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2021 Top-Rated Nonprofit

A Touch of Understanding Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Disabilities, Disabled Persons Rights, Education, Health, Primary & Elementary Schools, Secondary & High Schools

Mission: A Touch of Understanding''s mission is to encourage acceptance and respect for all individuals. Our educational programs are designed to increase understanding of differences, thereby minimizing discrimination and social isolation suffered by children and adults who are perceived as different for any reason, but especially those with disabilties.

Target demographics: students and adults

Direct beneficiaries per year: over 10,000 students

Geographic areas served: the Sacramento area

Programs: disability awareness workshops. A Touch of Understanding provides approximately 100 presentations each school year to students in the Greater Sacramento, California area. Each student participates in the two-part program. In one part the students handle braces and artificial limbs and write in Braille, using a slate and stylus.  They use wheelchairs and white mobility canes. They complete tasks using a mirror and headphones to understand the challenges of learning disabilities and autism. The second part includes volunteer speakers who share their experiences and insight with the students. These two parts complement one another by giving students experience with the assistive devices used by people with disabilities as well as the opportunity to meet individuals who uses these tools each day.

Community Stories

98 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

KarenParsegian

Volunteer

Rating: 5

"Sometimes life throws you a curve. Or a crabapple right in the eye." Some 40 years later, the effect of that particular experience leads you to a most delightful group on a mission to level the playing field for people with disabilities and who dance like nobody’s watching. Being part of the ATOU crew these last 13 years is one of the best and most precious experiences of my life. While I enjoyed the work and opportunities that an almost 30 year corporate career path provided, being in the classroom with A Touch of Understanding is proving to be one of the most meaningful and authentic things I’ve ever done. The attitude and approach of this organization, modeled on the inclusive, kind and respectful hearts of founders Leslie Dedora and Ed Ennis, set the tone and attitude of ATOU. Oftentimes I think the volunteers and staff get more than we give. Especially on the days when a second grader makes an observation that blows your mind. Or an 8th grade student feels safe enough to confess in front of their entire class that sometimes they feel so bad and lonely, frustrated or mad that they just want out. And then there was that time when everyone in the room did the Dab dance and it was caught on film. Three years later in Target one of the students came up to me and reprised said dance move in the check out line. You just can’t make this stuff up. If ever there was a time that people needed the ATOU experience, it’s now. From the little guys to the more seasoned humans, choosing kindness, respect and inclusion for everyone makes for a fuller, better and richer life experience. Just saying… K.P.

Comments ( 1 )

mail Thanks KP for your years of dedication and work with children and adults. Your willingness to share your story with enthusiasm and humor is a wonderful experience for everyone who is participating. You are indeed a treasure and asset for ATOU. RPS

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Not only have I been able to experience the great work by ATOU, but to see the impact young children get from an afternoon of hands on exposure to what many people with challenges live with. ATOU helps break uncomfortable barriers and bring people together with knowledge, understanding and appreciations.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with ATOU since August of 2013. Its mission to educate school children about people with disabilities. build understanding, create empathy, and promote acceptance and respect for those who have a disability or may be different is tremendously powerful, memorable, and life changing for the students who go through the hands on activity stations in the workshops where they get to handle and try some of the adaptive equipment used by people have a disability and then have the opportunity to hear the incredible stories of several as speakers with disabilities who share what their disability is, how they became disabled, and how they overcame their by their disability, the tools they use, and how they live their lives. The program captures the attention of all the kids, has tremendous impact, and in addition to being insightful and educational is also tremendously inspiring for all the students who have the opportunity to go through an ATOU Workshop. use much

Comments ( 1 )

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mail 08/26/2021

Thanks Dwight for all your support and work with ATOU over the years. Your presentations and willingness to share your story has impacted thousands of children and adults. We are blessed to have you on our ATOU Team!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I have worked with ATOU for many years and the outreach to the community and the hard work and dedication makes them one of the non-profits I will always support. I have been to their fundraisers which offers the opportunity to not only hear about the good works they do and meet the dedicated staff and volunteers, we are also able to meet with some of the people that ATOU has helped. The fact that they go into the classrooms and help dispel the fear and confusion that some children (and adults!) have when they are confronted with children with disabilities provides the actual touch of understand that children and adults can learn by spending more time with folks with disabilities and calm their fears about interacting with them. Every year ATOU provides an opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone with vision impairments through their Evening of Insight events. It's truly eye-opening (pun intended) and for me, it really showed how blessed I am to have the gift of sight. My compassion for those with disabilities and my understanding and learning how to help has been taught to me by the wonderful wonderful people at ATOU. They provide an enormously important and effective service to our community. I'm proud to be a small part of what they do and have accomplished over the years.

