Wednesday, May 17th, 2017...1:11 pm

Paul’s Pals: Creating accommodation

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Paul’s Pals and its expanded mission to enrich the lives of children with disabilities

 By MAX SPARBER

 The world is not terribly accommodating to people with disabilities, a fact that was made abundantly clear at a previous job, when I helped edit Access Press, a local newspaper for the disabled community.

Paul Adelman

Paul Adelman (Photo: Paul’s Pals)

Adults with disabilities would write in, complaining that restaurants or bookstores or other businesses had failed to make even the minimum accommodations required by law, and were disinterested when disabled patrons complained.

It was hard for adults; how much harder for children? Floyd and Andrea Adelman had a child, Paul Adelman, who was disabled due to surgeries. The Adelmans found sympathetic organizations, including Courage Center, Miracle League and a Boy Scouts troop, that assisted with their son’s needs, and an adaptive playground, designed for disabled children.

When Paul died at the age of 12, the Adelmans founded an organization in his name with the mission of helping to fund organizations that were seeking to make themselves more accessible to disabled children.

It was part of the Jewish Community Foundation since 1994, when it was called The Paul Adelman Children with Disabilities Endowment Fund; and two years ago the organization split off to become its own 501(c)(3), renamed Paul’s Pals.

Executive Director Jennifer Lewin explains that the shift was prompted by growing goals and an expanded mission. “In the last 20-come years we have granted nearly 1.5 million dollars to 100 projects,” she says, “but previously we had one annual fundraiser, we distributed the money, and that was it.”

Instead, she explains, the organization now wants to increasingly be a resource for organizations, and is looking to seek out organizations that might benefit from their expertise and fundraising, rather than exclusively focusing on providing grants for organizations that come to them.

As an example, Paul’s Pals recently funded the development of the Paul Adelman Assistive Technology Collection at Pacer Center. “It will be a 21st century model for assistive technology,” Lewin says. The collection will be designed to be accommodating to disabilities, including “touch screens, talk to text monitors, chairs that can be adjusted to the needs of the user,” explains Lewin. The collection will provide parents, educators and “youth through adults with disabilities” with educational and communication resources.

Paul’s Pals recently released a list of 2017 grant recipients, which includes the Autism Society of Minnesota, in part for state-wide distance learning; and Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, which will purchase adaptive sports and recreation equipment. Also included among the grantees is Golden Valley Parks and Recreation, which is planning to build an “inclusive” playground, designed to adapt to the needs of disabled users, which recalls Paul Adelman’s own childhood experiences with an accessible playground.

Paul’s Pals has two events coming up: On June 13 they will have their annual Paul’s Pals Pop-Up, a toy giveaway at the Maple Grove Toys R Us. On July 24 the organization will have its annual fundraiser, a golf tournament and party. Visit pauls-pals.org for more information.

(American Jewish World, 5.19.17)

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