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Once in a Lifetime

posted by Nicole Ericson on Thursday, October 19, 2023

After years of saving and planning, our staff wished a group of five friends, whom also happen to be person served, a safe trip. All five of these individuals headed to Orlando, Florida for a week to experience Disney World for the first time, together.

We know going on vacation is exciting and fun when we get there, and leading up to it is a rather taxing and stressful process. This group of friends were responsible for working, saving, planning, scheduling, packing and preparing their vacation. In the meantime they had no idea that their absence would have such an impact on their community.

Together, the friends spend time out of every week, volunteering at a local foodbank's food-drive. The food drive is an event that provides meals for hundreds across the Cedar Valley. As any responsible adult would, these five volunteers informed the foodbank and their fellow peers that they would be on vacation and unable to help with that week's food-drive.

First came excitement, "Wow! That is so great for you all", "Awesome, we hope you have the best time" all celebrating and sharing tips and tricks to traveling, going to Disney World, accessing the parks, and which places to eat.

Next, came a heavy wave of concern with phrases like, "Do you have everything you need?", "You are taking a bus to the airport?", and "Don't forget your sunscreen, I remember when I went I got the worst sunburn".

But lastly, the group was met with a wave of realization "Oh my, with all of you gone how will we have the food-drive? We may need to cancel that week".

At EPI we believe that by working together we will realize a future where all people are recognized and valued, encouraged and supported to live, work, and grow in their communities.


  • We believe in people – everyone has inherent value, gifts, and abilities.
  • We believe in bringing people together through community education and inclusion.
  • We believe in people having choice – an opportunity to live their life, their way.
  • We believe in supporting people to gain greater independence and self-sufficiency.
  • We believe in helping families with child care needs by improving the quality of child care for all.
  • We believe in facilitating employment for anyone with the desire to work.

In this one situation we see proof of all that we set out to do each and every day coming full circle and individuals living life to its very fullest.

Not only were these five individuals person served, these five individuals have had significant barriers within their lifetime, requiring significant levels of support from direct support professionals. Most of these folks spent years of their lives in group home settings, facility based day-habilitations, for the most part surrounded by only others with similar barriers and paid support staff. 

Their days were at times mundane, prescriptive, and… often segregated. TODAY in this seemingly every day process of planning for and going on vacation we cherish evolution.

Today these five friends, who are also volunteers, employees, community members, vacation goers, tourists, travelers, but above all else they are valued, needed, relied upon, called upon and respected as individuals . This story of their journey is exactly what we all are working for when we say we are DSPs, we are human service employees - supporting individuals to be as independent as possible in their own lives. We are EPI!

About The Author

Nicole Ericson, EPI's Community Development Director, has been with the agency since 2010.