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Local Charity Sets Fundraising Record

Abilities United still has the same message that it did fifty years ago—but more support than ever before.


A local charity brought in record fundraising dollars this year to aid its long-standing cause: supporting the physically and developmentally disabled.

, a 50-year-old Palo Alto nonprofit, netted $200,000 at its November . The money, slightly more than last year, will go to hundreds of Peninsula and South Bay children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and autism.

It was the fundraiser's 20th anniversary, so the staff was aiming to break a record, said Wendy Kuehnl, the organization's marketing director. 

"Every individual has value and every individual can contribute," Kuehnl said. "So together — all of us — can make a better community."

That's been the message of Abilities United since a group of 12 families launched it in 1963. It now serves roughly 2300 people, from children to adults. Services include stimulation swimming classes for toddlers, computer classes and life-skills classes that encourage developmentally disabled adults to live and work independently.

Tracey Jarrett has been with Abilities United since infancy, starting with swim classes. Now 39, she has attended college and lives independently, her mother Laurie said.

"Tracey has been very fortunate," Jarrett said. "She started with Abilities United when she was four years old. The nonprofit, staff and the programs have been most supportive."

The  fundraiser luncheon has grown immensely since it started two decades ago. It brought in roughly 650 people this year. It goes hand-in-hand with another Abilities United event that is well known in the Bay Area.

Close to 400 people attended the Abilities United Aquathon at the California Sports Center in Sunnyvale this November. Chief executives teamed up with developmentally disabled swimmers to raise money with every stroke. That event, Keuhnl said, brought in $150,000 from small donors and big Silicon Vally companies alike. Nvidia and Oracle donated $10,000 each and Lockheed Martin and Intuit each donated $5,000.

The state funds about 38 percent of the budget of Abilities United, so year-long fundraising to meet a budget of close to six million brings is crucial, Keuhnl said. The nonprofit employees about 70 full-time workers and serves people from South San Francisco to San Jose, she said. 

Abilities United December 22, 2011 at 11:33 PM
Thank you for this wonderful story and your continued coverage of Abilities United. We are so happy you are a part of the local Palo Alto community! Happy Holidays to everyone at Patch Palo Alto!
Rebecca Sanders December 23, 2011 at 06:40 PM
AU rocks and you can learn more about Abilities United via the show that Andrea Throndsen produces at the Media Center and which runs on local cable TV and streaming from the midpenmedia.org/stream website. Here's a link to the AU schedule: http://bit.ly/v855fi . Check the show out and learn about this amazing organization and the families and individuals they serve. We all benefit when we all are recognized for our gifts and empowered to contribute to the larger community. AU (the atomic symbol for gold!) makes that happen. Thank you Patch for spreading the word.
Diane Bianconi McNiel December 23, 2011 at 08:34 PM
I love this kind of news that is awesome!!!!! Diane

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