“Hammer Declares 2016 the Year of the Smile!”


Hammer been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. The grant funds will be used to purchase electric toothbrushes, power flossers, and anti-cavity rinses to fight germs that cause gum disease help the people we serve, attain good oral health. It will also provide the necessary education, services, and the tools to maintain great smiles!

“Damaging oral habits can be a problem for individuals with developmental disabilities, partnered with limited funds for dental visits per calendar year.” said Cathie Wood, Director of Health Services at Hammer. “The individuals we serve may also have mobility or cognitive challenges, and electric toothbrushes and flossers will help simplify their oral health routine.”

Electric ToothbrushThe products and services purchased with the grant include blue tooth enabled toothbrushes will allow us to track the progress of each persons’ daily oral health routine, partnered with regular dental visits and any additional emergency dental work needed.


Hammer declared 2016 the Year of the Smile because we believe each person we serve should have access to the resources to achieve a healthy and bright smile that that comes from consistent daily oral health. The combination of efforts will result in a healthier mouth, to help them to eat well, avoid tooth pain and tooth loss and the confidence to feel good about themselves so they smile more!

For more information on how Hammer helps people with developmental disabilities live life to the fullest, visit hammer.org

About Hammer Residences, Inc. Since opening its doors in 1923, Hammer has helped thousands of adults and children with developmental disabilities experience life to its fullest. Founder Alvina Hammer believed that individuals with disabilities had the right to lead full lives in a loving atmosphere where they would feel secure and develop self-confidence. Hammer was one of only two Minnesota organizations at that time to offer people with disabilities the opportunity to thrive in a school and home setting. Today, Hammer Residences, Inc. provides residential and customized support services, including In-Home Support; Support Planning; Case Management; and Healthcare Coordination (SNBC) to more than 1,400 people throughout the state.

About the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation supports Delta Dental of Minnesota’s mission of improving the oral health of the people in Minnesota.  The Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation supports initiatives that promote access to oral health for the underserved, especially in rural areas and for people living with low incomes across the state.

LT-LogoSometimes, a simple act of kindness is all it takes to brighten someone’s day! The sheer goodwill of people can be both comforting and humbling. Last Saturday at Black Oaks, one of the individuals living there suggested going to lunch at Lion’s Tap Family Restaurant in Eden Prairie. What the group didn’t know was that the outing would have them all in smiles by the time they left the restaurant. Here is their story, written by Program Manager, Brenda Witt from Black Oaks. 


Last Saturday at Black Oaks one of the individuals suggested going to lunch at Lion’s Tap Family Restaurant in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  It was so busy, we had to wait in line nearly thirty minutes for a table.  When it was time for us to sit at an open table, it was awkward for our party of six, (one in a wheelchair and one using a walker) to get through the crowded area.

We were directed towards one table before the waitress saw our predicament and offered us a different table.  We agreed the second table option would work better for us, and moved. The gal in the wheelchair was transferred to a chair for her to sit tall enough to eat her meal at the table. This gal has recently been leaning her body to the left, and as she was sitting, she didn’t look comfortable.  We put on our thinking caps and came up with the idea of using the other individual’s walker to prop her up and provide extra support. It worked perfectly; the individual was comfortable, and so were we!

The staff also worked as a team to configure seating at the table. They decided to place two of the individuals on opposite sides of the table because we could see they were possibly getting on each others nerves. It can sometimes seem to take forever to get a table. The gal using the walker was a real trooper, standing still while waiting, and the other individual did not understand why we had to wait so long.

Everyone settled in. 

Of course, at the beginning of ordering we expressed needing separate bills.  When nearing the end of our meal, we spoke with our waitress about how we would like to pay our bills. We had a mix of cash and credit and could put the two staff’s meals together.  The waitress stopped the conversation and started to cry.

Her tears were that of joy!  

She informed us that another patron had already paid the bill.  We asked who paid, but she said she had promised the person she would wait to tell us, until after they had left the building.

We finished our meals, reflecting on the great service we had at the establishment, and the enormous act of kindness from the anonymous bill-payer. Everyone was happy, humble and satisfied. We all thoroughly enjoyed the food and each other’s company.

After we had finished, we wanted to gather a big tip to share the wealth! Because we were working with cash and multiple people’s money, we needed change for two of the gals. When we requested this, the waitress asked why, and let us know if we were trying to give a tip, it was completely unnecessary.  We said that we wanted to, but she said no, the person who paid our bill had also already given her a very nice tip.

