2020 Fall Newsletter – Our Way Forward

CEO Message

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 situation has evolved further than any of us could have ever imagined since back in March of 2020 when UCP was forced to close their physical doors for our safety.

The World Health Organization has declared this outbreak a pandemic. Many governments around the world have taken stricter and more impactful measures to ensure the safety of their citizens. In addition to the immediate and grave health concerns, we are seeing a much wider impact on the lives of our employees and the families and individuals that we serve at UCP.  Understandably, there is a great sense of unease everywhere.

It is from this perspective that I would like to share my thoughts. First and foremost, I would like to thank you for what you have done already to weather this crisis and to stay committed to UCP and our mission. Your commitment makes all the difference in the lives we continue to serve at UCP.

I would also like to reassure you that as a non-profit organization with a very successful 70-year history, we are resilient. UCP took the important steps to safely reopen in July by taking a cautious, phased in approach and making sure to have a thorough reopen plan that was grounded in the CDC recommendations and guidelines.

Let me add a personal note. Along with everyone else at UCP I am working hard to cope with this crisis. Like most of you I also have a family to worry about. At times like these, the worry list can be long for all of us, and there are no exceptions. However, I am also convinced that we will get through this if we remain diligent and hopeful. Please, do look after yourselves and your families.

– Brenda Hanserd, CEO, UCP of Central AZ

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We’re on a mission to raise $20,000 for our Laura Dozer Therapy Clinic. Your raffle ticket purchase will give the chance for a child to discover their full potential and will give YOU a chance to win. Some of the prizes up for grabs include a Louis Vuitton handbag, a Traeger grill, a drone, a fly fishing trip, a Troon North golf experience, and RYOBI tools.

Buy your tickets now by calling (602) 828-0950. Your odds of winning are high! https://ucpofcentralaz.org/ucp-grand-raffle/

UCP’s National Research Committee

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Kruer, UCP’s Board member, and Valerie Pieraccini, UCP’s Director of Therapy Programs and Early Learning Center, for being elected as co-chairs of the UCP National Research Committee.The focus of the committee is early identification and early treatment of cerebral palsy and related disorders. The committee is devoted to promoting translational research for children by advancing biomedical and therapeutic research, including promotion of evidence-based initiatives that culminate in feasible care pathways for clinicians and families.

The Journey to Independence Does Not Stop

Can you image what it’s like for someone with a disability to understand and make sense of what is going on in the world today?

From one day to the next you are being taken away from everything you know. You no longer have a routine nor the treatment and training needed to help you continue in your journey of independence…

On March 26, 2020, UCP was forced to close our Day Treatment and Training Program (DTA) abruptly due to the pandemic outbreak. Following the guidelines from the CDC, a total of thirty UCP members were sent home, most of whom have a developmental disability and who struggled to understand this sudden change. The closure caused a lot of disruption in the lives of our DTA members and their families, who were now faced with the challenge of having no extra help caring for their loved one.

Since then, UCP’s DTA program has made steady and safe progressions, thanks to funding from The Arc of Arizona and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Engagement and Comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding allowed us to be able to engage with our members from afar with fun mailed activities. Shortly after we were able to extend our engagement virtually! The virtual sessions offered valuable social interaction and engagement to our homebound members. Best of all, it gave them a sense of comfort and joy to see familiar faces, whom they’ve missed so much.

One particular member is Sam. Sam has been coming to the DTA program for 5 years. He has intellectual disabilities and is primarily non-verbal. Prior to the DTA shutdown, Sam had been receiving speech therapy to help him vocalize simple words and communicate using basic sign language. His therapy was reinforced at DTA by his Direct Support Provider’s (DSP) who would practice sign language with him. Sam’s verbal progress was thriving and progressing. Then, the pandemic happened. Sam was told he would no longer be attending the DTA program, nor be able to see his friends and his providers. This was not easy for Sam and unfortunately had to be secluded in his group home for over 5 months.