Comments ( 1 )

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mail 08/26/2021

Thanks Debra for all your support and help promoting and donating to our mission over the years. You are a fantastic Community Partner! -RPS

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My enter action with A Touch Of Understanding is a desire come true and in so many ways! Over decades of reaching out to others who in turn help others this nonprofit does that and then some. I am very proud to say the last decade and counting has more than achieved that goal! It is a well oiled and extremely efficient organization. It addresses such issues as all inclusive for the Disabled community and non Disabled as well . It focuses on school children at a young age (usually centered around 4th graders) but also all age groups from K-12 and yes adults as well! Their process is very unique, such as hands on work shops (I prefer FUN shops) because they really are! The program uses many volunteers and a very lean Staff. They deliver more bang for the buck so to speak. They address the issue of what does a person with a Disability look like, sound like, capabilities, desires, wants, needs, bullying and believe me, so much more. They share positive steps to assist others (young and seniors alike) and every thing in between. The ATOU family (it really is a very caring and up beat environment and an honor to be a part of)! The examples of how to engage others (volunteers and class participants) is truly amazing! In all of the time I have been with them I have never heard anyone (in the organization or attendees) say “It was not engaging or thought provoking”, because it is and so much more! In today’s society up beat and good news is harder to recognize and that is where ATOU shines! Real people sharing real stores and most importantly real positive ways to enhance every ones lives with knowledge and the tools to make and have not only a better day , a better life! Like the rings that a pebble makes when dropped in water, their message goes out in all directions and touches so many others and in so many positive ways….
Byron C.

Comments ( 1 )

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mail 08/23/2021

Thanks Byron for all your efforts, time and volunteering for & with ATOU. You are amazing a real treasure!

1 Slava P.

Donor

Rating: 5

The staff working for Touch Of Understanding is the reason why go back to them. I appreciate how personal and caring they come off. Would highly recommend!

Comments ( 1 )

profile

mail 08/17/2021

Thanks Slava for your support and review of ATOU. We are fortunate to have you as a Community Partner.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I recall participating in an ATOU event during elementary school. It makes an impact on me that resonates today. I can distinctly remember the experience of doing activities in a way that others experienced them. Their impactful elementary school activity laid the foundation for who I am today.

Comments ( 1 )

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mail 08/11/2021

Thanks Chris for your review and testimony. Your entrepreneur spirit and attitude in the creation and running of your business is reflected in how you treat your customers. The lessons you learned from our ATOU workshop that you attended when you were in elementary school are now transferred into your business practices. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this review. -ATOU Team Member

1 Kevin M.11

Donor

Rating: 5

Amazing experience to participate in the ATOU program at the Roseville elementary school. The intrigue, questions and discussion from the students were great to hear on how everyone can be understanding of each other. I learned a lot from participating in the workshop and listening to the guest speakers.

Thank you for what your organization does to provide disability awareness to understand the challenges associated with disabilities and to accept and respect all individuals.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

A Touch of Understanding is a fantastic organization in our community that helps kids learn the true challenges that many other kids their age face on a daily basis. These are very important tools and learning lessons that are advantageous to their growth and awareness. I am so happy that Placer County has a non-profit like this!

Comments ( 1 )

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mail 08/10/2021

Thanks Kevin for your awesome review and support. It means so much to us.-ATOU Team Member!

1 Freddie S.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

A Touch of Understanding is first class all around. When COVID hit, they were the first nonprofit in our area to host a virtual fundraising event. Then when schools didn't reopen they quickly turned their entire in-person education to an online format. ATOU has impacted thousands of lives and continues to bring disability awareness to our world in a huge way. In addition, they are very well organized and run a very sound nonprofit. Kudos to the entire ATOU team and supporters for the difference they are making in our region!

Comments ( 1 )

profile

mail 08/04/2021

Thanks Freddie for your awesome review. You were instrumental in helping us with our first Virtual Fundraiser that ended up being a huge success. It is Community Partners like you that also make a significant difference in the lives of others. You help so many nonprofits keep their doors open with your fundraising expertise. Huge Kudos to you! RPS

3 Jill Christine M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found ATOU in a perfect time in my life: when I needed to be a part of something that gives back and helps educate youngsters. I was a marketing manager in the Silicon Valley, working for an engineering firm that had recently paid the tuition for my graduate school. I was paralyzed by a drunk driver while on a bike ride, training for the 2004 triathlon season. ATOU entered my life and has given me hope and a platform to teach youngsters about the importance of education, the importance of wearing a helmet, the importance of family and friends. ATOU’s mission to help children treat each other with kindness and respect completely gels with my values. I couldn’t have found a better non-profit to give my time to.

