To finish out our success story series (and 2018!), we’re sharing a story that’s near and dear to our hearts. A success story 15 years in the making.
You guessed it. It’s OUR story.
And who better to tell it than Diane Bubel, our co-founder. Without her, NIP would not be what it is today. She is the reason we are here doing everything we can to make inclusion the expectation, not the exception.
An Anniversary Interview
with Diane Bubel
NIP: Now that our 15th anniversary year is coming to a close, we’d love to hear--in your own words--how NIP became all that it is today. Are you up for a trip down memory lane?
Diane: 15 years. I can hardly believe it. Clay and I were just two people with a shared dream and no clue how to make it a reality! Who would have thought we’d grow to the organization we are today?
NIP: No clue, huh? You could have fooled us! What were some of the greatest challenges you faced in getting that dream off the ground?
Diane: Challenge #1, explain inclusion. Back in 2003, inclusion simply was not something that was talked about, nor understood.
Most children's programs would not include children with disabilities; and a large majority of parents who had children with disabilities were terrified with the idea, too. For that reason, our tagline in the early years was "Opening doors, Opening Minds."
Challenge #2, how do we harness Clay’s extensive network and notoriety to champion our cause while staying true to our mission? In our earliest years, we found ourselves doing a lot of things that came our way, instead of coming up with a strategic plan for the foundation. We really were flying by the seat of our pants!
Staffing was another huge hurdle we faced when we got started. Disability advocates, inclusion specialists, etc., simply weren’t a “thing” back then, so finding like-minded people with the skills and vision necessary to move the Project forward was daunting.
We had just TWO staffers that first year. That was it! And the board of directors was myself, Clay, and Faye Parker--and we were all equally inexperienced and clueless about how to run a nonprofit. Luckily what we lacked in experience we made up for with enthusiasm and determination!
And of course, I can’t forget to mention that I was TERRIFIED of public speaking. Absolutely terrified. At our first press conference, I was such a wreck I made Clay a wreck, too--and he had plenty of experience on camera by that point. It took time but I eventually got over my nerves--I’ll even go so far as to say I enjoy public speaking now!
NIP: So to say that NIP was truly a leap of faith is no understatement, I guess?
Diane: Absolutely. Think Indiana Jones stepping off that ledge in “Last Crusade” and you’ll be on the right track.
NIP: Well obviously we--and all the children and families we’ve served-- are glad you took that leap! Since hindsight is always 20/20, if you could go back in time, what would you say to 2003 Diane?
Diane: I would probably tell 2003 Diane to keep her eye on the mission and rise above any negativity. Trying to find our footing as an organization while navigating the waters of Clay’s celebrity was challenging for ALL of us in those earliest days.
I would also love to empower 2003 Diane to believe in herself and help her understand that SHE can proactively shape the organization, rather than reactively take what’s given to her. That being said, I believe the road we took to get to where we are today unfolded exactly as it was meant to and deserves to be honored. I really would not change a thing.
NIP: Okay Diane, one last question. Your son, Mike, brought you and Clay together and served as the inspiration for National Inclusion Project. He was a boy at the time, so how’s he doing now, 15 years later and grown?
Diane: Mike has seen many changes in the past 15 years. He graduated high school, and saw his sister go to college and graduate. He attended her wedding--tuxedo and all. He is now an uncle and is surprisingly tolerant of the new little person (his sister's dog, not so much).
He still faces challenges every day, but he lives his life as best he can and is unabashedly HIMSELF. I am forever in awe of Mike and THANKFUL, as he has brought a rich and diverse group of people into our family. From his advocates to his support-givers and--of course--everyone who has become part of the National Inclusion Project family.
NIP: Thank you, Diane, for sharing your wonderful stories, for being you, and for being the heart of National Inclusion Project.
Now we’re going to turn the microphone to YOU, our readers.
We need YOU to help NIP grow and thrive another 15 years.