ACCO FY 2018 Annual Report and Head Start Report

ACCO FY 2018 Annual Report and Head Start Report

Read Ability Connection Colorado’s Annual Report to the Community for FY 2018! We are very excited about the accomplishments of our organization this past year. Find more information, including:

  • Inclusion Matters – Imagine a world where each individual is valued, respected and honored for their unique abilities.
  • Early Education highlights
  • Employment highlights
  • Support highlights
    Special Event highlights
  • Financial Information

Annual reports for Ability Connection Colorado and ACCO’s HeadStart / Early HeadStart programs:

Charlie’s Story

Charlie’s Story

Little Charlie was born full term via normal delivery on July 11th 2015.  He is our fourth child and we were all besotted with him.

Soon after Charlie was born I noticed his back was a ‘funny shape’, but I was afraid to say to anyone in case my fears came true.  I was so anxious inside.

When Charlie was just 3 months old my husband was feeding him, and while burping him he noticed his back just wasn’t right.  He told me his concerns and it was at that moment my fears became reality. 

We saw the pediatrician at our local hospital who agreed that Charlie’s back looked ‘off’, and she arranged an X-ray for him.  After the X-ray I was brought into the pediatricians office.  I could immediately see on her screen that there was a curve in Charlie’s spine.  I was absolutely devastated. 

We were then referred to the main Orthopedic hospital in Northern Ireland and we were advised to watch and wait for the next 3 months.
Three months passed and we were back for repeat X-rays to see if the curve in Charlie’s spine had progressed or not.  He was just 7 months old, and X-rays showed his curve had progressed from 28 degrees to 42 degrees in just 3 months.  We were absolutely devastated.  All I could think about was “Charlie needs his little spine to grow”.

We were told Charlie needed to go into a plaster jacket that would be changed under general anesthesia every 6 months, until he would be old enough for the first of many invasive spinal surgeries.  We cried for days.  We never wanted this for our baby.

Once the news sunk in, we began to research.  We wanted to see what the plaster jacket would look like.  After joining the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Programs (ISOP) Facebook Group, I quickly saw there were different types of casts!   That’s when I began to question what these differences were.  ISOP’s Facebook Group taught me that some casts are designed to hold the curve while others are designed to correct the curve gently.

For us, it was a no brainier.  We had to choose MGGC.  We wanted to try to correct the curve in Charlie’s spine, and potentially avoid him needing surgery.

After many phone calls, emails and endless days and nights of research, we soon realized that MGGC was not offered here in the U.K. or Ireland.  The closest hospital to offer this treatment was Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, USA. 

Yes it was a huge distance, but we were willing to do whatever it took to give Charlie the best chance to avoid invasive spinal surgeries.

Thankfully after a very speedy application and approval process, Charlie was accepted for treatment at Shriner’s Philadelphia.
We traveled from Ireland to Philadelphia in April 2016 when Charlie was just 9 months old.  We met with the incredible team who would be treating Charlie, and we instantly felt a huge relief knowing he was in the hands of an experienced Doctor who specialized in Early Onset Scoliosis and Mehta Casting.

Charlie had an MRI of the full spine which thankfully came back normal, and he was ready to begin treatment.  His curve was now 45 degrees, and he got his first cast under general anesthesia.  As parents it was a shock for us to see our tiny little baby wrapped in a plaster cast.  But after the first day we soon realized that this special cast wasn’t going to hold Charlie back from meeting his milestones and doing what he wanted.

Over the next 2 years and 2 months Charlie received a series of 12 Mehta casts all under general anesthesia.  We would fly back and forth across the Atlantic every 8 weeks so that Charlie could have a new cast applied.
Throughout his treatment he had regular X-rays to check how his spine was responding to the casts. 

In June 2018 we received the news that we had hoped and prayed for, that Charlie’s curve was down to 9 degrees standing out of cast with a fully relaxed spine.  We were just bursting with joy.

Charlie then graduated to a full time brace which he would wear for 23 hours a day until he would outgrow the brace.  Over the next 2 years and 4 months Charlie a total of 3 full time braces.  And in October 2020 it was agreed that Charlie could move to night time only bracing because his spine was holding at 8 degrees.

For the next 9 months Charlie enjoy his new found freedom during the day, and continued with bracing at night.  He then began to outgrow his brace, and we decided to X-ray him in Dublin Ireland and send the results across to Charlie’s Doctor at Shriner’s.