May good-will banter and thanks went back and forth as we accepted the gracious gift.  We a wonderful experience at lunch and went on to have a great day.

Overcoming Needle Anxiety with In-Home Flu Shots

Written by Adley Lemke, Hammer volunteer and 3rd year pharmacy student at the University of Minnesota & Melissa Hutchins, Program Manager, Zealand apartments. To learn more about Hammer’s people-centered approach visit www.hammer.org

Introducing Patient Centered Care
Adley: Needle anxiety has always been a fear that resonated with me, because I too suffer. During some small talk about school and pharmacy course work, Melissa casually mentioned she wished Zealand residents could get their flu shots at the apartment building because a few were very afraid of needles. Immediately, delivering an in-home flu shot service became my mission!

A few of members of my fraternity, Kappa Epsilon (KE), mentioned they had a desire to administer flu vaccines but no opportunities to do so. After explaining my idea, they joined in with an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm. The only challenge then was to find a pharmacist and pharmacy willing to supply the vaccine and oversee the delivery. This was not so difficult an obstacle as the first pharmacy I cold called, the New Hope Walgreen’s, had a wonderful manager, Michelle Lemke. Michelle, as it turns out has been traveling to group homes and nursing home providing the flu vaccine in patient’s homes for years. She was absolutely thrilled by the idea of taking on students to share this passion for truly patient-centered care while preventing influenza.
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This enthusiasm was as contagious as the flu: Zachary, Southcrest and Queensland all asked if their residents could also get their flu shots in-house from our team. With only administrative logistics to take care of we were ready and eager to protect Hammer residents from this year’s strain of influenza!

Solving the Problem
Melissa: I was very excited when Adley approached me about his fraternity doing a service project with Zealand.  We support individuals here who are absolutely fine with shots, a couple who are nervous about shots, and some who struggle with a lot of anxiety about receiving shots.  We want everyone to be healthy and prevent illness, but at the same time, we would like to keep anxiety levels down and support people as best as we can when they are nervous.  The idea that the individuals could be in the familiar and safe setting of their own home seemed like a great plan.  I also liked the idea of students getting an opportunity to get to know the individuals we serve.  I think this will be beneficial for them as future professional pharmacists, as they will have more knowledge and understanding of the people they will be serving.

A Successful Learning Experience
Adley: As we approached October 15th some of my fraternity members and I started to get a little nervous. In pharmacy practice the only people that come to get the flu shot rarely have anxiety associated with the immunization. Strategies for reducing anxiety are not really taught in our curriculum.

In order to prepare, I called in the help of Dr. Anne Philbrick, who is the course director teaching immunization to the Pharmacy, Dental and Nursing School at the University of Minnesota. She hosted a session on strategies to manage needle anxiety and way to deliver vaccines to scared patients. There was role-playing, and overall many of the KE members who joined left feeling even more confident in their immunization abilities. This preparation seemed a bit unnecessary after actually giving the shots. Two Zealand residents seemed excited to get their flu shot and had their arms at the ready as soon as the vaccine cooler entered the room. Others were noticeably more nervous. However, I think being in their apartments surrounded by their possessions truly comforted them and made the experience all the more positive.

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As a vaccinator I found the personal environment much more inviting than a sterile clinical space and certainly more relaxing, for both the Hammer residents and me. A few of the residents were even able to distract themselves watching Gilligan’s Island while getting their shot. After learning about strategies to reduce needle anxiety, I could not think of a more ideal environment to get a vaccine then the patient’s living room. It was truly a privilege to get to visit Zealand, Zachary, and Southcrest residents, take additional time to become friends and administer this year’s flu vaccine. Michelle, Lindsey and I are all hoping to come back again next year to poke our new friends!

An Environment of Trust
Melissa: I thought the service was a great success.  We made new friends when the pharmacist and students came over.  They were relaxed and sociable, putting everyone at ease.  Normally, we travel to clinics or pharmacies for these shots which gives people more time to fret and little chance to get to know the person giving the shot.  This year, trust was easily established in their own home with the looser timeline and comfortable setting.

Although I can talk about many of the folks here, and why this was beneficial, I would like to share two examples.  I have never seen one individual handle getting her flu shot so well.  She was able to introduce her cat to her guests, talk about her family and show pictures, and she accepted the shot with more grace than I had hoped for, all while holding a picture of her family to show them how brave she was being.  Another woman, who traditionally refuses to get a flu shot, seemed completely at ease with our new friends coming into her apartment and she chatted about her interests while expressing no reservations about the shot.  I am grateful to Michelle, Adley and Lindsey for providing a beneficial service for us.


