The Studio Blog Archive

A few posts we've written over the years

InterHab Awards

Honoring Deb Voth and Isaac Flickinger

My favorite part of the entire InterHab conference is the Arts and Awards Recognition Lunch. I remember the first time I attended in 2007. It was when I realized I was part of something so much bigger than my small role as a Rainbows’ employee. I heard stories of accomplishment for adults with developmental disabilities and the heart of those who made a difference in their lives. I have been forever inspired by families who give in unique ways to support individuals with disabilities and make their lives richer, happier, and fulfilled. Each year, I am reminded that our Rainbows’ children and their families have an amazing group of individuals who advocate for their needs and make sure their voice is heard at the state and federal levels where so much impacts the services they depend on.

This year’s lunch, held Friday, October 13, was extra special since Rainbows had two winners. The Outstanding Youth Award honors an individual under 18 years old who receives children’s services and excels in the areas of outstanding personal achievement, community involvement and empowerment. This year, Rainbows submitted Isaac Flickinger for the award.

Isaac was recognized for the meeting developmental challenges head on and becoming a young adult with a bright future.

“Even though growing up has not been easy”, say Kris and Bart, his parents. “Isaac has persisted.” Isaac’s parents shared he did not arrive to his success “over-night,” but recognize it has been a journey sprinkled with teams of support along the way and hard work on the part of Isaac.

Isaac’s strengths lie within his sense to seek out key adults who serve as role models and mentors. Isaac has grown into a young man who will greet strangers in the community with a friendly hello, banter with friends and who has become a role model for his peers.

Supports for Isaac have been in place since he was an infant. Through the help of Rainbows United early intervention services, occupational therapy, childcare, mental health therapy and various other therapies, specialists and advocates in the community, he has made great strides.

Isaac dreams to one-day work in a museum and according to his parents “change the world.” He thrives on volunteer work and has a thirst for knowledge. He hopes to change the world by ending poverty, improving housing in low-income neighborhoods, helping to revitalize the great city of Wichita and organizing neighborhood cleanups. It is no doubt that with Isaac’s proven persistence, determination and willingness to succeed that he will achieve his goals and much more. The world is a better place with Isaac Flickinger and Rainbows congratulates him on this well-deserved honor.

The final presentation of the luncheon is the prestigious Mark Elmore Award for Distinguished Leadership. The award is a tribute to personal and professional integrity and statewide contributions to progressive excellence. Many leaders across the state have been surprised when their name is called as the honoree of this award. This year was no exception as Rainbows’ President Deb Voth was honored with the award.

Hale Ritchie, Board member has this to say about Deb, “Many people have worked with Deb over her 25 years at Rainbows. Nearly 97% of professional staff are female. When asked about her leadership they are quick to smile and say: She leads by example. She believes in being open and transparent. She lives by Rainbows’ Guiding Principles and was instrumental in integrating them into Rainbows’ culture.

I have learned how to work through challenges with grace because of her calm, objective example. Deb inspires me to trust the process. She believes the best in you and helps you grow. She listens. She’s a bold advocate for children and families and fights for what is right. She is someone you can trust. She leads with compassion and just the right touch of humor. Deb Voth is my Hero.  She deserves this award.”

Deb is well respected across the state and has helped form as well as serve on many state and local governing boards including tiny-k Foundation, Kansas Interagency Coordinating Council (KICC) (appointments to the Council by both Governor Haden (around 1981) and Governor Sebelius (2007), plus appointed Chair by Governor Graves in 1998), Para-Transit in South Central Kansas and Central Plains Coordinated Transit District 12, Non-Profit Chamber of Service, and Downtown Rotary. She has been instrumental in encouraging collaboration among agencies across the state in support of legislative advocacy including Advocates in Communities Team (ACT) of South Central Kansas, InterHab Board of Directors, President of Kansas Division of Early Childhood (KDEC) and Region 6 Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators.

