2016 SPARK Recap

December 29, 2016

It was another amazing year for Diversified Insurance Solutions’ SPARK Grant Program. Our SPARK committee worked tirelessly to select six recipients from the pool of numerous worthy applicants. Each one of the winners was able to send representatives to our office, receive their grant, and share more about the important work each organization performs in the community. This year’s recipients deal with a wide array of issues and all offer unique solutions.

Our March SPARK Grant to Wisconsin Independent Learning College (WILC) will be used to help remodel the nonprofit’s new building at 1936 MacArthur Rd. in Waukesha. WILC provides individualized education and support services to young adults with autism to help them become independent and productive members of society.

WILC’s move to a more central location will allow it to serve more students. The organization is currently working to establish partnerships with Waukesha-area nonprofits and companies to provide additional educational and vocational opportunities for its students.

Our May SPARK Grant to Blessings in a Backpack will be used to feed hungry children in Waukesha County. During the school year, Blessings provides nearly 1,000 students with food to cover the ‘weekend gap’ when their meals are uncertain. Research shows that children perform better in school when they’re fed. They have better test scores, their reading skills improve and their behavior changes.

Blessings began in Waukesha in 2012 and has grown to cover nine elementary schools and engage hundreds of volunteers. With no salaries or overhead, Blessings is able to feed one child for the entire school year with just a $100 donation.

Our July SPARK Grant to LifeStriders will support its Heroes program, which provides therapeutic riding and counseling services to military veterans and their family members at no cost. Equine therapy helps vets regain their physical and mental balance and learn coping and social skills necessary for a successful transition back to civilian life.

LifeStriders was founded in 2004 and offers no- or low-cost programs for individuals with physical disabilities, at-risk youth, young people who need help improving their social skills, as well as vets and their families. Every year, the organization provides nearly 5,000 riding lessons and group counseling sessions to children, adults, seniors and veterans.

Our September SPARK Grant to Interfaith Older Adult Programs will support both seniors and students through the Telephone Reassurance and MPS Tutor programs.

Each morning, caring and friendly volunteers contact isolated older adults to check on their well-being and deliver reassurance and support. More than 30,000 phone calls are placed each year to those who are 60 years and older who are living on their own.

As part of the MPS Tutor program, nearly 200 Interfaith volunteers spend 90 minutes each week working one-on-one and in small groups with K5 - 5th grade students on reading and math. The initiative has been implemented at 51 MPS schools and impacts 3,173 students. And, while it benefits students, it’s also great for the tutors since it keeps them active in the community and taps into their years of life and work experience.

Our October SPARK Grant to Center for Suicide Awareness will support the expansion of HOPELINE into three middle schools in Washington County.

HOPELINE is a free emotional support text service that helps youth, teens and anyone else who is dealing with mental health issues, suicidal thoughts or challenging situations. Simply text HOPELINE to 741741 to be connected with a skilled responder.

Since its inception in 2014, more than 35,000 individuals have texted HOPELINE. On average, responders spend three hours working with each person and, in the past two years, 28 lives have been saved. Anyone who is in crisis is encouraged to reach out to HOPELINE via text.

Our November SPARK Grant to Spina Bifida Wisconsin will be used to purchase ZipZac chairs for its Toddlers on the Move program.

The chairs will be loaned, free of charge, to families who have children age 12 to 36 months with Spina Bifida and who are unable to crawl or walk on their own.

ZipZac chairs are small mobility devices designed specifically for toddlers that allow them to be active and explore their surroundings. For little ones, new adventures, discoveries and experiences are vital to their childhood growth and development.

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