Wait, What? The Kindness and Generosity of a Community


By Tim Eshelman, Director of Environmental Services

You know how it is, when you are busy with your life, rushing to get everything you need to do done, and then suddenly something happens to you that makes you stop in your tracks and think: wait a minute, did that really happen?

I want to share with you something that recently happened at Ridgeview, something that made me stop and reflect on the generosity and kindness of our community to those who call Hammer “home”.  This is a story you might not hear about or notice otherwise.

For a while now at Ridgeview there has been a retaining wall in need of repair.  It’s one of those expensive home repairs you know you need to do – and you never quite get to it.  A retaining wall is not a fun house project, and at Ridgeview it wasn’t an emergency house project (yet), but I’ve been keeping my eye on it. That’s the story of the retaining wall at Ridgeview.

Until I got a call from Otten Brothers Garden Center asking if we had a fall landscaping project they could do for Hammer – as a donation!  Boy did we ever!  We talked about Ridgeview, and the need for a new retaining wall and drainage system.  Before I knew it, the folks from Otten Brothers were at the house, making it all happen.  You would not believe how quickly it all came together.  As you can see in the photo above, everyone is pretty excited about the new retaining wall.

I thought you should know this story, and know how grateful I am to have so many partners, including the Otten Brothers in our mission of proving individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience life to its fullest.

My Thoughts on Accessible Transportation

IMG_3154By Self-Advocate, Amber

My name is Amber. I am 29 years old, and I have an intellectual disability. Because of this, I live in an apartment in Plymouth where I receive support from Hammer Residences. I am very independent and like to be active. I am a Special Olympics athlete, and I work as a Dietary Aid at Cornerstone Assisted Living in Plymouth. I work hard and am proud of my job.

Because of my disability, I cannot drive. I rely on several sources to help me get to where I need to go, especially to work. But each comes with an added challenge or cost, making it tough for me to work consistently and as many hours as I would like. The transportation services I most regularly use are Metro Mobility or taxi cabs. I can also get rides form my Hammer staff or just ride my bicycle.

I live 2.73 miles from where I work. Depending on traffic, it would take about 6 minutes for me to get to work by car. However, when I ride Metro Mobility, it takes between 25 – 30 minutes to go this same distance. Plus, I often wait 20 – 30 minutes to be picked up. I don’t like to be late for work. So, sometimes, when I get very anxious about being on time, I just call a cab which costs me $10.00 each way. It might not seem like a lot of money, but it adds up quickly. I also get penalized if I don’t cancel my ride with Metro Mobility an hour in advance. If that happens twice, I am unable to receive rides from Metro Mobility for 2 months.

Sometimes, my staff can give me a ride. However, if a staff person gives me a ride, that means they may be short staffed back at the apartments where I live. I am grateful when they can help, but I know there are also 11 other people that Hammer serves at my apartment complex.

Right now, I work about 20 hours a week. I would like to add extra hours to my work week, but Metro Mobility’s hours of operation limit my ability to pick up another shift.

I simply ask that legislators please take a closer look at these accessibility issues and that they support efforts to improve transportation opportunities for people with disabilities. THANK YOU!

Mayor for a Day: Alden’s Dream Come True

By Terriann Matejcek, Director of Advocacy & Volunteer Resources

aldenandLiz_1I first met Alden when he was a member of Hammer’s self-advocacy group “Power People.” Each meeting, he brought with him many local papers and spent time coming up with great ideas for how the group could promote better living for people with developmental disabilities. He would often send me pictures he had drawn or speeches he had written. They were always new, different ideas that he wanted to share. Alden stood out as a willing and eager leader who smiled frequently – a lot like a politician!

Each time I saw him he reminded me that he wanted to meet with his legislators and go to the capitol. And, he has done this at least once a year for the many years in a row now. He spoke to his legislators about better wages for staff, independent living options, reminding people not to use the “R” word, and often he added a thing or two in there about the Twins.

After one rally at the capitol rotunda, Alden told me it was his dream to make a speech in a formal, political setting like the legislators he had seen. Every single time he saw me thereafter, without fail, he would remind me of this dream. During one of his reminders, he added that he wanted to use a gavel and “whack it down hard” to bring the meeting to order.