Fast forward to August, UCP was able to partially re-open the DTA program, of course, Sam was one of the first to return!  Because of so much change, Sam was assigned to a new classroom and a new DSP which caused for Sam to resort to old habits of pointing and making sounds rather than using the words he knew.  Sam’s DSP quicky realized she had to think of ways to make Sam feel comfortable so that the skills Sam worked so hard in learning, would not be forgotten. It didn’t take long for Sam’s teacher to realized he loves SpongeBob!  Right away she found fun activities for him themed around the cartoon character and sea creatures. She even brought him a gold fish for his desk. Sam’s response was astonishing. He used his words to name his new pet fish “SpongeBob”. Sam has taken full responsibility of caring for SpongeBob and enthusiastically shares with his friends at DTA all the silly things his fish does. Sam is feeling comfortable again and is so happy to be back to the DTA program with the familiar faces he knows and loves.

UCP Strong – Champion’s Virtual Event

UCP of Central Arizona had its first virtual fundraiser on August 18th. Emceed by fourteen-year-old Jack Florez.

UCP of Central Arizona had its first virtual fundraiser on August 18th. Emceed by fourteen-year-old Jack Florez, who’s cerebral palsy has never held him back from doing things like emceeing an entire event!  UCP Strong: Champions’ Virtual Event featured a thirty-minute online program that took viewers through the importance of UCP’s work and shared testimonials from individuals and their families whose lives have been impacted by UCP.

Reaching over 200 individuals and raising over $90,000, the event was a huge success. The event proved that in all circumstances, UCP remains strong.

A huge thank you goes to our presenting sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and many other incredible sponsors and in-kind donors who made our ninth Champions event and first virtual event possible.

Watch Now

UCP Engages Families in Teletherapy to Sustain Critical Care during Pandemic

For children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental delays, pausing therapy is not an option. Studies show that 90 percent of brain growth happens before age five. That’s why UCP of Central Arizona quickly launched teletherapy services, making virtual, one-on-one therapy sessions a reality for parents.

“Continuity is especially important for those receiving treatment and therapy,” said Brenda Hanserd, CEO of UCP of Central Arizona. “Our number one priority was to provide our families with alternative options to ensure that treatment and therapy would continue without interruption.”

During teletherapy sessions, a licensed UCP therapist virtually visits with families using a secure, two-way video call. The remote therapy sessions are held in close partnership between therapists, patients, and parents or caregivers at home. The sessions’ goal is to continue to maintain progress for a child or teen with special needs and maintain prioritized protocols without missing a beat. In addition, the virtual sessions gave UCP families ideas for using tools and objects around the house to help master new skills and assist in daily functions. Parents can now be more involved than ever, using hands-on techniques to help their child achieve everyday miracles at home.

“The families we serve depend on our ability to provide access to daily therapy, whether virtual like now or in-person like we’ve done for years,” said Hanserd. “Unfortunately, for some of our families, their insurance doesn’t cover services and are having to decide between paying out of pocket or they just simply cant afford it. I am grateful for our donors that have supported us throughout the years. Now more than ever, our families could use the financial support to be able to receive uninterrupted therapy.”

Become part of a child’s journey and help them continue the services they need and deserve. Donate here.

Krista is Unstoppable

Kathy was not going to let a pandemic stop Krista’s good work… Individuals do more than just daily care, they learn and grow together, practicing skills for living an independent and purposeful life.

22 year old Krista who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, receives care from her mother Kathy through our Home and Community Based Services(HCBS). Although Krista is very independent, her success is owed to her care providers, including her mom Kathy who push her everyday to learn new skills and challenge her potential. Krista recently shared with us her most reason accomplishment.  Krista has been volunteering in the kindergarten classrooms at four elementary schools since she graduated high school in 2016. She has helped with everything from bulletin boards to filing papers, bingo games and alphabet flashcards. With the support of her mother, Krista was working to gain sponsors to help transform her volunteer work into a part time job. Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a halt on that opportunity and her work in the classroom.

But Kathy was not going to let a pandemic stop Krista’s good work. Drawing on her own skills in teaching and technology, Kathy works patiently and persistently to create 45 second videos of Krista demonstrating “the letter of the week.” Several of the teachers Krista volunteers for now show her videos to their students. The kindergarteners not only learn the alphabet but also learn about persons who has different and unique abilities, like Krista.

“We all struggle with change. For individuals with disabilities, it can be harder to understand that this too shall pass, and that eventually, life will go back to what we remember or at least be a new, exciting norm we can embrace.” says Kathy.

