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2019 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

76 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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
1

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.

Read more

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

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

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

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

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.