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Beyond I CAN is a program dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals who have disabilities and gifts through the experience of running their own business, from artistic design and production to marketing and sales. By enhancing the quality of participants’ lives with self-confidence built on real abilities instead of their disabilities, the Beyond I CAN Gift Shop & Studio encourages a natural transition from the world of school to the world of adult living.
Beyond I CAN offers three main areas of support for artisans: vocational, social, and wellness.
Beyond I CAN provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to operate a business with assistance from seniors, volunteers, college students, parents and teachers by providing an integrated workplace where respect has an opportunity to grow. High school and post high school individuals with special needs are welcomed as they learn how to operate the gallery and gift shop and create a quality line of products.
Many Beyond I CAN participants have graduated from local high schools with a certificate of completion. But when they attempt to secure employment they have been told they will need a GED in order to be hired. As a result these young people are easily discouraged and often sit at home and no longer look for employment, feeling they really don’t fit in anywhere. These adults do not usually qualify for sheltered workshop work and often develop a hopelessness concerning employment. The Beyond I CAN program looks at each individual for areas of talent and interest to build on and offers them positive work experiences and opportunities.
Beyond I CAN addresses the social needs of its workforce through monthly parties, which are funded by snack sales. Over time, many of the artisans at Beyond I CAN thought it would be neat if they could get together socially after they were done working. They came up with the idea of buying drinks and snacks on sale and selling them to workers who were taking a work break during their daily Beyond I CAN schedule. Then a parent also began supplying the group with pre-packaged snacks purchased at discount. They soon had enough money from the snack sales to host monthly parties where they also could celebrate any birthday that fell during the month. To date they have had a luau, bowling night, game and karaoke party, Christmas and Halloween celebration, picnic and wheelchair art party to mention a few. Our parties are so much fun that many of our artisans start counting down to the next one right as the current one ends!
Beyond I CAN also addresses some wellness issues facing those in wheelchairs. This population often has difficulty with lack of movement and weight gain. A plan is under way to host leaders who will help our workers with exercise from a seated position. VSAI is sending a yoga instructor to teach our workers as a group. We also offer healthier snack choices during our break times.