Comments ( 1 )

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mail 08/04/2021

Jill, you are a huge asset to our ATOU Family. Your presentations and sharing your own experiences with the children we provide our impactful message to is invaluable. Thank you for your awesome review and all the work you do with and for A Touch of Understanding. You and the rest of our volunteers rock! RPS

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After volunteering at ATOU for the past few years and last year going to one the schools workshop I saw how important their work shops are. I just wish they could go to every class at every school. The kids get so much out of this program and leave with a real understanding that we all are the same and why they deserve to be better to one another.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Testimony from Ali Goff:

"ATOU is a wonderful local charity that helps students with compassion and understanding of people with disabilities. They are hard-working and very prudent with their resources. They partner with other businesses and schools to bring their wonderful programs to thousands of children each year." - Ali Goff, donor

Previous Stories
1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I spent 30 years working with adults with disabilities and had recently retired when I came across A Touch of Understanding. After years of working in a couple different careers, I found myself asking…”What do I want to do now? What could I do that would provide a sense of purpose while making a difference in the lives of others?” There was still the burning desire to use my work and life experiences in a manner that would be a value add with any organization I might team up with.

Enter ATOU… As I prepared for my interview with Leslie I reviewed the ATOU website and read all the testimonies of teachers, volunteers, staff and students that had participated in one of more of the ATOU programs. Over and over you could sense the genuine passion that everyone had about A Touch of Understanding and how the program(s) had changed and/or impacted their lives. The more I read about ATOU’s mission to encourage the acceptance and respect for all individuals I knew this was an organization I could get behind and make a contribution.
Today I am so grateful to be part of this wonderful organization that makes a difference in the lives of children every day, with and without disabilities. The transformation that occurs is priceless and has the potential to be life altering. It is an honor and blessing to part of something larger than ourselves. There is no greater gift than to help others. I am proud and humbled to be a part of ATOU.

1 Kim S.9

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I learned about ATOU about 10 years ago through a Roseville Chamber of Commerce presentation. I was immediately intrigued with the mission and started asking friends with school aged children about the school programs. To a person, I was told how the ATOU workshop in their child's school was often noted as the most memorable day in their child's school year. I began following the organization and eventually attended many fund raisers and the Spirit of Inclusion workshop to learn firsthand about the people, their passion, and the programs. After 20 plus years, ATOU is a remarkable part of our community. The seeds of empathy and understanding planted with their workshop attendees leave life long lessons. We are a better community for it.

1

Advisor

Rating: 5

I was introduced to ATOU through a referral to help with their succession plan. I did attend a few events. I participated in a dark lunch training and also helped host a table at the annual fundraising dark dinner. I went to a classroom presentation at a school where I participated in the exercises with the kids. I was even asked to play Drive Time They have all be excellent experiences and showed me why and how successful the ATOU program has been and will continue to be. The staff and volunteers are very competent and professional, passionate and extremely caring. They truly do work as a team with the best interest of the kids and any adult audience they see top of mind. The program is fantastic and always so needed in the community. Especially now! If you are looking for a great organization to get involved in to support there are many ways to help here just ask how?

1 Michael W.8

Board Member

Rating: 5

My named is Michael Wilson and I have been involved with a Touch of Understanding (ATOU) since 1997 and I am privileged to continue to serve on the board. I met Leslie DeDora and her dad, Ed Ennis (our founders) when they made a presentation to my Rotary Club and Leslie invited me to a Workshop. After attending the workshop I was hooked and never looked back! ATOU provides a message of empathy, acceptance and mutual respect - qualities that resonate now more than ever.

Both the school workshops and the adult presentation (Spirit of Inclusion) provide a 2-part program. One part of the program provides the students with a chance to actually walk a mile in someone else's shoes. The students are introduced to the various tools that enable a person with a disability to function in daily life, including maneuvering a wheelchair and using white canes while blindfolded, as well as trying their hand at writing in Braille and experiencing what it is like to have autism, to name a few of the exercises. In the second part of the program the students get to meet our disabled volunteers who provide the students an overview of what is like to live their life with their particular disability. This is followed by a question and answer session with the students. This question and answer session often exposes the most poignant part of the program as no question is off-limits to the students and the atmosphere is open to a free exchange of ideas without the fear of embarrassment! In fact, this is where the program becomes real to the students, especially those of the younger ages, as their questions are open an honest and the answers provided by our volunteers serve as life-long messages to the students.

The value of ATOU is to instill the message of empathy at a young age in our younger students and to provide a heartfelt and compassionate message of empathy to our older students in a positive and respectful manner.

As ATOU has now served over 100,000 students since incorporation I have had a chance to witness first-hand the life altering message ATOU provides to our students and I have also witnessed the profound positive impact that it has made for our volunteers as well. Offshoots of our program include the Youth Force which provides an opportunity for disabled and able-bodied children to meet each other at various functions (Christmas and Halloween parties, dances, etc.) and make life-long friends, as well as our Youth Force Club in several area High Schools; the mom's chat group which allows moms of disabled children a forum and resource; and our Friends of ATOU, who are a group of dedicated volunteers who work together to help raise funds to continue this amazing mission.

