The Studio Blog Archive

A few posts we've written over the years

President's Letter

A Gratitude List

In this time of year where many of us feel like we are running trying to keep up with what has to get done at work, with family, in preparing for the holidays and trying to find the right gifts. I am making one list after another to keep track of my tasks. One of the lists is more important than the others, though. It is a Gratitude List. I do think it is important to take time to be grateful for people and things in our lives rather than what we do not have or think we need. 

So here is my Gratitude List:

1)  Grateful for working in a field that I am passionate about, doing work that matters, and providing me a meaningful career.

2)  Grateful for my family who brings me much joy and reflection on our lives.

3)  Grateful for families who trust Rainbows in serving their children - most of the time in their own homes.

4)  Grateful for a staff of skilled individuals who are committed to the services they provide.

5)  Grateful for volunteers who give of their time and resources to support Rainbows' Mission. In FY 2018, 7,987 hours were given!

6)  Grateful for staff who volunteer. At many of our events, almost half of the volunteers are staff.

7)  Grateful for an engaged Board of Directors whose generosity and service amaze me every day.

8)  Grateful for a community who is mindful of the needs of so many and collectively wants to create opportunities for those who are left out.

9)  Grateful for the many donors' philanthropic spirit that has kept Rainbows' Mission alive for more than 46 years and counting.

10) Grateful for the grace and acceptance of others who embrace each individual as a valuable gift. 

It was a great year - 2018

Rainbows’ Annual Meeting

Rainbows’ Annual Meeting was held Tuesday, December 11 at Aloft Hotel. The evening was one of celebration and recognition of 2018 accomplishments - and there were many.

Board of Director’s Chair, Gail Johnson of Intrust Bank, welcomed the group of nearly 75 people and shared the following milestones:

  • In 2018 Rainbows celebrated 46 years of making a difference. This year more than 3,845 children with special needs, birth through age 21 and their families were served.
  • Rainbows’ Strategic Plan was completed and implementation began.
  • An AmeriCorps VISTA Summer position supported Camp Woodchuck and the Camp was attended by 108 school aged youth.
  • A dedicated User group of employees built the new client tracking system in myEvolv, putting in hundreds of hours in addition to other responsibilities.
  • We had more than 481 volunteers who put in 7,987 hours of service
  • $2 million was secured in the Kansas Legislature for tiny-k funding of services to infants and toddlers statewide
  • ABC Project, which stands for Attachment Bio-behavioral Catch-Up, was implemented and served 50 families at risk.
  • Each of our fundraising events raised significant amounts:
    1. 43rd Annual Blarney Breakfast raised $47,000
    2. Rainbows’ Run became a morning event and raised more than $20,000 for services in Butler County
    3. The 14th Annual Fashion Passion raised $445,000
    4. And, the 11th Annual Peter Hampel’s Luau raised $46,600 for children with special needs. 
  • The CJ Memorial Foundation donated $8,500 to Rainbows to support Camp Woodchuck
  • 42 grants were submitted with a 69% approval rate.
  • An Interactive Presentation was developed internally and includes 3 new video options to show Rainbows’ services in the community.
  • A talented and generous group of volunteers developed a Super Hero Project video featuring Rainbows’ youth super powers to raise awareness and funding for Camp Woodchuck.

Incoming Board Chair, Janeen Hughes, with Intrust Wealth, presented the following awards.

This first award was to Old Chicago East and Steve Hohl for their support of the Blarney Breakfast. The Blarney Breakfast has a long history in our community and in 2009, Old Chicago became a part of the rich history by becoming the host site for the Blarney Breakfast. Everyone from the wait staff, to the managers and regional leadership get involved to make the breakfast a success!  Managers coordinate with US Foods to ensure all the food is donated for the breakfast.

All of the wait staff who work the Blarney Breakfast have volunteered their time; some are previous Old Chicago employees that come back to work the breakfast; and others are family members of employees who also want to participate in the fun

The staff at Old Chicago serve 1,000 people breakfast in only 3 hours!  That’s an amazing task for any restaurant, let alone a restaurant that’s known for serving pizza! The Blarney Breakfast has been described as organized chaos and through it all, the staff at Old Chicago always provide great customer service, provide wonderful food for all our patrons and do it all with a smile and a little Irish kick in their step.

Our partnership with Old Chicago has allowed Rainbows to continue serving children with special needs – thank you for continued support and for changing the lives of children with special needs and we grateful.

The next award was presented to Neil Guthrie, recently retired Wichita Public Schools Special Education Director. Neil has been a longtime friend of Rainbows. The relationship first started when he was the Special Education Director of Haysville Schools. He was instrumental in helping Rainbows access State special education funding for our Infant/Toddler Services. This continued when he became the Special Education Director of the Wichita Public Schools.

Neil was a champion of Rainbows throughout our restructuring phase always assisting and encouraging. He is an advocate for early childhood education and recognizes the critical role families play in the education of young children.