I kept thinking that we had to find a way to let him make a speech, and I kept meaning to work on it but time got the better of me. So, when I heard that Alden was struggling and beginning to show significant signs of aging, I decided I’d better not wait.

I am a citizen of the city of Plymouth and have lived there for 16 years. I thought about how the city chambers often sit quiet and unused during the day, and I wrote a letter to my city council members and mayor. I told them about Alden’s wish, about him wanting to use a gavel, and I asked if they could help in any way. Perhaps, they would let us use the chambers during their off time?

PLY CITY COUNCIL 013I didn’t really expect to hear back for a while. I thought if I got a response, there would be a lot of questions asked along with some hemming and hawing. To my pleasant surprise, I had heard back from almost everyone on the council (individually) within 48 hours. They were all eager to make this happen, and I was connected with City Clerk Sandy Engdahl who hit the ground running.

This past Monday, August 24, the City of Plymouth allowed Alden the chance to realize his dream. At their morning meeting, he was presented with an engraved gavel which he used to bring everyone to order. He then gave a short speech, in front of a packed room, asking for people to come together to make good things happen. Additionally, the city employees gave Alden his own “Mayor for a Day” name plate, tickets to a Twins game, a Joe Mauer jersey, a Target gift card and some spending cash for the game. It was an incredible morning, showing what can happen when government and nonprofit organizations partner together for a common purpose.

Congrats Alden! And, thank you to the City of Plymouth! (You can check out a Channel 12 TV news story here.)

Government: An Invitation to Partner

By John Estrem, CEO

JohnFor more than 25 years, I have worked in social services as a volunteer, advocate and leader. I have served the homeless, the young, the old and people with disabilities. During this time I have seen a subtle but disturbing shift in the relationship between government and the organizations that serve people in need.

Since the founding of our country, the U.S. government has directly provided few social services to its citizens. Instead, the model has been to partner with (and fund) organizations to provide those services. This differs from the common European model where services are provided directly by government to its people. The genius of our approach is that organizations funded, often faith-based or other nonprofits, bring much expertise to the table. Nonprofits produce passionate volunteers and additional funding (donations), as state support is rarely adequate. More importantly, these organizations are often locally based. Why is this important? Because relationships formed by living and working in the community make people accountable and more responsive to needs of their neighbors.

In the last 15 years, something has changed. The relationship between government and service providers has deteriorated. Rather than being seen as partners helping those in need, we are treated as vendors. While that may not sound significant, it makes all the difference in the world. When we are treated as partners, our contributions are respected and honored. We are acknowledged as making a difference in the neighborhoods in which we make our own homes. Our decades – sometimes centuries – of service are a testament to our commitment to the community. When treated like vendors, it is often interpreted that we are only in this for the money and pushed to provide more for less. The services we provide – our product – are subsequently treated as a commodity. Recently, we have read news stories of providers cheating the state-federal Medicaid program through fraudulent billing practices. Reactions to this unfortunate problem might be to say we need more policing, more paperwork, more policies. I contend that cultivating a true partnership is a better way to hold us all accountable. In building relationships, we also build trust and openness. In my experience, people tend to rise to the level expected of them.

John and WayneFor more than a year, Hammer Residences has been one of six providers serving the disability community who has joined with a physician’s group to create the Altair Accountable Care Organization to search for more innovative solutions that provide better and more cost-effective support. In this collaborative, we are working together to design ways to share information, agree on important benchmarks and even integrate a person’s housing, employment, health and social well-being. I believe this example of “upstream” thinking is just what is needed. We need to redesign social services in a collaborative way, leveraging the knowledge of those of us in the field, rather than trying to do what we have always done for less money. This simply won’t work anymore.

We have many social issues to address in Minnesota right now. Increased homelessness and hunger, an education system that is falling behind, systemic racism, an aging population with increased needs and people with disabilities not able to get services they need. This may seem overwhelming, and in some ways it is. But nothing meaningful gets done if we continue being suspicious of agencies whose mission it is to serve. For 92 years, Hammer has been a nonprofit resource for the disability community. I am a tax-payer too. I am concerned about serving in the most efficient and effective ways possible. As such, I want to find solutions that work. But to do so requires us to come together, respecting one another’s expertise in order to find the right answers. I challenge us all – private and public sectors – to find that path to partnership.

Person Centered Technology – Creating the Future of Support

By Sean Henderson, Person Centered Technology Manager

According to The Arc of the United States, a national organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, two-and-a-half percent of the U.S. population lives with a developmental disability; that’s nearly eight million people.