If you are seeking a non-profit that continues to make an incredible, positive impact in our society, look no further! We are always on the lookout for compassionate volunteers and donors who are seeking to make our world a better place!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I wish I could add another star! I've supported ATOU for more than 10 years and believe very strongly in their mission. I've attended several school workshops and witnessed first-hand the transformation in the children who participate--from unawareness, intolerance, or out-right bullying of those with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities to understanding, acceptance, and support. It's truly amazing to see!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a part of showing school children the benefits of being nice, acceptance and tolerance is truly a joy. The best part is that A Touch of Understanding doesn't "tell" them how important it is to respect all people, even those who are different or who have disabilities, but rather "shows" them, so that they draw this conclusion on their own.

Dubbed a disability awareness workshop, the assembly that we bring to elementary school campuses is more than that. Yes, we certainly give them some fun tools to have them truly experience what it may feel like to be disabled, but after the fun is had, they leave with a real understanding of why all people deserve to be better understood. Their minds are wide open to learning this.

At the end of the 3-hour workshop, all of us who worked that day know that we touched the spirits of these young children. You see it in their faces. What better feeling?

1 Marlena S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for ATOU for over five years, mainly for fundraising. I've attended workshops and truly see what a difference ATOU makes at the schools with the students and staff. They truly show young and old what it is like to walk in "special needs" shoes but then bring it around that no matter who you are we should be kind and loving to all people. I see students that are nicer and kinder to students because of this experience. ATOU is a very special non profit organization. The reason I assist with fundraising is this pays for half the schools' cost for the workshops. ATOU's goal is that all schools see this workshop, making a difference in students and adults lives! I would love for all students and people to be a part of these workshops - it'll make a difference in your lives. Thank you ATOU for all you do for our community!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Looking for a place where you can feel extremely comfortable volunteering? Looking to participate in the growth and well being of our kids? Well let me tell you "A Touch Of Understanding" is the place. I have been with them for a little more than 5 years now. My journey started however over 15 years ago. When I came back to ATOU my purpose was to help and support with whatever I could do. I never in my life thought I would walk away being blessed beyond imagination. The organization in my books ranks #1. They are a beautiful loving family of staff and volunteers who take you in.

Everyone I suggest your involvement. You have the wonderful privilege of hanging with all kinds of characters. Most with a disability. It to these folks I now turn my attention to. They are beautiful, loving, kind and you will learn a lot from them. Yes you will grow in ways you didnt think you would.

The program that ATOU takes to the schools is another beyond words experience. Their goal and purpose is to teach ALL students about disability awareness, kindness and the stopping of bullying. The kids interact with the teachers, experiencing writing their name in braille, learn to properly work a wheelchair and so much more. They come away with information and an experience they will not soon forget. In fact some of the kids if memory serves me right come to ATOU to help.

I cannot express in words what ATOU and all of it members means to mean. The only words I have is that they are my "Joy Juice". Hope to see you there someday.

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2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

They have always said that Disney is the happiest place on earth - well that is until you volunteer with ATOU. You will shortly find that ATOU is the happiest place on earth. It is one big family, friends - awesome hardworking loving staff and volunteers. The kids, the kids they just bring you so much love, they make you smile and so much more. I am truly blessed by the ATOU family. It is my home, it is my "Joy Juice", it brings me much happiness.

1 Nat B.1

Donor

Rating: 5

ATOU is a great organization that fosters understanding and awareness of disabilities and differences among students. To understand the disability is to understand the person. I support ATOU every way I can because I believe this is something that kids need to be aware of and make them better citizens going into adulthood.

1 bschultz

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The value of A Touch of Understanding through the eyes of a district superintendent
I was a public school teacher for sixteen years and then spent another twenty years as an administrator in positions ranging from assistant principal to superintendent. In all of those years, the best program I ever brought into a school where I served was A Touch of Understanding.

Helping students learn to treat each other with respect and to avoid being bullies was a goal from day one when I started teaching. As I moved into administrative roles, I often had responsibility for trying to bring in programs or support to counter bullying and make all students feel safe at school. Most of the programs in the first four districts where I worked had only minimal short-term impact.

Then I came to The Eureka Union School District and discovered A Touch of Understanding. Over my ten years in the district, and a dozen years on the ATOU Board, I look forward every year to watching that program change the lives of students with and without disabilities and show their teachers how to be more effective in the classroom and on the school grounds. The impact lasted long after the annual appearance of ATOU, and now that the program has reached over 100,000 students across Northern California in twenty-five years, they’re discovering that students who were lucky enough to participate in the program in elementary school are still talking about it in high school and some young adults are excited to see their own kids experience the program while others have gone into helping professions partially as a result of the impact of ATOU when they were young.

Bob Schultz, Adjunct faculty at Brandman University, past Superintendent of The Eureka Union School District

1 Stephanie H.7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure of attending one on the workshops that ATOU presented in a school in Roseville a few weeks ago and it was fascinating how engaged the kids were with the speakers and all of the activities. When I first learned about the work that ATOU does, I immediate felt a heart connection with it, but to witness was truly special. Keep it up ATOU!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I would recommend ATOU to any and every school. This program does an outstanding job of giving students a unique experience by having individuals with disabilities share their stories, educating students, and also letting students experience for a brief time what it is
like to have some of those disabilities.