He became Dr. Neil Guthrie in 2016. We are grateful for his support over the years.

Our third award & recognition was to Sue Leisman, with The Miller Group

Sue is a Senior Account Executive with The Miller Group - Rainbows’ Broker - focusing on Employee Benefits and Human Resources.

What Sue really is to Rainbows - is “Invaluable”. In fact, senior leadership at The Miller Group have been told Sue is to NEVER be taken off our account. Sue is an essential partner of Rainbows assisting us annually in getting the best pricing for the best health insurance coverage and other benefits for our employees.

When an employee has a unique situation and is being denied coverage, Sue goes to bat working with our insurance carrier and usually resolves the situation. Without her intervention, this would not happen. She talks and works faster than anyone else we know – always responsive, thorough and professional.

A BIG thank you to Sue, for being a valuable partner of Rainbows.

Although she was unable to be present at the event, Senator Carolyn McGinn was honored for her support. During the Kansas 2018 Legislative Session, an additional $2 million was secured for the Statewide Infant/Toddler System known as tiny-k. This would not have happened without the leadership and guiding hand of Sen. McGinn.


In the Fall of 2017, Sen. McGinn toured Rainbows and heard about the funding need – some infant/toddler networks were closing because of lack of funding. Sen. McGinn, always quick to know the numbers asked key questions to have a better understanding of the situation. She then put into the Ways and Means budget – which she Chairs – a request for the additional $2 million.

Some may have shied away from requesting more funding for anything but not Sen. McGinn. She is a strong advocate for Kansans who need assistance and believes that is a role of State government. Because of the respect that she has earned from fellow Legislators and the Administration, she successfully secured the much needed funding.

We were honored to thank Senator McGinn for her courage and confident leadership in supporting services to young children with special needs and their families.

Our final community award recognized the Super Hero Project team of Jake Ramsey, Meghan Polk and The Justin McClure Team. With a little inspiration and a lot of determination, four friends turned a social media share into a powerful film with a lot of heart.

Jake, Meghan, Justin and Hayley Lunn (who was not present) connected on social media and combined their talents to bring out the super hero in our Rainbows’ youth. They went on local televisions and asked the public to donate super hero costumes

Justin and his team brought in the green screen and professional equipment.

When our Rainbows’ kids put on the super hero costumes and got in front of the camera they were transformed. Their super powers like: kindness; helping; adventurer; dancer; and dependability all came front and center.

Justin and his team animated the amazing backgrounds and added the special effects to the film, giving it the BAM, POW and SHAZAM that makes it all work. These volunteers organized a showing of the short film at the Orpheum theater for the kids and their families to view the film for the first time on the big screen……then, they held a Launch Party and shared the film on social media sharing Rainbows mission to thousands around the world.

It was our pleasure to thank them for sharing their super powers of ingenuity and generosity with Rainbows through this project.

The presentations concluded with Rainbows’ Prism Award. This award was created to honor a Rainbows staff member for exemplary service who demonstrates all of the Guiding Principles. This person is nominated and voted on by the program coordinators.


This year’s Prism Award winner is Peggy Burns, a member of Sedgwick County Infant/Toddler Services. She has worked for Rainbows for 13 years as a Speech language Pathologist.

She is a hardworking, dedicated, kind, intelligent staff member who can remain positive and inspire others even in the most difficult circumstances. She is a valued team member because of her composure and her willingness to take on responsibility.

Members of the Builders Group have reflected on their experience bringing myEvolv into being, they emphasize the stress, the teamwork that is required, and the difficulty of managing one’s regular job while producing Rainbows new database.

They see the one person in their group who has been able to maintain a positive attitude throughout these last 12 months, show patience and compassion for other Builders, and demonstrate leadership. 

Peggy has done an amazing job managing her ITS caseload while serving as a Builder. The Guiding Principle that she has illuminated for us is “Actively listen and effectively communicate.” She has done a stellar job in listening to her coworkers in the Sedgwick County ITS team and bringing their concerns about myEvolv to the Builders Group.

Another Guiding Principle that is evident is her steadfast commitment to “Achieving success through teamwork, partnership and collaboration.” When collaborating she listens to all voices and looks at all the angles of a situation before she speaks thoughtfully.

Peggy’s name will be placed on the Prism Award plaque at Kids’ Point.

The evening concluded with thanking Gail Johnson for serving as Chair for the past two years and some brief business including recognizing Janeen Hughes as 2019-2020 Board of Director’s Chair.


- By Michelle Eastman and Jane Eby

Letter from the President

Commitment to Rainbows’ Annual Campaign
Deb - Annual Campaign

Rainbows United does a direct mail Campaign twice a year – Fall and Spring. A letter should be landing in your mailbox soon. It is one of the ways we can share the great stories about the children and families we serve. 