Always the voice of children, Deb often speaks out on issues that impact the state’s youngest citizens. She has a vast knowledge of funding steams and policymaking at the federal, state and local levels. She has built relationships with many across the state as she continues to work tirelessly on behalf of children and families.

Congratulations Deb!

And there you have it, my eyes tear up reliving the celebration, the Inspiration, Passion and Accomplishment. I can’t wait for you to see the videos and see for yourself.


By Michelle Eastman, Vice President of Marketing and Communications

10:15+ Club

A Day to Celebrate Our Staff

A highlight of every year is the 10:15+ Club event that honors Rainbows’ employees who have been making a difference in the lives of children with special needs and their families for ten years or more. It’s a day of secrets and celebration that begins with participants loading buses at 10:15 a.m. in anticipation of the day’s events. This year was no exception.

Those who collected in the lobby of Kids’ Point were sent off with cheers by co-workers for the ride to FlutterBye Ranch outside of Leon for the day.

Those with milestone anniversaries were honored with awards presented by Board Member Hale Ritchie, President Deb Voth and Vice President of Programs and Services, Debbie Mai.

“This was my first year for attending the 10:15+ Club. Everyone was so welcoming and excited for the milestones staff has achieved. The day was filled with fun, connecting with others and surprises—I could tell a lot of thought was put into the day. It was a great day and I am looking forward to next year,” said Leslie Stevens, Mental Health Specialist working with ABC Project.

Ten year employees new to the 10:15+ Club were: Kelsie Harms, Rebecca Paden, Leslie Stevens, and Sharon Stump

15 year honorees: Susan Bliss and Vanessa Noble

20 year honorees: Charlesetta Berry, Christy Hutto, Stacy Jensen, Myra Niederee, Teresa Shackelford, Holly Smith, and Cayla Wasson

25 year honorees: Karen Carlile, Kathleen Cochran, Donna Delaney, Susan Harsh, Diane Porter, and Deb Voth

30 year honorees: Laura Barnes and Gina Hall

The group was treated to informative and entertaining cooking demonstrations by Zach Hettenbach featuring a delicious Alfredo sauce that was served as an option over pasta for lunch, plus a blueberry lemon compote served over cheesecake for dessert. Zach shared his experiences at several area restaurants and businesses which led to his dream of owning his own business with his wife Shannon.

Their passion to provide a place for people to gather and enjoy great food culminates at FlutterBye Ranch with family history and special memories that connect visitors to the location, making guests a part of their dream come true. Each participant received an apron with the Rainbows’ logo embroidered on it as a keepsake.

After lunch, more secret details coordinated by Melani Kliewer, Volunteer Coordinator unfolded. Guests were invited to hike around the grounds to a nearly creek, skip rocks and enjoy the sunshine or watch the recent movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, an exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.  “I truly enjoyed the movie and the message,” said Sharon Stump, Speech Language Pathologist with CBETS.

10:15+ Club events are sponsored by Rainbows’ Board of Directors. Many support the event and feel it is vital to recognize staff in the long established tradition of the event. “This day puts into action Rainbows’ Guiding Principle to “Be Positive, Celebrate Success and Recognize Achievements,” said Board Chair Gail Johnson. “Rainbows is fortunate to have so many long term staff. It’s important to honor employees who work so hard and give so much.”

“The fact that the Board of Directors make the event possible, is amazing,” said Teddi Hollingsworth, Early Childhood Teacher with Sedgwick County Infant/Toddler Services for 16 years. “How wonderful that they are willing to honor staff in this way. I love when Board Members join us on this day.”

The day finished with the traditional group photo and boarding the buses to return to Rainbows. A special time was had by all.

By Michelle Eastman

Planning A Simple And Fun Halloween Party

For The Whole Family

-Carol Martin, Insurance Billing, Finance Department, Rainbows United, Inc.