When I was a principal, I was lucky enough to come to an elementary school that already had ATOU come out every year for our 3rd-grade students. ATOU changes students’ awareness and respect for others. I loved watching our students listen to stories from the volunteers. You can see them learning and changing their attitudes right in front of your eyes.

I now work at the District level and love that so many of our schools bring ATOU to their campus. I also have two children who have gone through the program. They have both talked about how much it changed their view and how much they enjoyed participating in the different stations and hearing from volunteers. What is amazing to me is that my oldest participated over 3 years ago and could still tell me almost everything from that day. It just shows that ATOU is a program that has a lasting impact on students.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

ATOU is the absolute best. I was very lucky to be invited to one of their assemblies that they put on for one of the local K-5th schools in the Roseville area. It only took about 2 seconds for me to fall in love with this organization. They awareness that they teach should be a class that have to take in school. The demonstrations that they make you do are not only team building but makes you really understand what it could be like to have a disability. The Q & A session that they have is the most real thing I have ever seen. So much honestly that it makes you want to keep asking more questions but never feeling awkward when asking. The speakers are honest, funny, and so open that it’s never uncomfortable. This organization needs to be recognized for all they do and the staff are some of the hardest workers i have seen that never stop smiling. The staff truly does love what they do and it's infectious. If you have not had a chance to see or be part of one of their workshops I highly recommended.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I became acquainted with ATOU over 16 years ago when Leslie DeDora and her father, Ed Ennis, made a presentation to our newly formed foundation at PASCO Scientific, where I happened to work and serve as foundation chair. I have had some personal experiences with children having physical and/or developmental disabilities. What I heard from Leslie and Ed really touched my heart. Their program not only addressed the issues of those with disabilities but also issues non-disabled kids have in interacting with those different from them. The message transcends disabilities and levels the field for all kids to acknowledge with compassion those deemed "different" because, in fact, we all have differences. Over the years the program has grown and prospered on its own mission values because the message is universal and is transmitted with credible clarity and loving insight. ATOU is a special place and a special advocate for universal compassion and respect at a time when such attributes are sorely needed in a critical world.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

ATOU covers an area of need that most people don't realize exists. Having some special needs children myself, I see the difference in their treatment because of the message delivered by ATOU. Instead of going straight to teasing, children have asked questions and sought to understand. My children have then had the opportunity to grow their confidence and have friends they otherwise might not have had. What a blessing to give to a child!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a young business professional, I was on the search for the right nonprofit to be affiliated with and find ways to help where needed. Well, I received so much more with A Touch of Understanding. Not only are the volunteers, staff, and donors wonderful, the impact ATOU makes is amazing. Think of it this way...have you ever been mad about something in your life, and then realize that someone else has it worst? Often times, when you look at the person who has it worst, they are still smiling. It's all perspective, and the right perspective ignites kindness and love. ATOU provides perspective for our youth, so they grow up displaying kindness and love. We all know that this can plant a seed for many positives in our community...starting with perspective. ATOU does a terrific job teaching students about this mission, making this world, our city, and our home a better place to live.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Want to know how a person with autism feels when they are trying to learn? If so, I highly encourage you to attend one of ATOU's workshops. The hands on stations made such a huge impact on me. One example is where you sit at a table with headphones on, a piece of paper with a race track outline in front of you, and a mirror staged to look at, while trying to trace the track on the paper backwards with a pen. All the while different noises are popping in your ears, sirens, dogs, glass breaking. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was....and this is what people with autism experience everyday! I had no idea! I'm so glad that ATOU is educating students about different disabilities their classmates (and people in general) might be experiencing. I love this non-profit.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ATOU provides a great opportunity for children and adults throughout our region to learn about various disabilities, gain insight, empathy, and passion about helping all people be their best selves. Their work significantly increases compassion and reduces bullying and discrimination. Their work is making a difference for acceptance in school and later in the community.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

My first exposure to ATOU was as a donor because I love what they do. I then attended a workshop and appreciated everything they do even more. I have 2 small granddaughters that are growing up in a world where acceptance and inclusion can become the norm, not the exception. Watching the mind-shift of students during a workshop was amazing. I know they go home and share what they learned with their family members when the school day ends. As adults we oftentimes forget the learning lessons of the past and that children can remind us and teach us with the things they are learning. Opening our hearts, removing the barriers brought on by fear because we don't understand...these are all the things ATOU shares with our younger generation. May we all embrace the things ATOU shares to make our world a better, more loving place for us all to thrive in. If you have the opportunity to attend one of their workshops...do it...it will be a life altering experience for you.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

This organization puts on an incredible educational hands-on program in schools. It teaches children compassion and empathy and also allows them to ask questions. I believe this encourages children to be more understanding and inclusive to others that they might not have understood without this program. This program is the epitome of what it is to walk in someone else's shoes. I only wish they had this program when I attended school.

