-Written by Michelle Eastman, Rainbows’ VP of Marketing and Communications
I wonder what it was like 45 years ago when a young college graduate believed that families who had a child with special needs could have a brighter future. A future where caring professionals would provide vital therapies and help children walk, talk and reach their full potential. A future that would span decades and generations across Sedgwick and Butler Counties.
An article in The Wichita Beacon from 1973 says, “There is a pot of gold at the end of Rainbows United. The gold is hope.” It talks about the developmental success of the children served during Rainbows’ first year.
Linda Weir Enegren believed in Rainbows as a vital part of the community then and that commitment to children with special needs and their families continues today. A foundation of hope was established and many brighter futures have been realized in these 45 years since.
This week at Rainbows, we celebrated our birthday – because children love birthdays. Ask any young child about their birthday and their face will light up. They will dream about the day for weeks and tell everyone they meet how old they are. So it seems appropriate that we celebrated with birthday parties on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
Activities began in the morning at Kids’ Point attended by preschoolers, employees, and community members. Festivities included birthday treats, party hats and birthday songs in the backyard. All five early care and education classrooms were treated to books read by local celebrities including: Tom Shine, The Wichita Eagle; Chief Ron Blackwell, City of Wichita Fire Department; Coleen Jennison, Cox Communications and Rainbows’ Board member as well as Rainbows’ Board Chair, Gail Johnson, INTRUST Bank.
In the afternoon the grounds came alive at Rainbows’ Kids’ Cove with themed games, treats and a short presentation by Board Chair Gail Johnson that concluded with the traditional Happy Birthday song by all Camp Woodchuck participants, employees, volunteers, and guests. Volunteers from Enterprise Rent-A-Car assisted with both celebrations.
We’ve come a long way in our 45 year history:
1972 – Rainbows was established
1984 –Home-based services were added to our center based services
1992 – 325 children served, Ritchie Family Center in operation, Community Based Education and Training Services added
1993 – 619 children served, Targeted Case Management added
1996 – 1,127 children served, Kids’ Cove opened
1997 – Camp Woodchuck started providing summer fun for children and young adults ages 6-21
1997 – 1,152 children served, Infant /Toddler Services extended to Butler County
1998 – Uptown Kids and Family Enrichment Center opened downtown at Broadway and Waterman
2003 – Rainbows United Charitable Foundation, Inc. established
2005 – 1,819 children served, Fashion Passion’s first year, Pre-K program started
2007 – Rainbows celebrates 35th Birthday, 7,253 children served over 35 years
2009 – Kids’ Point opened
2010 – Rainbows restructured, downsized to three locations and continued to serve children with special needs in our community.
2017 – Rainbows is financially sound, thriving and serving more than 3,500 children with special needs and their families annually.
Thanks to Linda, her vision, dedication and commitment to children with special needs and their families Rainbows continues today. She recently said, “How lucky this community is to have the Rainbows organization and the people who guide it.”
We plan to celebrate all year long in a variety of ways. I wonder what the next 45 years will bring.