheelchair. Five years later, the wheelchair stays home. According to Trey and his family, “BIAV changed our lives!”