The Studio Blog Archive

A few posts we've written over the years

Christy Hutto

2019 Prism Award Honoree

As the year comes to a close, we want to take a moment to recognize this year’s Prism Award honoree: Christy Hutto, Program Assistant for Connecting Point. “With so many long-term passionate staff members, it’s fitting to honor someone who has interacted with so many Rainbows’ families at a time when they are seeking help,” said Deb Voth, President. “Christy is on the front lines giving families hope, hearing their concerns, and getting them connected.”

The Prism Award was created to recognize an outstanding Rainbows employee who embodies our guiding principles, is a role model for other staff, and goes above and beyond job duties to fulfill Rainbows’ mission.

A Prism reflects light and turns it into a Rainbow. The Prism Award is given in appreciation of a staff member who reflects quality and value in the work they do with children, families, and the community on behalf of Rainbows United.

Program Coordinators have the honor of selecting the Prism Award winner. Nominations for this award are made independently by Program Coordinators and shared at a special meeting. The group celebrates the nominees and then narrows down the list of candidates until a winner is chosen. The process involves hearing wonderful things about how staff members take initiative, solve problems, advance Rainbows’ mission, and serve children and families.

This year’s honoree actively contributes to a positive working environment and culture of treating others with dignity, respect and compassion. Among Rainbows’ staff she stands out as someone who knows about eligibility and enrollment in each of Rainbows’ direct services. She is a go-to person for information about community services and resources. When working with families, she asks questions and takes the time to listen to their needs so she can direct them to the best resource or service. She has earned the respect of her coworkers and community partners by genuinely caring about people.  Throughout her 21 years of service to Rainbows, she has demonstrated the guiding principle of achieving success through teamwork, partnerships and collaboration.

Christy says she was shocked and surprised that she was chosen as the year’s honoree. “I know the wonderful people who I work with and to be recognized among them is a real honor,” said Christy. “I love what I do. Making a difference for children and families alongside other passionate and talented people is the best.”

As the Program Assistant for Connecting Point, Christy is often parents’ first contact with services for children with special needs. Christy, her dedication to Connecting Point and Rainbows has helped to raise the level of awareness of Rainbows’ services and the importance of early intervention throughout Sedgwick County. She expertly handles the task of getting parents where they need to be, whether it is Screen for Success, Infant/Toddler Services, their school district, mental health or other community-based services.

Her co-workers admire her ability to keep her composure regardless of the situation. By actively listening and effectively communicating she is a calming, reassuring influence.  She has taken the initiative to develop processes to make things easier for staff and families. Christy has a great sense of humor and people enjoy working with her.

The 2019 Prism Award was presented to Christy at Rainbows’ Annual Meeting December 10. Congratulations!

Rainbows United

Annual Meeting

Rainbows’ Annual Meeting was held on Tuesday, December 10 at Textron Aviation Activity Center hosted by Board of Director’s Chair Janeen Hughes and her husband Robert. Janeen shared many milestones for the past year and set the course with goals for 2020.

As part of the evening’s events Rainbows’ friend Donna Bunk was recognized for her support of the agency and her love for the children. Don Hall was recognized for his long-time relationship with the Blarney Breakfast and his passion for telling the stories of Rainbows’ children and families.

A new member to the Linda Weir Enegren Legacy Society is Wings for Dreams – Textron Aviation. The honor recognizes Textron Aviation for their leadership, positive energy, creativity, and passion for Rainbows in ushering transformative change for children with special needs through the event.

The 2019 Prism Award went to Christy Hutto, Connecting Point Program Assistant. The Prism Award honors a Rainbows’ staff member for exemplary service and demonstrating the Guiding Principles. Christy is often parents’ first contact with services for children with special needs. Christy’s dedication to Connecting Point and Rainbows has helped to raise the level of awareness of Rainbows’ services and the importance of early intervention throughout Sedgwick County.  

A special award was created to honor a group of committed, professional staff members who led the way for Rainbows into the digital age of data management. In fact, their role has been so significant that a new unique award that represents their exceptional contributions was created. Debbie Mai, Vice President of Programs and Services; Tina Beems, Management Information Systems Coordinator; Audra Kenneson, Early Childhood Mental Health and Specialized Foster Care Coordinator; Peggy Burns, Infant/Toddler Services Speech-Language Pathologist; Lindsay Coffee, Targeted Case Management and Autism Coordinator; and, Lee “Paco” Price, Infant/Toddler Services Coordinator all received the Kaleidoscope Award for their efforts of taking the many pieces of our programs and creating a sophisticated electronic record – much like a beautiful kaleidoscope makes incredible scenes out of bits of glass.

Angela Kessler, Vice President of Development was honored for her leadership of Rainbows’ fundraising efforts, her work with Wings for Dreams, and meeting the FY19 goal.

