The Studio Blog Archive

A few posts we've written over the years

Zoe Tiger

Outstanding Youth of the Year

Congratulations to Rainbows’ girl Zoe Tiger for being recognized as Outstanding Youth of the Year at the Annual InterHab Power Up Conference. Zoe was honored with the award on Friday, October 18 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Wichita.

A sweet girl with lots of energy and a sweet spirit, Zoe Tiger was born right on time, but it wasn’t until her grandmother became concerned months after she was home, that doctors diagnosed her with Down Syndrome and found a hole in her heart. She had heart surgery at 24 months and proved what her family knows now - that she’s always been a fighter. No challenge is able to stop her.

After her birth, the family lived in New Mexico and connected with early intervention services including physical, occupational and speech therapies.

“Zoe had her tonsils out right before her 3rd birthday in 2002.  She got terribly sick that night. After several days of decline, she tested positive for RSV.  The decision was made to intubate her so she could recover.  We thought we had lost her several times, but she put up quite a fight,” says her Grandmother, Sallie who has been her main caregiver and guardian throughout her life.

She was in the hospital for 6 weeks and left with oxygen full time until she was 5 years old. Sallie remembers that as a scary time in all of their lives. She talks about a time in the hospital when Zoe pushed her hand away as she tried to feed Zoe. Zoe worked hard among all the tubes and equipment to grab the spoon in her hand and feed herself. “She’s always been a fighter,” said Sallie.

When Zoe’s health was compromised at the higher elevations in New Mexico, the family moved to Wichita. Zoe was 11 years old and got connected to Rainbows for Targeted Case Management Services. Zoe has formed life-long friends at Rainbows’ Camp Woodchuck, which she has enjoyed attending for the last 8 years. Her grandmother, Sallie credits Rainbows’ with helping Zoe mature and develop social skills. “Zoe enjoys Camp Woodchuck and the social interaction she gets with her friends as well as the young staff,” said Sallie. She loves to help other Campers in wheelchairs and introduce her grandmother to her friends.

Her positive, open personality makes others in her presence comfortable. A sweet girl with a bright smile never knows a stranger. She is always friendly and willing to help others.

Over the years Zoe has made successful, yet difficult transitions between schools and now into some adult services. She was a comfort to many when her beloved grandfather passed away. She continues to attend Camp Woodchuck during the summer.

Zoe graduated from Northwest High School in 2018 and now attends Dunlap Transition Campus at Chisolm Life Skills Center where she continues to learn new activities and vocational skills. She now receives a paycheck through work she does sorting tools for Spirit Aerosystems. She also works on life skills and independence. She is part of the cheerleading squad and went to the prom this year.


She enjoys dancing, camping, raft trips with her family, and caring for animals and younger children. The family has 2 cats and 2 dogs Zoe helps care for daily. She’s learned to read, ride an adult-sized tricycle, and most recently to tie her shoes – a skill she worked at until she mastered it! Sallie says, “The only things she can’t do are the things we haven’t tried yet.”

Zoe lives with her grandmother, her biggest advocate. Sallie says, “Having Zoe in my life and seeing what she has been able to accomplish has made me a better person. My life would not have meaning without Zoe in it.”

Rainbows is proud of Zoe and all she has accomplished.

Give Thanks

Volunteer Opportunities at Rainbows

As your family gathers for the upcoming holiday, think about ways to make a difference in your community. It’s a great way to give thanks for what you have and to show your children that giving back can do good and feel good.

There are many opportunities to volunteer at Rainbows United, no matter what your interests. We have everything from gardening to filing to reading to children to special events.

Rainbows United has an agency wishlist that contains needs ranging from small to large, like toys, tennis balls or Christmas trees. Allowing your kids to participate in deciding which gift to give helps them feel involved and valued.

Photos with Santa is a fun December event to participate in or volunteer. Rainbows United always needs help with cookie decorating, crafts, and several other kid-friendly activities.

When you shop, you can help Rainbows United provide needed services for kids with special needs. Dillons’ Community Rewards and Amazon Smile are both set up to provide a percentage of your shopping total to RUI.