1 Dave40

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A Touch of Understanding (ATOU) changes lives for the better every day. Reaching 10,000 third through twelfth graders each year with their immersive disability awareness workshop, they alter the culture on school campuses, creating an environment where children with disabilities are respected and included. ATOU's Youth F.O.R.C.E. (Friends Offering Respect ~ Creating Empowerment) provides inclusive, accessible fun and character building activities for youth with or without disabilities. For some children with disabilities, it is the first time in their life that they feel included and welcome. This is truly a 5 star organization!

Previous Stories
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Volunteer

Rating: 5

ATOU is a terrific organization with compassionate, positive leaders and volunteers making a profound difference in the lives of children with and without disabilities. The in-school workshop awakens an awareness in students of the challenges presented by disabilities, and teaches them to respect and befriend classmates with disabilities, rather than bully them. The ATOU Youth F.O.R.C.E., an inclusive and empowering youth-led organization, creates a safe and supportive environment for youth with and without disabilities to learn leadership skills, exercise their strengths, and create friendships. Together, these two programs are changing lives and our community for the better, every day.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I supported a client of mine who volunteered once a week with A Touch of Understanding as a speaker for their workshops. This was always my volunteer's, as well as mine, favorite engagement for the week. As a speaker, my client was able to tell her story and talk to the children about her disability, as well as share all that she has accomplished in life. My client's message was always powerful and would break down any barriers that the children may have had concerning her disability. The children connected with her and friendships were always made. This was not only empowering for the children but for my client as well. I am in love with this organization and the message they are helping to spread in our communities - "Building Empathy and Igniting Respect."

Donor

Rating: 5

A Touch Of Understanding is an incredibly empowering organization! Attending an ATOU workshop was an invaluable educational experience for me personally, and I hope as many people as possible have an opportunity to attend an ATOU workshop at somepoint in their life.

I'm so thankful for the dedicated community of staff and inspiring volunteers who all help make A Touch Of Understanding the impactful organization that it is today.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The organization, the mission and the people have changed my life in ways I cannot put into words. It is an honor to serve as a volunteer board member along side some of the best human beings I will ever meet. - Stanford H.

Donor

Rating: 5

I had the privilege to attend an ATOU event at the Excelsior Elementary School in Roseville and I found it to be an amazing experience. ATOU exposes these children to the challenges of being disabled and thereby encourages compassion and understanding. I believe this to be of integral importance to our society to help bridge the gap between those with and those without disabilities. Wonderful program!

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

In 2002, I was a pediatric physical therapist who had spent the better part of the past decade working with young children with developmental disabilities, helping them to achieve maximal strength and physical function. I was also a young mother, and that year I gave birth to my second child, who suffered a perinatal stroke and was ultimately diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At that time, I realized that everything I thought I knew about disability would not be enough to provide him with the things that I most hoped he would have in life. What I most wanted was for him to live in a kinder world, and to be surrounded by people who loved and valued him, no matter the path his development followed.

When I discovered A Touch of Understanding and learned about their work a few years later, I was brought back to those early days when all I wished for was a world that would value my child and all people with different abilities. What I wished for is EXACTLY what ATOU is working to create! One child, one family, one school and one community at a time, in a way that is gentle and respectful, they teach everyone lucky enough to attend a workshop that all people are mostly the same, with the same feelings, hopes and dreams. Through their school workshops they demystify disability for students at a time in their development when they are learning who they are and how they will interact with those around them. In a world that can seem increasingly noisy and disagreeable, ATOU plants the seeds of empathy, respect and kindness in the youngest members of our community.

Today, I continue to be thankful to work as a pediatric PT, and with a team of dedicated and passionate doctors, nurses and therapists I work to strengthen and heal the bodies of children with disabilities. I am equally thankful however for the work of ATOU, and for my children's opportunity to participate in ATOU's Youth Force program. Together their programs are bettering the world that children with disabilities live in, whether we're able to "fix" their bodies or not.

Thank you ATOU for your tireless work to create a young generation with great compassion and understanding for all people, who will go on to create kind and inclusive communities to the benefit of all.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Amazing experience to participate in the ATOU program at the Roseville elementary school. The intrigue, questions and discussion from the students were great to hear on how everyone can be understanding of each other. I learned a lot from participating in the workshop and listening to the guest speakers.

Thank you in many ways. For sharing information about ATOU and the impact the organization has on children, youth and adults around the community. For allowing me to see ATOU in action and interact with the students, volunteers and staff. The experience was amazing and I look forward to attending again when the new school year starts up.

I appreciate the opportunity to be involved and help make a difference such as ATOU makes a difference in so many lives. The message about being a buddy and not a bully is great to hear especially in today’s society where it is so common for people to judge others based on their appearances, actions and voice. ATOU has a positive impact on so many lives and the mission to education and empower children to be understanding of others.

