In 1963, parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities started in Lafayette what would become Imagine! to help their kids become active, participating members of their neighborhoods.
“What they were wanting was, at the time, a really radical idea,” says Fred Hobbs, Imagine!’s director of public relations for the last 18 years. “People with developmental disabilities weren't part of their communities. They were literally hidden away.”
The first of Colorado’s 20 Community Centered Boards—or CCBs, nonprofits that organize government-funded programs for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities—Imagine! offers therapeutic, educational, family support and case management services for those of all ages. Last year, over 4,400 people received services from Imagine!, thanks in large part to the support of the Imagine! Foundation, which fundraises for, and educates about Imagine!’s offerings.
One of these people is the son of the Imagine! Foundation’s Executive Director David Grimsland. David’s son began receiving services through Imagine! within his first year of life, even before a diagnosis was established. David’s family has taken advantage of various services through the years, many of which would not be covered by typical health insurance. When his son recently turned 18, he gained access to adult services, like residential and employment opportunities.
“It’s a dream come true to work for an organization whose mission aligns so closely with my own and supports the community we live in,” David says.
Fred is also moved by the work he does at Imagine!: “I go home at the end of the day, even if it was a rough day, knowing that, at the very least, my work somehow touched someone's life in a way that made it more positive for them. That continues to be the motivator for me.”
Imagine! offers both CCB services – like early intervention, family support and case management services—and direct support services, like job training and placement, recreational activities and behavioral health services. But many organizations only offer one or the other.
Starting July 2024, Colorado’s Case Management Redesign will split Imagine!’s CCB and direct support services. This is because the state is combining CCBs with case management agencies, which offer different programs, often making it difficult for those who qualify for multiple programs to navigate the system.
“In the time I've been here, and I would argue probably in Imagine!’s 60 years, it is the biggest challenge that we've ever faced,” Fred says of the redesign. Imagine! has been busy navigating how to split its services over the last couple of years.
“I think it's done somewhat of a disservice to the population that we serve,” Fred adds. “Instead of being able to focus that passion on: What can we do next? What can we do better? Right now, we have to figure out: What can we do so that this split doesn't completely disrupt their lives?” While Imagine!’s CCB services will be renamed, its direct support services will keep the Imagine! moniker.
On Feb. 3 at the Marriott in Westminster, the Imagine! Foundation will host its 23rd Imagine! Celebration, a gala that raises nearly half of the foundation’s annual funding. Because a majority of Imagine!’s funding comes from Medicaid, state, county and city funding, it can only be used for certain things.
“It's those funds that are raised that allow us to step beyond,” Fred says. “We're dealing with human beings, and there's a lot of times when those guardrails don't actually help meet the needs of individuals.”
“It’s a real way to immerse the audience in Imagine!’s mission,” Fred adds of the Imagine! Celebration. “We can’t do what we do without the support of our community.”
Buy a ticket to Imagine! Celebration at ImagineColorado.org.