Colorado Discover Ability sees 40 percent drop in donations; Local teen using Sweet Sixteen to help

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) - This year Colorado Discover Ability has given more than 700 local people with disabilities the chance to experience things like water skiing and snowboarding -- but a 40 percent drop in donations has hurt their ability to do that. Now, a local teen who volunteers with the organization is doing something about it.

Jeslyn Szabo first discovered Colorado Discover Ability five years ago, and has served as a counselor at the organization's camp for disabled children since then.

"They're just so ecstatic and excited," says Szabo. "They're experiencing something that they never thought they could do and are being told that they can actually do it. CDA has been a huge part of my life these past few years and it's completely changed me as a person."

The Grand Junction High School sophomore says she wants it to continue being a huge part of her life for years to come -- but she recently learned things were not looking good for the organization financially, and they needed help.

"We experienced over the past year, a drop of 40 percent in our funding," says Uschi Hall, a board member and volunteer for Colorado Discover Ability. "We had to let everybody go and have been running the program over the summer with individual volunteers."

That's when Szabo got an idea.

"My mom asked me what I wanted to do for my sixteenth birthday," says Szabo. Rather than have a regular party, she decided to turn her sweet sixteen into a fundraiser dance for the CDA.

"It's my way of giving back to what they have given me," she says.

"I was amazed," says Hall.

Hall, who is a paraplegic herself, says she knows first-hand what an organization like CDA means to community members with disabilities.

"Just learning how to ski gave me the confidence to try out different things and now I'm at the point where I can ski with my family totally independent, like any other family," says Hall. "My disability is in the back drop."

She says she's truly touched a teen would celebrate her 16th birthday by helping out CDA -- and she's hopeful the community will respond like it usually does.

"We are really hoping the community will come together to help continue providing a program like Colorado Discover Ability," says Hall. "It takes a village to take care of an individual."

Szabo's "Heaven is a Place on Earth" charity dance will take place Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Lincoln Park Barn from 6 to 11 p.m. There will also be a silent auction for items donated by local businesses, with all proceeds going to CDA. Refreshments will be served. Organizers say there is no entry fee, they just ask that anyone who attends make some kind of donation to CDA.

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