A new program opens to address a growing need in the Bay Area
We all have a calling. For some of us, it’s to cook or dance or code—maybe it’s to repair jet engines or deliver babies or measure seismic waves. Although we all work towards the common good of our society, there are some individuals with a calling to lead and mentor. These are the people who see the infinite possibilities in their mentees and strive to help them reach their fullest potential. If this sounds like you, then you may have something in common with my friend and colleague at Easterseals Bay Area, Zach Lupton.
Zach Lupton has been working at Easterseals Bay Area since September 2003. He has also been Easterseals Bay Area’s top fundraiser for four years in a row, and he’s now the program manager of our newly formed Kaleidoscope Community Adult Program (KCAP) opening this August.
The new Kaleidoscope Community Adult Program will address a growing need in our community to provide support and opportunities for adults with special needs. Just like anyone, these individuals want to contribute to society by having meaningful careers, pursuing their passions, making good friends in their communities, and living independently. With KCAP opening this month, Zach and his team are helping these individuals do just that.
I spoke with Zach the other day to see what he loves most about his work, and why he got started in it to begin with.
AG: What made you want to work with special needs individuals?
ZL: Honestly, it all started with a hug. It was the most unconditional and genuine hug I’ve ever received in my life. I was working at a grocery store at the time, back in 2003, and was paid to go to the Special Olympics to help out. I went, and got about 30 hugs before I even made it past the parking lot. I stayed all day, then went to the grocery store where I worked and quit on the spot. I knew I had to pursue this line of work—it was more meaningful than anything else.
AG: So, what do you enjoy most about your work now?
ZL: It’s all different, and that’s what I like. There’s always something new. Not to mention, learning about the behaviors that are always evolving in the individuals and watching them grow—that’s the best.
AG: What are some of your best memories from your career?
ZL: There are just too many. Everything is a good memory, like the BBQs we have with participants and the outings we go on. Honestly, even the challenging experiences are all good memories.
AG: This new program is designed for adults, to help them gain employment skills and more independence. What else do you hope KCAP will accomplish?
ZL: I’m hopeful that KCAP will positively impact the community at large—not just the participants—in the form of education, inclusion, and integration. It’s also a huge accomplishment when participants gain more independence, which is an honor to watch. You make real connections with these folks, and you find yourselves rooting for each other every step of the way.
AG: This work is, without a doubt, very important. Why do you think this program and profession are so important for our society?
ZL: To be honest, this line of work can sometimes not be done well. There are lots of opportunities for programs out there to improve, so being able to go to work each day and provide high-quality services to make a big, lifelong impact for our participants and their families makes all the difference. To watch them grow and develop because of a program you’re involved in is huge. There’s nothing like it—this is the independence and quality of life they deserve.
AG: What would you say to anyone thinking about getting into this line of work?
ZL: Do it. Do it here, at KCAP, where you can see the difference you make every day. We work in a group setting focusing on participants’ interests and ambitions, and there’s nothing like witnessing true friendships being made while you work alongside your own friends. If you have that passion, do it.
If Zach’s words resonate with you, consider checking out our list of open positions at Easterseals Bay Area and Kaleidoscope, or donating to support the new KCAP program. Because when there’s meaningful work to be done, those who hear the calling will answer.
Written by Abigail Guerdat, Communications & Grants Associate, Easterseals Bay Area