To our amazement Charlie’s spine was completely straight!  There was no measurable curve!  This was the day we had hoped and prayed for since our journey with Charlie began.  Charlie was finally cast and brace free for the first time in over 5 years.

Its been 13 months since Charlie was last in brace, and he is still monitored by X-ray every 6 months or so.  At his last check he was still holding steady.

We will be forever grateful to Dr Min Mehta for developing this gentle non invasive treatment to help guide our little warriors to grow straight.

Happy Employee Appreciation Day!

Happy Employee Appreciation Day! Thank you to all our ACCO employees. One year later we still have the wheels on and it would not be possible without our great teams!!! On behalf of our Board and the A team, THANK YOU for making it work for children, families, youth, and clients!!! Please STAY SAFE and CONNECTED!


The Cares Act and Your 2020 Charitable Giving

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers of a special new provision that will allow more people to easily deduct up to $300 in donations to qualifying charities this year.

Following special tax law changes made earlier this year, cash donations of up to $300 made before December 31, 2020, are now deductible when people file their taxes in 2021.

“Our nation’s charities are struggling to help those suffering from COVID-19, and many deserving organizations can use all the help they can get,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS reminds people there’s a new provision that allows for up to $300 in cash donations to qualifying organizations to be deducted from income. We encourage people to explore this option to help deserving tax-exempt organizations – and the people and causes they serve.”


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted last spring, includes several temporary tax changes helping charities, including the special $300 deduction designed especially for people who choose to take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing their deductions.

Nearly nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify for this new tax deduction. In tax-year 2018, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, more than 134 million taxpayers claimed the standard deduction, just over 87% of all filers.

Under this new change, individual taxpayers can claim an “above-the-line” deduction of up to $300 for cash donations made to charity during 2020. This means the deduction lowers both adjusted gross income and taxable income – translating into tax savings for those making donations to qualifying tax-exempt organizations.

Before making a donation, the IRS reminds people they can check the special Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) tool on to make sure the organization is eligible for tax-deductible donations.

Cash donations include those made by check, credit card or debit card. They don’t include securities, household items or other property. Though cash contributions to most charitable organizations qualify, some do not. Check Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and the TEOS for more information.

Though cash contributions to most charitable organizations qualify, those made to supporting organizations and donor-advised funds do not.

The IRS reminds everyone giving to charity to be sure to keep good records. By law, special recordkeeping rules apply to any taxpayer claiming a charitable contribution deduction. Usually, this includes obtaining a receipt or acknowledgement letter from the charity, before filing a return, and retaining a cancelled check or credit card receipt. For details on these recordkeeping rules, see Publication 526, available on

In addition, the CARES Act includes other temporary provisions designed to help charities. These include higher charitable contribution limits for corporations, individuals who itemize their deductions and businesses that give food inventory to food banks and other eligible charities. For more information about these and other Coronavirus-related tax relief provisions, visit

Are you itemizing deductions?
The adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for cash contributions was increased for individual donors. For cash contributions made in 2020, you can now elect to deduct up to 100 percent of your AGI (increased from 60 percent).
Interested in corporate giving?

What about Corporate Donors?
The AGI limit for cash contributions was also increased for corporate donors. Corporations can now deduct up to 25 percent of taxable income (increased from 10 percent).


Please consult your tax advisor for complete details.


Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 Update

Our Amazing Creative Options Health Team!

Covid-19 update to our community
August 24, 2020

Dear ACCO Friends,

We wanted to take this opportunity to share with our community the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on our programs and what steps we are taking to mitigate risks as we work toward reopening, while following the State health department guidelines. Given that ACCO serves people of every age from pre-natal moms to school-age children to youth seeking employment and older families sharing guardianship concerns about their loved ones, our organization is steadfast in believing that education, in all its forms, is the catalyst for overcoming all types of barriers. The updates below focus on our three primary areas of service:

Our Creative Options program for children birth to five opened in June for a 4-week summer session focused on our children going to Kindergarten and our children receiving special education services. The session went well, and we feel assured that the children that could attend did demonstrate continued growth in all domains and expressed joy at being in school! Families also reported that this time for their children was important for them as well allowing them to stay employed while their children continued to learn. The health and safety of our teams, families and children we serve has and continues to be our top priority.