In official business, board members Michelle Lohmeier, Jim Walters, Stephanie Galichia, Gary Proffitt and Hale Ritchie were re-elected to a three-year-term. Jeff Jabara, Dr. Josh Umbehr and John DeCesaro were all honored for their contributions to the agency and completing their service as Board Members.

Grant Stannard, long-time Board member and Walt Shook, friend of Rainbows, were both remembered fondly with tributes for their love of Rainbows over many years of their involvement and support.

The slate of Board members for 2020 were voted in.
Chair: Janeen Hughes

Chair- Elect: Jim Walters

Treasurer and Finance Chair: Gail Johnson   

Secretary: Lisa Farris

Board Development Chair: Steve Cox

Communications Chair: Sherii Farmer

Fundraising Chair: Sue Doonan          

Human Resources Chair: Gary Proffitt

Mission Advocacy: Hale Ritchie

Operations Chair: Pete McKernan

Rainbows United Charitable Foundation Chair: Steve Cox


 A holiday reception followed.

Learning Activities

Holiday Fun

We’ve had such fun this holiday season with fun learning activities in our early care and education center. The amazing Kids’ Point Lead Classroom Teachers each chose an ornament for children in their classroom to create and hang on the tree in the lobby. Each Lead Teacher uses her advanced early childhood training to make sure each activity enhances a child’s growth and encourages exploration. The tree looks fun and festive in addition to hands on learning for the children in each of our high quality early care classrooms.

Classrooms 3 and 4: Miss Stephanie’s and Miss Stacy’s classrooms made precious keepsakes with each child’s footprint turned reindeer. The craft allows young children to feel the paint on their feet and see their footprint often for the very first time. Ornaments can be hung at home for years to come.

Classroom 5: Miss Paula’s classroom took the bling approach and made sparkling Christmas trees out of popsicle sticks and jewels. The fun activity engages children with glue, paint, markers and other supplies, perfect for fine motor skills and the feeling of accomplishment. A quick search of craft stick ornaments will get you more than enough inspiration for an afternoon of creating.


Classroom 6: Miss Autumn’s classroom activity included a sensory experience by using cinnamon and applesauce to make their ornaments. The children enjoyed the aroma as well as mixing and rolling the dough then cutting out the holiday shapes with cookie cutters.


Classroom 7: Miss Layton found clear plastic lightbulb shaped ornaments for the children to fill with cotton balls and paint faces on then hang on the tree for all to see. The triangle carrot nose and round coal eyes made the children say he could laugh and play as they placed their creations on the tree. Once the white flakes fall from the sky the children will be eager to get out and make their own snow creations. You can find many snowman ornament ideas online, including

Part of the fun at the front desk is to see the children point out their ornament to their families as they come and go this season,” said Kids’ Point Coordinator Michelle Croomes. “Seeing their smiles and interactions make every day filled with childlike wonder.”

Written by Sara Schaller

Thoughts from a Graduate Student

Practicum Student with Rainbows' Early Childhood Mental Health Team, Sara Schaller, shares her experience over the course of 6 months.

When I started my second and final year of graduate school, I began to experience a whole new level of anxiety; one that far exceeded the previously experienced bouts of panic and disorientation. The reality of my impending professional future was officially settling in. With graduation in sight, friends and family were beginning to ask the inevitable questions, “What kind of job are you going to get?” and “What are you going to do with your degree?” These are the kinds of questions that any college student should expect, no? Being a person who didn’t intend on incorporating social work into their professional career, let alone going to graduate school to study it, I had absolutely no idea how to respond to my inquisitive peers. In addition to feeling aimless regarding my career path, I was uncertain where I was going to fit in the collegiate puzzle of field practicums. With my mind reeling about my fast approaching future, I made the decision to pursue mental health. This was a familiar space for me, coming from a background filled with law enforcement and crisis intervention. Despite being unsure of where this venture would take me, I felt secure in the selection I had made for my final field placement as a college student. Enter stage left, Rainbows United Inc.

With nerves gone awry and my stomach in knots, I forged my way into a world unknown to me, early childhood mental health. While I had previously experienced countless encounters with individuals suffering from declining mental health, I had never worked in an environment quite like this one. I felt much like Charlie when he entered Wonka’s magical world, bewildered, excited, hopeful. From day one, I became enmeshed in a world of mental health professionals who possessed limitless amounts of compassion, caring, and knowledge. It was immediately clear to me that if childhood mental health was the direction I was heading, Rainbows’ Mental Health Department was the place for me to be. My days at Rainbows quickly became filled with informative discussions and meetings, individual therapy sessions and classroom support with amazing little kiddos, research, interventions, developmental assessments, and relying on my office buddies to fill in the gaps where my college education ran dry. I was exposed to numerous other services for special needs children, some of which I was vaguely familiar with, others I was unfamiliar with. My field instructor, the ever-fearless Mental Health Department Coordinator – Audra Kenneson, guided and lighted my path, introducing me to concepts and topics previously left unpondered. I had been gifted with the exact learning experience I didn’t know I needed.