Thank you for what your organization does to provide disability awareness to understand the challenges associated with disabilities and to accept and respect all individuals.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

ATOU has such a great impact in the community. Their staff and volunteers are committed to their mission and truly make a big difference to the students, teachers, and future leaders of this area. I am happy to have supported ATOU with financial support so that they can continue their mission.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

What an amazing learning experience ATOU afforded our 3rd graders! The students were actively and enthusiastically engaged all morning in both the personal stories and the hands on learning activities. I am amazed by the meaningful dialogue between my students as they reflected upon their day. This was definitely a memory making, impactful moment that for many will transcend into long term action throughout their lives.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have had the privilege of having my fourth grade students participate in A Touch of Understanding for the last four years. What a wonderful program! My students definitely learn how children with a disability feel and become more compassionate and caring. I happen to have a student with autism and it has really opened all students' eyes to the obstacles dealt with on a daily basis. They are more involved and truly respectful of others after they experience the activities A Touch of Understanding has to offer. Thank you for making this possible!

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

ATOU has been impacting the third grade students at Stoneridge Elementary School for the last several years. Students look forward to this amazing 3rd grade event. They truly learn what it is like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. We appreciate how organized this workshop is how the leaders work with the children.
We can't wait until next year!

Review from Guidestar

Donor

Rating: 5

In the last 2 and a half years that I have been involved with A Touch of Understanding, I have had the pleasure of attending in-school workshops, and watching lives change before my very eyes. While at workshops, I have heard students say things such as "this is the best day of the whole year", "I love learning about all of these tools the people use", and some students often feel comfortable enough to share something they may struggle with. That sense of de-isolation that allows them to share, knowing they aren't alone in their challenge, is one of the greatest gifts the workshop provides. At one workshop one little girl shared something she has been struggling with, and after hearing peers say that they have a similar struggle, her shoulders relaxed, and she said "finally, I'm not alone." What a powerful realization for a young child to have. I have loved watching students learn empowerment, and empathy, kindness and compassion, regardless of the things that make us seem different for any reason. I will continue being a donor to ATOU for that very reason.

Joyce B.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have known about and been a volunteer with this program for 15 years serving as a board member for several years as well as school workshop volunteer and contributor. ATOU does an outstanding job of showing people the value of each and every one of us, what it is like to have extra challenges and the courage to meet them, and a sincere respect for each of us. I urge you to check out their web site: touchofunderstanding.org to learn more about them.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with 'A Touch of Understanding' (ATOU) since 2015. ATOU's primary focus is on teaching children about various disabilities. Through 'hands-on' learning activities, and Volunteer Speakers - who share their stories of living with a disability- I see a child's understanding and empathy for others grow. It is truly an amazing, and much needed, organization!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I thoroughly enjoy my experience with ATOU! The school workshops work! The kids experience what it may feel like to have a disability. They truly gain an understanding which in turn breaks down barriers. Friends are made and the culture in the school's changes. Go to an ATOU workshop as a guest and see for yourself. Good Job ATOU!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A fun informative hands on learning experience that opens eyes and hearts to appreciate we are all more the same than different regardless of our challenges in life.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Amazing organization teaching inclusion and acceptance!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with this organization for the past 8 years. We change lives when we go into schools. To watch the kids learn about all different types of disabilities and to be able to watch the light bulb come on is very rewarding

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My name is Chris and I have been involved as a volunteer speaker and workshop assistant and enjoy seeing all the kids go through this program and think it is very important for all kids to go through this program to learn how to include all disabilities in their everyday lifes!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After volunteering with ATOU in high school, I was the summer 2017 intern for A Touch of Understanding. Overall, I had a great internship experience. I am very happy that I spent this summer at ATOU because I pushed myself with my marketing capabilities, and I learned the daily functions of a nonprofit. By far, this has been my favorite internship, and it encourages me to continue down the path of working in a marketing position at a nonprofit once I graduate from college. ATOU is very inclusive, thoughtful, and caring. A Touch of Understanding lives their mission every day, and I am proud to have spent my summer with such an incredible organization.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have had ATOU at Strawberry Point every year now for quite a while. They make a huge impact on all of my fourth grade students and staff alike. The experience is life changing for all of us. Leslie Thornton, Principal

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Excellent disabilities awareness organization! I am a congenital disabled person that is a powerchair user. Was bullied/teased through my public school career. I am also a parent of a congenital disabled adult child. Wish there was such an organization when I was in public school!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been disabled my whole life. Being stared at and teased that entire time. I am a volunteer with ATOU. When we go to schools with our program we actually and literally change lives. If I can stop one child from being teased, stared at or bullied-that makes my day and changes lives, and we change lives at EVERY school where we take ATOU. Do we reach every child who participates, nope....but changing one life is awesome, changing more than that is incredible....

