It all started with a motivated parent and a passionate educator.
Circle of Friends was founded in the fall of 2018 by Katie Urhausen and Jenn Davis – two individuals who came together over one simple concept: children and youth with severe disabilities and medical hurdles are just like anyone else – they deserve opportunities. As the families of these individuals will attest, day-to-day life navigating the complex needs of a child is complicated enough, so having the guidance and resources from a supportive community should not be. And as a mother of a child with complex needs and a special education teacher, respectively, Katie and Jenn are motivated to facilitate change.
Back in 2018, Katie realized that there was no central hub for children with complex disabilities and their families; no specialized and centralized support system for children like her daughter Jovie. She thought that if there were not options for families with complex children, it was time to make one. So she emailed Jenn, her child’s former early intervention teacher (who happens to be a legend in Lane County), and asked her thoughts on building a non-profit, and Jenn replied with a resounding “YES!” And the rest is – or will be – history.
As you can imagine, COVID was a really big nail in our tire. Children who already experienced medical concerns as their norm would then have to face an unknown and highly contagious virus. Despite these challenges, and Circle of Friends being unable to offer in-person events and camps, we still had goals to accomplish. Yes, they have been big, but yes, we’ve been making them happen. Here is what we offer, and envision, in three parts:
We believe that by building a gathering place for children, youth, and their families, we can break the cycle of isolation and provide essential support to those on this unique journey. Through respite care events, day camps, summer programming, and family-friendly events, we are building up natural supports and friendships that will keep our families strong.
Access + Training
Through an onsite lending library and with the support of our community partners, we want to provide youth and families with the equipment they need to promote mobility, harness communication, increase play and recreation, and improve access to the larger Lane County community. We will give youth and families access to necessary and alternative therapies such as music/movement, aquatics, dog therapy, etc. Access to these needed supports promotes self-confidence, independence, and self-esteem. Through training, Circle of Friends will be the gathering place for parents, professionals, and community partners to share wisdom, experience, expertise, and strategies to help empower their youth and increase participation in their homes, community, and school environments.
For families who want an alternative educational placement that provides year-round programming to youth grades Pre-K to 8th, Circle of Friends will provide appropriate support and individualized learning opportunities that maximize youth participation, amplify youth voices, expands mobility, and fosters independence in a supported community of professionals, volunteers, and parents.
Figure out what breaks your heart in the world. That’s your purpose. Find the folks working to fix that thing and join them. Those are your people.
Let’s build something beautiful together.