My time as an intern at Rainbows is coming to a close. The number of my remaining days here have dwindled down to single digit numbers. With my exit date just around the corner, I want to share my experience here with others, particularly those who are also seeking their elusive life purpose or are trying to nail down their  future professional endeavors. For the last 6.5 months, Rainbows has offered me incredible insight into the world of early childhood mental health. Having previously worked with many teenaged and adult individuals suffering from various afflictions that affected their psychological well-being, I always wondered if any of those individuals would have been dealt a better deck of cards, had they received early intervention as a child. Being at Rainbows and working with young children who have been identified as having social/emotional and behavioral needs has allowed me to enter into a whole new world of hope where mental health services and early intervention are concerned. The staff at Rainbows work tirelessly and diligently, striving day after day to not only supply high quality services to children and their families, but also to improve screening efforts to effectively reach children who need services and may otherwise be overlooked.

Being someone who has had the pleasure of sharing a workspace with the incredible staff at Rainbows, I wish to stress the importance of allowing college students to intern at agencies and organizations that provide mental health services of any kind, but especially early childhood intervention. As humans, mental health is the foundation upon which we build ourselves and our lives. For mental health professionals, it is imperative that we supply children with the tools and skills necessary for them to have a strong, stable foundation that will support them for all the years of their life. If this ever-expanding industry is going to withstand the test of time, the plucky college students of the future with hopes of making a difference in the world of mental health need to have the learning experiences necessary to develop their skills. I will forever be grateful for my time spent at Rainbows, as the knowledge and experience I have earned while I was here are immeasurable. My hope is that future students will be afforded the same incredible experience that I have had, because the children of tomorrow depend on it.


Sam Haines

High Five!

Three-year-old Samuel Haines is known for his high fives, knuckle bumps and hugs. “Even when he is in the hospital, Sam will high five the doctors and nurses and steal everyone’s hearts,” said Heather, Sam’s mom. “He is happy and outgoing and spreads love wherever he goes.”

Sam has Spina Bifida, Hydrocephelus, Chiari Malformation 2 and Intermittent Exotropia. Heather adopted Sam at birth. “His condition was undiagnosed, so it was a shock,” she said. “Sam began receiving physical therapy services through Rainbows right away. Ms. Jamee, Sam’s physical therapist, was a great resource for me. She helped me understand what issues might be related to Spina Bifida and reassured me he was developing as he should. Our PT services during Sam’s first year helped relieve so much anxiety about his condition. Jamee’s experience with other kids with Spina Bifida and her calm nature were just what we needed.”

“Ms. Nicole, Sam’s Speech Language Pathologist, changed Sam’s life completely when she identified a hearing issue,” said Heather. “I can’t imagine how far behind his speech would have been if we had waited any longer to address his hearing. His speech improved by leaps and bounds after tubes were placed in his ears and his adenoids were removed. As his speech caught up with his peers, she helped us with feeding issues related to his Chiari Malformation.”

Finding child care for a child with special needs can be a challenge, but Heather and Sam were already part of the Rainbows’ family and knew the quality of Rainbows’ services. Heather chose Kids’ Point Early Care and Education for child care because she wanted Sam to be in a center with a nurse and staff who were used to working with kids who have special needs. “It was important for there to be flexibility regarding his learning to walk (one-year-old classroom) and potty training (3-year-old classroom) because kids with Spina Bifida often have bladder and bowel issues,” said Heather. 

“I wanted Sam to be around children with special needs different than his own,” said Heather. “We had no idea how he would develop and he may still need braces or a walker as his skeleton grows. I wanted him to know kids who had ‘tools’ to use and are just the same as he is. I love the inclusive spirit of Rainbows. The fact that Kids’ Point is available in our community is a blessing to us.”

“The Rainbows’ Early Childhood staff is knowledgeable and responsive to the kids’ and parents’ needs,” said Heather. When Sam went through a normal “biting stage”, the teachers at Rainbows were able to address the biting responses with a personalized strategy. “Sam has amazing language skills,” said Michelle Croomes, Early Care and Education + CBETS Coordinator. “We relied on his ability to understand how his actions were hurting others and also to hold him accountable for using his words with friends. We then added charting and positive behavior reinforcements to work through the issue. His mother and teachers kept communication lines open to make sure that everyone was doing the same things consistently.”

“This child brings joy to all who know him. He has a contagious smile and awesome sense of humor. His condition is only going to be a minor bump in the road in his story,” said Nicole. “He also has the best family and support system rooting for him!”