The Fall Campaign Letter focuses on two-year-old Mathew and his parents Kayla and Alex. They, like so many of us, anticipated the birth of their baby boy with hopes and dreams. Matthew was born early but it seemed things were on track with him until certain skills did not develop, like standing, crawling and use of words. It was Matthew’s doctor who recommended Rainbows to the family. Now an Occupational Therapist visits the family home regularly to work with Matthew and his parents. After the first six months of services, Matthew began progressing and continues to do so.

In the Fall Campaign letter, you will also see Jude who loves Camp Woodchuck; Marshall who is receiving services through Rainbows’ Infant/Toddler Services; darling Reyna who was born with Down syndrome; and Isaac who just graduated from high school at age 18 after being connected to Rainbows since he was a baby. It is such a privilege to help children and families thrive. 

I hope you will take a minute to read the Campaign mailer when you receive it. Of our $1.2 million annual goal for fundraising, the two Campaign mailings make up $90,000. We need everyone’s support in helping us reach that goal in order to continue quality services to more than 3,200 children with special needs and their families. 

Deb Voth, President

Rainbows’ Experience

Love of Rainbows leads to career
Childcare photo

This month will mark two years since I started working at Rainbows. I was hired to work in the toddlers’ room, as an Opener. When I started, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t used to working with children that young and wasn’t sure if it would be a good fit. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d stay at Rainbows very long. It took me less than one month to fall in love with the job. While being an Opener required me to get up between 4:30-5:00 a.m., I always looked forward to going into work and getting to play with the children. I was recently moved to be a Closer in the infants’ room, and I got to fall in love with being in that room! I look forward to going into work every day, and getting to play, hold and watch the kiddos grow and learn.

This year, I decided to go back to school after taking a two-year break. I’ve decided to become a teacher, and Wichita State University has an amazing Early Childhood and Elementary Education programs for students working as para-educators. I am able to do all my classes online and use my hours as a para-educator at Rainbows towards my student teaching. It’s because of Rainbows that I am in the program!

Not only does this month mark my two-year Rainbows’ anniversary, it’s also the holiday season! It’s so much fun to get to listen to Christmas music with the kids and play with instruments. I also enjoy getting to see the decorations each classroom sets up, and each of the crafts the kids have done throughout the day.

Working with children has its challenges. It can be frustrating to tell a child one hundred times in an hour to use nice touches, and to keep their feet on the floor. It can also be hard to comfort a crying baby when you aren’t sure what’s wrong. However, that’s why it’s so nice to have several people in each room. If I’m reaching a point where I’m worn out from the situation, I can ask one of my co-workers to help, and get a break from that particular situation. At the end of the day, I love my job and I’m grateful to get to spend my days working at Rainbows!

-Mariah Roberson, Para-educator


Hard work, Generosity, Community

The Spirit of Fashion Passion
Fashion Passion Models

By Melani Kliewer, Volunteer Coordinator

Fashion Passion is Rainbows’ signature fundraising event, with 600 guests, a catered dinner, live and silent auctions, a raffle, a photo booth, music by DJ Carbon, Fashion Passion cocktails, and a professional runway show. My name is Melani Kliewer and I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for Rainbows United. 2018 was my first year at Fashion Passion. 

Oh…and I needed to recruit, train, and coordinate more than 100 volunteers for the event. But that is not what this story is about.

This story is about the spirit found at Rainbows’ Fashion Passion. It is about the hard work, the dedication, the generosity, and the laughter that is a part of this event that raised $445,000 in net proceeds for Rainbows United, Inc.

Planning for Fashion Passion, held the Friday before Thanksgiving, begins in January. Actually, the “thinking” behind Fashion Passion really never stops. I asked our Development Vice President, Angela Kessler, if she wakes up thinking about ideas for the event.  She laughed and replied, “I never stop thinking about it. I will see a magazine layout or a picture in some catalog and say to myself, that would be wonderful for next year’s event.” One of the Friends of the Heart committee members flew to Las Vegas the day after Fashion Passion 2018 and sent a message to Angela saying she’d seen something perfect for next year’s event. This is the commitment behind Fashion Passion and Rainbows.

My favorite part of my first year at Fashion Passion was undoubtedly the laughter and the enthusiasm of everyone involved. We work long hours to put together this massive undertaking with the purpose of giving our guests a night to remember. Volunteers train for hours getting ready and work long shifts the night of the event. There is a bond, a kind of community that forms between people working hard toward the same goal. When you add in the mission behind this event, there is a sense of joy, of fulfillment, of purpose that infuses the atmosphere.

This sense of dedication, joy and generosity is not only seen in the smiles of the staff and volunteers, but is wonderful to behold in the faces of the guests who come to Fashion Passion.  Yes, our guests come for the party. Yes, our guests come for the prizes and the great food. Yes, our guests come for the Fashion Show. But most importantly, our guests come to donate because they believe in the mission: To enhance the lives of children with special needs and their families by bringing together community resources and providing customized service.