AbilityFirst is an organization that provides programs and services to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities reach their full potential throughout their lives. They offer a broad range of employment, recreational and socialization programs and even operate 12 accessible residential housing complexes.
AbilityFirst was established in 1926 as the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California (CCS) at the Rotary International Convention.
When their organization was founded, the name reflected the thinking and norms of the time. As decades past, dramatic changes were taking place in the field. AbilityFirst expanded to provide programs for adults, as well as children. They also broadened their mission in order to meet the needs of those with developmental disabilities, as well as those with physical disabilities. Development disabilities include autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and epilepsy.
In 1999, the organization adopted the name AbilityFirst to better reflect their mission, their vision for the future, and their commitment to celebrating the unique abilities of every individual.
According to their web page:
At AbilityFirst, our vision is of a society that values each individual and provides the opportunity for all people to lead full and productive lives. For more than 80 years, we have been looking beyond disabilities, focusing on capabilities, and expanding possibilities.
In November of 2004, Clay Aiken and the Bubel Aiken Foundation (now The National Inclusion Project) celebrated World Children’s Day. They invited children from the YMCA of Los Cerritos and from AbilityFirst in Claremont to an art event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Clay joined with the children and participated in inclusive art activities. One of their projects was to trace each others hands. The children with and without disabilities seemed to have a wonderful time……and so did Clay.
As with so many of Clay Aiken’s charitable events, there was little press about this wonderful function. But those who were able to witness the event said it was exciting and up-lifting. Clay did this while he was very sick. It was another event in his busy November, 2004 when he had a serious sinus infection. I would imagine that Clay never even thought about canceling. The pictures that were taken that day show everyone having a great time.