Face it, the Halloween holiday is growing bigger every year, and more and more people are throwing parties. There are many ways to entertain on Halloween. Big or small, fancy or casual, make sure to plan ahead and save time and energy with creative shortcuts. This article contains party ideas for three very different crowds.

The smallest jack o’ lanterns will enjoy a morning or afternoon play group-style event. Invite several moms and dads with toddlers. Clear a room of furniture and provide yoga mats, blankets and pillows for sitting in a circle. Read a Halloween-themed book, like Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean. This book is based on a funny song, so after reading, you can play the You Tube video, featuring Pete the Cat. Toddlers will love dancing and moving to the silly music. Make a simple snack like Banana Ghosts (peel a banana, cut in half, and push in Cheerio eyes and mouth), cheese sticks or cut grapes.

Serious trick-or-treaters want to eat something quick and hit the streets on Halloween night to get the best candy haul. Let friends and neighbors know you will have a soup and sandwich bar ready early, so they can stop in, fill up and get a group together to canvass the neighborhood or trunk-or-treat events. Leave the soup pot on simmer on the stove or in a crockpot on low, so it will stay hot through the evening as guests come and go. Set paper goods and garnishes on the kitchen table or island. Invite grandparents to stop in and take photos of the kids in their cute costumes. Have mini flashlights, treat bags or glow necklaces for each participant. These serve double duty as party favors and handy tools for a night outside.

A Saturday Fun House can entertain your whole circle of friends, or all the kids you know. Fill your backyard or basement with carnival game booths, like corn hole, pumpkin golf, ring or bean bag toss, face painting, fortune teller, pumpkin painting and soda pong. Making your own Halloween-themed slime can be a fun craft activity. Add a photo booth (see instructions below), candy land or an obstacle course and you’ve got an action-packed party. Sweet treats like Halloween cookie bars or mummy cookies are yummy for young guests. Serve a simple stuffed pepper with a ground beef or chicken and rice mixture. Make it festive by carving jack o’ lantern features in the peppers. A veggie tray can be made spooky by filling a decorated mini pumpkin with dip. Borrow folding tables and chairs from friends or your place of worship. Use disposable plastic or paper tablecloths. Teens, friends and family can help man the booths and play Halloween tunes on their phones. Give out small trinkets as prizes.

Shop discount stores after holidays or consignment/secondhand shops to find incredible bargains on holiday decorations. Keep a plastic bin in the basement or closet and just pick out what you need during the appropriate month. Put up banners made from paper plates that look like monsters or candy corn. Turn black plastic trash bags into spooky giant spider webs. Have your kids paint faces on small and mini pumpkins to set around on tables and floors. The multi-colored leaves on the trees in your yard will provide loads of color for decorating.

A costume box with found items from thrift stores, garage sales, fabric scraps, and wardrobe rejects is handy year round. Add a crazy hat and other colorful accessories, and you have the makings of a great Halloween outfit. Target and Wal-Mart stores have sales on costumes right now, so take advantage of the savings. My favorite new DIY costumes for this year is Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese and Mary Poppins.

Make a simple photo booth for parties by taping a bed sheet against a blank wall. Add crepe paper strips, garlands of plastic flowers or leaves, or cut out construction paper shapes and tape them onto the sheet. Don’t forget to pull out hats, jewelry, old coats and glasses from your costume box.  You can make a zombie tombstone motif by cutting out and drawing on cardboard. Kids can easily help put this together and in the selfie age, this is a popular party feature. Post party photos on social media and tag family members who can’t make it in person.

Credits: Andy Walston--RUI Accountant, Pinterest, Food Network, Oriental Trading Company, YouTube, Amazon, and Mom!

Fall is in the Air

Wichita Fall Events

Room 5 brought a taste of fall into the classroom learning to make their own homemade applesauce! Wichita is filled with many family-friendly events to help your family enjoy the season.