Giving Tuesday is a simple way to give back during the holiday season. Taking place on the Tuesday after Black Friday, log on to Rainbows United’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account and make a generous donation.

Bake some holiday treats as a family activity, then decorate, package and deliver to one of the three Rainbows United locations. Spend some time talking to the folks you meet there. You’ll spread some cheer and meet interesting people. During Camp Woodchuck in the summer, children would love to have homemade baked goods for a snack, too.

On your next birthday, plan a birthday campaign to raise funds for Rainbows United. Simply ask your friends to substitute a donation instead of a gift.

Rainbows hosts several fundraising events throughout the year.  Check our website in 2020 for opportunities to volunteer at these vital events.

Volunteering time and money impacts the community where your family lives, but can also impact your family with good values that last a lifetime.

By Carol Martin, Finance Department, RUI

Julie Gentile

Why I Support Rainbows

Since moving to Wichita three years ago, my family and I have enjoyed getting to know Wichita better.  Unique venues like the new B-29 Doc Hanger and Education Center at Eisenhower National Airport, the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, and Exploration Place help make Wichita distinctive.  We are never at a loss for places to visit and things to do when our family and friends come to visit.  My husband and I also had the chance recently to do a drive around with Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsey.  Over about three hours, Chief Ramsey showed us many different parts of Wichita.  We definitely saw the good and the bad.  He described some of the challenges a large city like Wichita faces in today’s world.  Our modern society is more connected than ever.  Through smart phones and digital applications, we have more ready access to information and resources than ever before, but communities still have to address timeless challenges that defy easy solutions.  Wichita is fortunate to have many agencies and organizations that work closely with government offices to address these many challenges.

When I first became aware of Rainbows, I was impressed with how seriously the staff took their mission to help children with different disabilities and needs.  The social workers, speech therapists, and physical therapists are all dedicated and highly motivated.  I attended the 10:15+ Club and saw first-hand how passionate and caring all staff are.

I also had the chance to visit Camp Woodchuck this summer, the recreational and leisure day program that Rainbows provides for children kindergarten through 18 years old.  The staff there are absolutely wonderful with the children.  They have so many different activities to give the children an experience they will never forget.  The talent show they staged was not to be missed.  We are so fortunate to have a facility like this in Wichita and an organization like Rainbows to help make it a reality.

Rainbows is a tremendous asset for Wichita.  For us to continue to thrive as a community, we need to ensure that our most vulnerable populations have resources to address their special needs and opportunities to experience life’s pleasures.  I am proud to be on the Rainbows’ Board of Directors and look forward to working with my colleagues to help our organization continue to fulfill its noble mission.

Julie Gentile, Community Volunteer and Rainbows’ Board Member

Raising Toddlers

The Benefits of Routines/Schedules

Routines can be useful for establishing boundaries and guidelines for toddlers. In addition, they can help a child feel comfortable and secure knowing there is certainty and predictability they can count on. Consistent routines can help a child with their ‘body clocks’ and with many day-to-day basics such as:

  • naps and sleeping well at night
  • eating healthy, full meals
  • having regular bowel movements
  • enjoying healthy play and outdoor time, and
  • calm, relaxed behavior at ‘down times’ during the day

Schedules and routines do not need to dominate the day. There is room for flexibility as well as adding fun routines you can enjoy together. Daily routines may include wake/bedtime, bath time, mealtimes and naptimes. There may also be fun and bonding routines built into the day (or week) such as playtime, family time, reading together and outdoor play.

It might be helpful to remember when you begin to establish a routine, work toward consistency and make adjustments as needed. A child’s development changes and when the schedule/routine is too strict or regimented, the benefits will be reduced. The child may feel more controlled rather than secured by it. Being flexible with establishing routines can decrease power struggles and create a calmer household, as well as increase independence and confidence in a child.

When you include meaningful and important elements into your family life, you are letting your child know what is important.


By Leslie Stevens, LCMFT