On July 20, we reopened our centers for our birth to 3-year-olds and, as of August 3rd, have also opened our preschool classrooms. Right now, we are offering a hybrid of services, providing both in-class and remote learning, depending on what families choose. For in-class learning, we have implemented several measures including:

• Following all CDC and Colorado Department of Health Guidelines.
• Augmenting staffing schedules in order to accommodate staff that also have children at home
needing care.
• We continue to provide ongoing assistance to families experiencing food, housing and
employment insecurity.
• On-site nursing provides immediate access to answer health questions and determine illnesses
when they occur.

Since March, the employment team at Ability Connection Colorado has been providing virtual services in a variety of ways:

• Though participation in the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) has been understandingly interrupted, ACCO staff continues to offer online virtual services to more than 50 youth.
• While mentoring participation has declined somewhat, guest speakers have been easier to arrange with less need for in-person meetings.
• With an uptick in food security and mental health issues, the RAMP team has been identifying and working with several families to provide needed resources. Staff also have noted a significant disparity between youth with disabilities and online learning. For these youth, we have helped provide or helped find and direct resources and equipment to help overcome these deficits.
• The Out of School Youth team is currently serving about 55 youth. Online Zoom sessions have been key to providing numerous classes on subjects including Financial Literacy, Mental Health Support, Workplace Etiquette and Navigating the OSY Application. Staff have also been helping youth with specific tasks such as applying for a Colorado I.D., obtaining a Social Security Card or assisting youth as they apply for Medicaid.
• Information is consistently shared among participants through newsletters and individual contact by phone.
• At a time when job placements and availability are down, employment staff continue to support participants individually with tasks like preparing job resumes and how to navigate new work environments considering the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ability Connection Colorado’s statewide support programs have been particularly busy at this time helping families stay safe and connected, while offering much needed information and resources:

EMPOWER Colorado, with its focus on helping families cope with mental health issues, has seen a steady increase in calls regarding the uncertainty of the times we live in and the growing need for support and available resources. Beginning in the second quarter of this year, EMPOWER Colorado joined forces with Parent to Parent to broaden their collective resources and to provide additional levels of support for families in need.
Faith in Action continues to do what it does best. Namely, to match the needs of vulnerable people with volunteers wanting to help others with their daily living skills and activities. More than ever, this service provides critical companionship and assistance at a time of isolation for many.
• Calls for information and support regarding ACCO’s Guardianship Alliance of Colorado (GAC) program have seen a steady rise during the pandemic. Aging parents are sharing their concerns and anxiety about their own health and what they can do for their loved ones should they become affected by Covid-19. The recruitment and training of guardians continues to be a major focus for GAC at this time.
• The Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program (ISOP) continues to help support families of children born with Progressive Infantile Scoliosis. Whether it’s helping families navigate the medical system or providing them with critical information and referrals regarding the life-saving techniques used in Mehta Casting, ISOP continues to be vital resource for many.
Parent to Parent of Colorado (P2P-CO) has quickly made the transition from face-to-face meetings to online zoom gatherings where parents can share their stories and concerns, while receiving the latest information about the pandemic and guidelines for staying safe. P2P has been especially well positioned to help families at this time given their well-established web presence, their long-standing relationship with Colorado families and their growing network of information and resources.

In addition to programmatical changes, one of our greatest challenges has been the need to modify, cancel or postpone several of our special events. These critical sources of revenue are what allow us to provide the many comprehensive, life changing programs described above. While we are doing all we can to keep the lights on, it is a struggle to do so. If you can help us during these difficult times, we would be forever grateful. Whether helping spread the word about our need, volunteering or monetarily giving directly to our organization, please know that your contributions are and will make an important difference for someone in need. We recognize the challenges many are facing at this time and appreciate your consideration.

Lastly, if you are in need of support or know someone who is, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at We are here to help if we can.

Stay Safe and Connected,

Kathy Higgins
Chair of the Board

Judith Ham
President & CEO

Justice For All


An introspective look from Ability Connection Colorado

For nearly 75 years, Ability Connection Colorado (ACCO) has been advocating for the rights and advancement of people with disabilities. In fact, our very existence was derived from a small group of mothers who sought greater opportunities, meaningful education and a more equal playing field for their children with disabilities. Even more important, they wanted people to know that their children, despite the severity of their disability, were loved and loving and exceedingly more capable than others might ever have considered. Theirs were among the earliest voices of what became known as the disability civil rights movement.