Homemade Applesauce Recipe

3 lbs. apples, cored and sliced (Granny Smith are excellent)
½ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice                                                                                                         
Simmer on high for 1½ hours. Mash when soft. Chill and serve.



Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Botanica, October 10-12

Throughout Botanica, there will be 500 uniquely carved pumpkins lit up for everyone to see, These pumpkins have been carved by volunteer groups and individuals in the Wichita community. They will have live music, local craft beer from some of your favorite breweries and food for purchase from local restaurants and food trucks. Tickets are $9 for non-members and $6 for members. Open October 10, 11, and 12 at 6:00 pm.

BOOtanica at Botanica, October 13

Join in the fun at Botanica's spookiest celebration of the year, BOOtanica! The family-friendly event will be held at Botanica on Oct. 13, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Bring the kids out to see the entire garden filled with a variety of different stations featuring activities for children of all ages. The event boasts games, art projects, live animals and more! See into the future with the help of a fortune teller, or learn a little from the Bug Lady, and representatives from Exploration Place, and the Sedgwick County Zoo. There will be live music, demonstrations and more. General Admission is priced at $9 for the public and $6 for members.

Pumpkins at the Park at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, Starting October 19

Another of Wichita's Signature Halloween events, Tanganyika's Pumpkins at the Park will be held October 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. This event offers something for everyone in the family! Children 

will enjoy trick-or-treating through the park, crafts and games. Older kids and teens can test their skills in a creepy cage maze, and try to survive in a zombie laser experience. The Witches Brew will have drinks for adults.

There are different ticket packages depending on the activities you want.

Spooky Science at Exploration Place, October 20th

This spooky spectacular returns to Exploration Place for another year! Kids will feel like they’re working in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab as they mix up ooey, gooey experiments. This event is fun for all ages, and costumes are encouraged. Spooky Science is included in general museum admission.

Night of the Living Zoo at Sedgwick County Zoo, October 26-28th

Enjoy a night of not-too-scary fun with your ghouls and goblins at Night of the Living Zoo! From 6:30-8:30 p.m. on October 26, 27, and 28, guests can participate in a variety of Halloween-themed activities throughout the zoo. Try your hand at pumpkin bowling, visit Dracula and fortune tellers, take a stroll down Jack-o-Lantern Lane, and more. Grab some goodies as you stroll through Candy Land, but don't forget to say Trick or Treat! Costumes are welcome.

You may see some animals in their outdoor exhibits, but most animals will not be in attendance.Advance tickets can be purchased online and at area Quiktrip stores starting October 1. Tickets are priced at $7 for Zoo members and $9 for nonmembers. Children 2 and under do not need a ticket.

Amber Tra

aka Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack

Being a member of a family with a child with special needs means experiencing challenges and opportunities other families may not encounter. Thirteen year old Amber is the oldest of six children in the Tra family. Amber has Smith-Magenis Syndrome, with learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Amber’s mother, Katy, said “For our family, Rainbows fills a need that lets our family feel more normal. Amber gets to feel more like the other kids because she has her own activity outside of home.”

While Amber attends public school, her five siblings are homeschooled. “Rainbows helps with this, too! Amber’s brothers and sisters love her, but it can be a challenge to have her around during the school day,” explained Katy. “When she is home, Amber will often take my attention away from the other children or she will disrupt their activities. We are able to finish up the school day while Amber is at Rainbows’ latchkey.”

Amber attends the latchkey program and also Camp Woodchuck. “I love how Amber has become more active. At Rainbows, there are so many opportunities for activities and interactions,” said Katy. “Amber is delightful. She is so fun to be with and makes her favorite people feel pretty special. She has a lot of favorite people!”

Amber’s dad, Frank, is a cancer pharmacist and author. Frank recently published a picture book that features the Tra children as characters. Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack is a fun story about siblings playing and imagining together. Amber’s alter-ego in the book is the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack. A copy of this special book in the Rainbows’ Kids’ Point children’s library.