Imagine a world where children born with disabilities like Down Syndrome were institutionalized. Where people with cerebral palsy were hidden away without a chance at a normal life. Imagine a world where anyone who could not entirely fend for themselves was seen as a lesser human being.
Our country was that kind of place — before someone imagined that the world could be a little different.
The nonprofit organization Imagine! was founded in 1963, with the revolutionary idea that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) do not have to be destined for a lesser life.
Rather, they can live longer and happier and even achieve great success if they are given the right tools, programs, and support. The Imagine! Foundation was founded in 2000 to raise money and support for the nonprofit, and to ensure everyone has access to those resources.
“Serving on the Board has been one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had,” said Richard Ackerman, Imagine! Foundation Board member and RE/MAX of Boulder Realtor. “I get to hear amazing and inspiring stories daily, and I have the opportunity to meet the extraordinary clients and families that Imagine! and the Imagine! Foundation have helped. I also have been fortunate to get to know our wonderful supporters in the community.”
One of the most touching cases is that of Miah Yager. Miah was born with Down Syndrome, but that was never what defined her. Her love of education, of laughing, of dance — these were Miah’s defining characteristics.
She made the courageous decision to go to college, but suffered what is called a “regression” during her first semester when Miah’s vibrant beauty and zest for life was replaced by a shell of her former self.
Miah’s mother, Linda Roan, called Imagine! for immediate care.
“They were amazing! Within a week, I was sitting in the office on Dixon Street. They said we could get emergency funding and they started her in Out and About,” Roan said. “They would take her for a few hours every day, and I knew she was going to be stimulated and people would be talking to her, and I could just collapse on my sofa for those few hours and just regroup. I don’t know what we would have done without them.”
Though Miah’s road to recovery was long and hard, but today, she is back to the spunky personality her family knows and loves. She has ambitions to be independent, to dance, and to design clothes.
She worked as an apprentice with Ramble on Pearl, a nonprofit clothing and accessories boutique on Pearl Street that offers on-the-job training for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and a Boulder Source Featured Friend. They helped her gain job skills and secure a job at Rags Consignment store. Now most importantly, she is free to shower the world with her inspirational love once again.
“I always think of the Fred Moten quote that goes, ‘I believe in a world, inside of this world. And I want to stay here because I want to stay in that world,’” Miah’s sister Nikola said. “Miah has always been that world for me, she embodies what I want this world to be like, and what I want to be like also.”
Imagine!’s Out and About outreach program is dedicated to helping people with stories like Miah’s, and they are celebrating their 20th year of service. They focus in Therapeutic Recreation, meaning they use fun and physical activities to teach lifelong skills to adults and children with IDD.
To discover more about this amazing program, and to see more stories like Miah’s, visit Imagine!’s Out and About website.