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An open letter from co-founders Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel:
The Bubel/Aiken Foundation grew out of the relationship between the two of us and Diane’s son, Mike, a 13 year old with autism. The bond between us grew strong as we shared a vision of a world where children like Mike could be fully immersed in society. We had both witnessed children with disabilities repeatedly turned away from activities opened to typical children. We met while Clay was pursuing a degree in special education at UNC-Charlotte. As part of that pursuit, Clay completed an independent study project where he created a foundation that focused on providing the support system for recreational and educational programs around the country to open doors to children with disabilities that had thus far remained closed. We realized that an organized effort could encourage and facilitate community inclusion and empowerment of individuals with disabilities. This shared goal grew into reality on July 28, 2003 when we officially announced the creation of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation.
In the six years since, the Foundation has established itself as a leading voice for inclusion working with a “Who’s Who” list of youth organizations – YMCAs, Best Buddies International, Boys & Girls Clubs, CampFire USA, 4H, the ARC – as well as many other local parks and recreation departments, community centers, and privately-run programs. The Foundation has formed partnerships with Johns Hopkins University’s National Center for Summer Learning, the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s Center for Social Development and Education, the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s FPG Child Development Center.
In 2008, both of the Foundation’s cutting edge inclusion models – Let’s ALL Play and the K-12 Inclusive Service Learning Program – were closely evaluated with overwhelmingly positive results. Children with and without disabilities in these programs saw growth in motor skills, social skills, and self-esteem, and the impact of the friendships made will last long into the future.
In six years, the Foundation has worked with hundreds of programs, trained numerous staff members and leaders, and provided inclusive opportunities for over 20,000 children. This far-reaching impact would not have been possible without the dedicated support of countless volunteers and supporters. With your help in raising awareness and funds through projects like Wrapping for Inclusion and Change for Change as well as local fundraising efforts like cookbooks, gatherings, and online donation drives, the Foundation has dedicated the vast majority of every dollar into making an impact with our programs. As we realized the impact the Foundation has already made, it became apparent that even bigger accomplishments could be on the horizon. To that end, we along with the rest of the Board decided that a new name for the Foundation would establish long-term credibility and stability. We sought a name that would signify the Foundation’s position as a national leader on inclusion as well as recognize the Foundation’s start and the efforts of its faithful supporters. After much thought and deliberation, we are proud to introduce the organization we co-founded as the National Inclusion Project.
The National Inclusion Project is poised to continue to make an impact with thousands of children nationwide as well as raise the national consciousness about the need for and benefits of inclusion. We are excited beyond measure to see Clay’s original “project” become one that so many people have invested time, energy, and dollars in to see doors opened for children who may have never gotten the opportunity to participate in life the way their peers do. The National Inclusion Project is moving forward hand-in-hand with supporters, families, program providers, and other advocates to see the vision of full inclusion nationwide become a reality. Please join us in our push to make a difference in communities all over the country.
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