Review from Guidestar

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with ATOU for about a year and a half. I was referred to ATOU by a trusted friend. It took me about 10 minutes to realize I belonged in ATOU. I have been disabled my whole life and was teased when I was young and judged my whole life. If I can stop one person from being teased or judged it makes my day. At EVERY school I go to, we stop kids from being teased or bullied. It makes my day. The ATOU family is the most caring, non-judgemental group anywhere.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

We would like to thank A Touch of Understanding for coming to our school and making their presentation. It was well received, very interactive, and our students can't stop talking about it. We have had several parent emails letting us know that their children really enjoyed it and understand both empathy and acceptance. The program is very professional, well timed, and engaging. We liked the fact that the program encourages "buddies" not "bullies"!

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have had the privilege of experiencing ATOU's disability-awareness workshop at my school for many years. The students love to hear from the presenters and how they have adapted to their various disabilities. The presenters share stories and encourage the students to ask questions. The students learn empathy and how important it is to not tease. The hands-on workshop is a component of the program visit. They get to practice what it could feel like to have a disability. The children remember and talk about this special assembly which shows what a great impact it can make at a young age. They talk about how they would want to stick up for someone if they saw him/her being teased. I highly recommend ATOU!

Client Served

Rating: 5

A Touch Of Understanding is an amazing program that touches the lives of students and adults. I have had the privilege of taking part in their assemblies at three different elementary schools. The number of students they have had a positive impacted with is countless. Many of the students say this is the best experience they have in school. The teachers report that the positive changes that come with the education ATOU brings makes a dramatic difference in the way students treat each other. I have also had the honor of attending several of their events outside of the school setting. The energy that the volunteers bring to this program is amazing!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

ATOU was one of the most powerful student assemblies in which our school has ever participated. It allowed the children to experience some of the daily difficulties many handicapped people go through on a daily basis. With the chance to "walk in someone else's shoes", students gained valuable perspective on how some struggle with simple, daily tasks that we often take for granted. The discussions we had as a class afterwards showed an obvious sense of empathy and sympathy from everyone. We pledged to be buddies, not bullies to the less fortunate!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There is a reason that Crestmont Elementary School participates annually in A Touch of Understandings' lecture and hands-on experience. IT CHANGES LIVES! Every year our 4th graders hear the speakers and see their disabilities. They physically experience in a small fashion what hardships people with disabilities have to go through. The lectures allow the students to hear the challenges that the speakers go through on a daily basis. Following this, is the hands-on portion of the presentation. Here, they learn how to use a wheelchair, how to navigate with a walking stick, write in braille, and experience an autistic world. As teachers, we can tell that this program is having an affect on the students' lives by hearing the comments they make to each other and their parents as they describe what they have experienced that day.

HorsesRforever

Volunteer

Rating: 5

ATOU has changed my life! I developed a neurological disorder in my 30s and had to give up my career. ATOU has given me a new purpose in my life. I love talking and working with the school children. It is very rewarding to share my experience living with a disability. My main message to the kids is "I'm just like you" and they understand. Leslie DeDora and her team of staff and volunteers are so dedicated!! They work tirelessly to ensure that ALL people are treated with respect and kindness.
The Great!

Donor

Rating: 5

A Touch of Understanding has changed my life. This program cannot be described in a small area such as this. To see the way children respond to the volunteers and really understand why they should be including children of all abilities in their lives is truly amazing. But the school programs are just the beginning. The ATOU Youth F.O.R.C.E. (Friends Offering Respect ~ Creating Empowerment) has grown into an unbelievable program for young people... and young at heart. They work together to bring "fun" to everyone that attends their events! The other program ATOU provides to the community is the AccessToCare Fair. This is a free community event where they provide an opportunity to see the services and products that are available to people with disabilities.. that includes senior citizens, Veterans, just about anything you can imagine. A Touch of Understanding can change your life too... just come to a program and witness the experience. I challenge you to come back without having a completely different attitude about children and people in general... and if you really want to make a difference in the world, write them a check or how about spending a little time volunteering?

Jim_48

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A Touch of Understanding is an unusual type of organization that you almost need to see to believe their results. They are able to change childrens attitudes about how to perceive people in just three hours. They teach acceptance of all differences which has certainly addressed the bullying issue. This program should be in every school throughout the Nation... it wouldn't hurt adults to go through the program as well!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I became involved with ATOU when the previous Volunteer Coordinator came in to my college classroom with a young woman named Hope who spoke about the program and the Youth F.O.R.C.E. I became a volunteer as soon as I could after their presentation. As I continued to volunteer with ATOU I came to the conclusion that ATOU is more than just an organization that advocates for people with disabilities and it is more than a provider of a disability-awareness workshop but that it is a family of people who all share the same passion of ushering a new generation of children into the future with an understanding that we are all the same on the inside and that we are equal and we should treat everyone with love, kindness, and respect.