UCP’s Home and Community Based program is available to both children and adults who are being served by the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). The program’s objective is to provide highly personalized attentive and well-trained care. Individuals do more than just daily care, they learn and grow together, practicing skills for living an independent and purposeful life.

When businesses closed their doors in March due to the pandemic, the HCBS program needed more hours of support in the home. The state regulatory agency issued some flexibilities, authorizing more hours of care for many people. Before the pandemic, UCP staff collectively worked over 2,500 hours with our members in HCBS care. During the height of quarantine, we reached nearly 3,000 hours of care. The demand is falling slightly as we resume some activities outside the home, but the need since July has consistently been over 2,600 hours.

Community Support Changes Lives

Thank you to our community partners whose funding supports UCP of Central Arizona and hundreds of children’s and adults with disabilities.

Arizona Lottery – $50,000 funding to support Speech and Language, and Feeding Therapy scholarships for children without insurance or state funding. Without the ability to communicate clearly, children lose access to many of the educational experiences that will mold them into adults.

State Farm –  $2,500 funding for the new Early Learning Center Pre-K classroom and help ensure that the children are ready to successfully transition to kindergarten.

Walmart Store #5330 – $2,500 funding for the new Early Learning Center Pre-K classroom and help ensure that the children are ready to successfully transition to kindergarten.

Arizona Diamondbacks  – $5,000 funding for the ELC preschool classroom for the purchase of needed supplies and resources in the classroom.

Arizona Cardinals$3,500 funding that enabled the Early Learning Center to purchase four trikes and indoor and outdoor climbers that will allows children to improve their coordination and motor skills.

Rob & Melani Walton Foundation$5,000 funding which enabled the UCP Therapy Clinic to purchase new and updated equipment for our therapy clinic; therapy mats, therapy stairs, exercise ball rack, parallel bars and an outdoor storage unit for therapeutic bikes and equipment.

The Arc Arizona –  $1,182 funding for our Adult Day Treatment and Training Program to fund  engagement and curriculum items for our adult members to help increase socialization, reduce anxiety, and decrease isolation during the pandemic.

Albertsons, Safeway, and Vons- $3,000 funding to provide specialized foods for our Early Learning Center to help create healthy eating habits, and to replace and enhance necessary commercial kitchen equipment in the program’s kitchen.

West Valley Maverick Foundation –  $500 funding to purchase therapy assistive technology to help young children with motor delays or disorders play and explore their world.

MAG –  $15,470 funding will allow UCP to maintain our vehicles in proper operation which are used to transport  100% of our adult participants to and from the Day Treatment and Training Program.

As a Circle K customer, you are part of our family

You might not have noticed, but at one point you have supported our cause without even realizing it! How, you ask?Well, did you know that Arizona’s 630 Circle K convenience stores have been a place where UCP has reached the hearts of thousands of people? Thanks to Circle K, UCP has a prominent place on the checkout counters where millions of customers like you have been dropping in spare change and making miracles happen in the lives of people with disabilities! Thank you and we hope you will continue to support us. The needs of those with disabilities do not stop despite a pandemic.

Arizona residents have the opportunity to allocate a portion of their state tax liability to UCP of Central Arizona and take a dollar-for-dollar credit when filing their state tax return. The dollars add up quickly and make it possible for us to offer our services and programs to even more families in need.

More information can be found on the Arizona Department of Revenue tax credit page.


Thank you to our Board of Directors for their commitment to our mission which is the foundation for independent living.  Our board, staff and families work together to help each member reach their full potential.

Manny Cairo, Dan Williams, Gary Brennan, Nicole Almond Anderson, Brett Heising, Michael Kruer M.D., Suzy Peel, Phil Barber, Judge Randall Howe, Son Yong Pak



Laura Dozer Center

1802 W. Parkside Ln Phoenix, AZ 85027

Toll free: (888) 943-5472
Telephone: (602) 943-5472
FAX: (602) 943-4936
E-mail: [email protected]

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Creating Everyday Miracles for Children and Adults with Disabilities

Contact us

1802 West Parkside Lane
Phoenix, AZ 85027

(602) 943-5472
(888) 943-5472

[email protected]