Just over 30 years ago, in March of 1990, a group of more than 1,000 disability activists descended on our nation’s capital to protest the failure of legislators to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passage of the act would outlaw the discrimination of people based on their physical or mental disability and ensured equal access to public buildings, transportation, employment and other inclusionary opportunities. The rally was filled with speeches aimed at getting politicians to vote in favor of the landmark legislation.

The most notable part of the protest occurred when over 60 activists abandoned their wheelchairs, crutches or other mobility-assistive devices and began to crawl the 83 stone steps to the top of the U.S. Capital Building. Among those who began crawling was eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan from Denver. “I’ll take all night if I have to,” Keelan was quoted saying as she forcefully willed her body ever upward. Bystanders watched as chants began to ring out— “What do we want?” “ADA!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!”

The stunning imagery of that demonstration, what became known as the “Capitol Crawl”, is widely believed to have been the catalyst that led to the signing of the ADA just a few short months later. And, while the ADA, may have been culminated in the acts of a few on that momentous day, their actions were the reverberation of the many thousands of people that came before them, forging victories big and small, not in the name of special rights, but equal rights and an equal opportunity to fully participate in the same world as their non-disabled counterparts.

Fast forward to today as we watch people of every stripe, creed and color take to the streets of American towns and cities. Their collective voices, strong and resolute, call for an end to institutional racial injustice and the social and economic disparities experienced by people in communities of color. Amid a global pandemic that has most people self-quarantining, others flood the streets at great personal risk, all in the name of equality under the law.

For an organization whose vision it is to live in a community that includes, accepts, and celebrates the abilities and contributions of all individuals, Ability Connection Colorado stands in solidarity with people that have been marginalized and discriminated against. Unsurprisingly, the growing movement we see today is not dissimilar to that of the civil rights efforts fought for by people with disabilities. Challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes, rallying for political and institutional change, and lobbying for the self-determination of a minority community are the very constructs that have advanced the rights of people with disabilities throughout the last century. Indeed, the immoral and profound injustices of slavery were not only the impetus to the civil rights movement, but by extension, have also helped launch other movements including women’s suffrage, disability rights and gay rights.


The Civil Rights Movement has been the impetus of change for other movements, including disability rights.
The history-making events we are witnessing today must become the salient call for all people of conscience to rise up and stand firmly on the side of equal justice and systemic, fundamental change. As an organization that serves people in disadvantaged communities, Ability Connection Colorado reaffirms our commitment to inclusion and the fair and equitable treatment of all people. We expect and hold to account our leaders and policymakers to be intentional in their actions by helping close the inequality gaps in education, healthcare and economic opportunity, which are disproportionately experienced in communities of color. And lastly, with one voice, we call on people everywhere to reject all forms of racial discrimination and structural bias.

At Ability Connection Colorado, we believe we are all connected by our common humanity and united by our shared sense of what is fair and just. Through our diversity and shared experiences, we are infinitely wiser. With our collective voice, we can change the world we live in and attain the equality that all human beings strive for.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Team at Ability Connection Colorado.

Ability Connection Colorado is Committed To…

  • Partnering with our community to intentionally  pursue  real changes.
  • Reflecting on our commitment and vigilantly examining our efforts.
  • Committing to not stopping until justice and equality are our norms in our community.

Thanks to all who came to our Great Balls of Fire 9-Ball Billiards event!

Thanks to everyone who came out to our 26th year, 9-Ball Billiards event this past Saturday at The Wynkoop Brewery!! A challenge dedicated to Kyle E. Fisher. We had a blast! Thanks to the Fisher family, Denver Firefighters Local 858, Colorado Professional Fire Fighters all of our sponsors, volunteers and the ACCO team for making this a huge success. See more photos from the event :

ACCO’s RAMP Program: Suit Up Event


On December 7th, ACCO hosted a SUIT UP event from 10:00-2:00pm. We received a generous donation of masculine clothing such suits, shirts, and ties from Men’s Warehouse thanks to TKC Inc. We invited families and youth to join our RAMP team at ACCO to pick out a free professional outfit. This was an exciting opportunity to support our clients in the community we serve.

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