FriendsandFamilyForum2015-32As America grows, so will this number. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening within social services. The number of direct support professionals, trained individuals who care for this population, dwindles each year while critical government funding also tightens.

Hammer Residences, and agencies similar, will need to be more efficient in providing services for more people with fewer resources in the near future. While it may sound bleak, we are preparing for this by implementing new methods of support, such as the use of person-centered technology.

Providers like Hammer currently use a physical supervision model, where the needs a person exhibits dictates the supervised hours they receive. Service is provided by the aforementioned direct support professionals. This model has worked well in the past, but it might prove difficult in years ahead.

Previously, three direct support professionals might have been scheduled to support four individuals with developmental disabilities. In the future, because of a shrinking talent pool of qualified candidates and reduced government funding, we may only have one or two on schedule. This diminished team, of course, will need to be in four places at once to ensure the same level of support.

pctm blogThis is where technology comes in. Our goal in using person-centered technology is to promote independence, life fulfillment and safety for the people Hammer supports. Through the use of connected devices, like accessible tablets, sensor systems and adapted cell phones, people can receive targeted support when they need it. This not only enables independence, but also allows staff members to be connected to others simultaneously. Be it an automated medication administration device, a tremor-canceling spoon or a simple yet effective call button, each solution is customized to address that person’s needs.

In no way am I advocating that technology replace people. Hammer will continue to function as a “people helping people” organization – just supported by the added benefits and choices the right technology provides. But, we need to prepare ourselves for the change that’s coming. The disability services field needs to focus on a future of diminished “staff power” and take advantage of the technology all around us. It can be a more independent future where anyone can attain new levels of independence and self-reliance.

I believe it can also be a safer future, where help is always there when you need it and readily available when you don’t. Most importantly, a future supported by technology will be a more connected future, where people with disabilities are the center of their support and not just a part of it.

May I Have This Dance?

By Regan McGowan, Program Manager

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend ARRM’s Annual Conference. In one of the sessions, I listened to a speaker talk about the idea of person-centered thinking. This is a well-known concept at Hammer, but it really hit home with me this particular day. The speaker shared a poem written by Elaine Popovich, a woman living with a disability. Her poem eloquently shares her perspective on the differences between her life and the lives of her staff.

You And I

I am a resident. You reside.
I am admitted. You move in.
I am aggressive. You are assertive.
I have behavior problems. You are rude.
I am non-compliant. You don’t like being told what to do.

When I ask you out for dinner, it’s an outing. When you ask someone out, it’s a date. 

I don’t know how many people have read the progress notes people write about me. I don’t even know what is in there. You didn’t speak to your best friend for a month after they read your journal.

I make mistakes during my check-writing program. Someday I might get a bank account. You forgot to record some withdrawals from your account. The bank called to remind you.

I wanted to talk with the nice looking person behind us at the grocery store. I was told that it was inappropriate to talk to strangers. You met your spouse in the produce department. They couldn’t find the bean sprouts.

I celebrated my birthday yesterday with five other residents and two staff members. I hope my family sends a card. Your family threw you a surprise party. Your brother couldn’t make it from out of state. It sounded wonderful.

My case manager sends a report every month to my guardian. It says everything I did wrong and some things I did right. You are still mad at your sister for calling your mom after you got that speeding ticket.

I am on a special diet because I am five pounds over my ideal body weight. Your doctor gave up telling you. I am learning household skills. You hate housework. I am learning leisure skills. Your shirt says you are a “couch potato.”

After I do my budget program tonight, I might get to go to McDonald’s if I have enough money. You were glad the new French restaurant took your charge card.

My Case Manager, Psychologist, R.N., Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Nutritionist and house staff set goals for me for the next year. You haven’t decided what you want out of life.

Someday I will be discharged – maybe. You will move onward and upward!

I think Elaine’s poem nails the importance of person-centered thinking on the head. As I think about my life and putting person-centered thinking into action, I reflect on my time with a boy named Emerson. This past January, I was able to visit the Mephibosheth Special Needs Home just outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. For 10 days, I was able to love and support kids who have varying physical and/or developmental disabilities. During this time I became pals with Emerson. Even though he spoke very little, he was always smiling and full of joy. He also carried around a rag wherever he went as he tended to drool quite a bit due to protruding teeth.

EmersonTo celebrate my team’s last night at the “M House,” we had a nighttime dance party complete with glow sticks. All the children were laughing and screaming, except Emerson who was sitting out on the side. One by one, different team members went over to try and get him out on the dancefloor. Every time he would simply shake his head no. After a few more songs, I walked over to Emerson and looked him in the eyes. We didn’t speak the same language, and quite frankly, I don’t even know if he knew my name. But in that moment, I grabbed his little hand with the drool rag, took it in my hand, put it on the chair and shrugged my shoulders with a smile. With both of his hands free, I gestured for him to take mine. He eagerly grabbed my hands and his grin grew until he was beaming. Needless to say, Emerson and I hit the dance floor for the rest of the party!

Elaine’s poem and Emerson’s smile remain close in my heart and mind as I work with the incredible men and women at Hammer. All Emerson wanted to do was dance like everyone else. The rag he carried his entire life inadvertently defined a part of who he was. By simply helping him put it aside, I could see a noticeable, positive difference in Emerson. What would happen if we really put person-centered thinking into motion, left the “rags” and other labels aside, and were able to dance the night away? It’s not always easy, but it is something I try to do every day with the fantastic men and women we serve who just happen to live with a disability.

Helping Hammer Individuals Reach for the Stars

By Joe Reis, Hammer Board of Directors and CEO of Coldwell Banker Burnet

4:45 am and Karen was ready to go! Matter of fact, I think she had been preparing to go for years. The February cold did not deter her spirit at all. Her dream of going to New York City, seeing a Broadway show and auditioning at the Apollo Theater was about to come true!

Back to the trip in a moment…

Hammer is a special place to my family and me. My wife Kathy and I have been volunteers for 25 years. We were first introduced to the organization and its work for those with developmental disabilities through Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Medina. It was Fr. Arnold Weber and fellow parishioner Tom Silver (one of the more giving men I know) who recruited us with the promise of “fulfillment through giving back.” We agreed to become part of the ministry, assisting those served at Hammer with transportation to Mass, faith sharing and fellowship on Sunday mornings and at various events. Over the years our three daughters also got involved, and I know we have all found fulfillment! We had no idea this ministry would lead to a lifelong relationship with Hammer and its incredible mission.

karen airportOK, back to Karen and her trip. Karen lives in a Hammer-supported apartment in Crystal. She is a talented singer and performer who has appeared in numerous productions at the Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts (which explains her love of Broadway and desire to see New York City). So, at last year’s Reach for Ralph benefit, Kathy and I made a personal commitment to help make Karen’s dream come true. We had the pleasure of providing the ride to the airport that cold morning, the start of Karen’s five day trip. At her side was Kelly Bosch, the manager of Karen’s apartment program and friend – a wonderful young woman dedicated to Karen and others at Hammer and the primary force in helping Karen realize her dream.

The early morning drive was full of conversation about travel logistics, the hotel, the show (Mama Mia), the Apollo, the cold and what to expect in the Big Apple. There was a mix of emotions as we pulled up to the airport and unloaded luggage – lots of excitement, lots of joy, and some apprehension.

Kathy and I were full of excitement too as we talked about Karen, Kelly, Hammer’s work, and the pure joy we had just witnessed. For us, the “why” behind Hammer was evident once again. It’s not about the disability; it’s about the ability, and providing opportunities to lead life to its fullest. And, it’s the people at Hammer that make it all possible – former CEO Tim Nelson, current CEO John Estrem, Chief Program Director Lisbeth Vest Armstrong, Program Managers, Direct Support Professionals, volunteers, fellow Board members, and donors who all do so much to make sure that the mission continues every day. We are so blessed to be a small part of it all.

karen lunchKelly did a wonderful job of documenting the trip and bringing it to life for all of us. Please check out her blog from a few months ago. A week or two after the trip, Kathy and I had a wonderful lunch with Karen, Kelly and Chief Development Officer Ellen Timmermann-Borer. Photos were shared and Karen walked us through her “what I liked best” list from trip. At the top of the list were things like: spa time at the hotel, the ride from the airport to the hotel, auditioning at the Apollo, pizza in bed, dancing in the aisles at Mama Mia and just taking in the New York City sights. Lunch ended with more thank you’s and hugs, and Karen let us know that she would, without a doubt, go back to New York again!

With Reach for Ralph less than one week away, Kathy and I cannot wait to help Hammer “imagine the possibilities” of lives fulfilled for each one of the individuals they support. I am once again honored to represent my company, Coldwell Banker Burnet, as the event’s presenting sponsor. It is a privilege to personally and professionally help an organization that has meant so much to me over the past 25 years.