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VOL. 116 | NO. 125 | Friday, June 28, 2002

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Going casual for a good cause

Businesses, employees casual for a good cause


The Daily News

Its that one day of the year when wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt or Birkenstocks to a board meeting is totally PC.

Today marks Casual Day 2002, Memphis only official citywide casual day. That means more than 15,000 employees will go to work dressed casually to benefit UCP of the Mid-South and to salute America at the same time.

Casual Day is an annual event in which businesses and some of the local schools pay a small donation to dress casually for a cause.

UCP of the Mid-South ranked in the top three affiliates nationwide for Casual Day over the past four years with more than 700 companies and 18,000 Mid-South employees joining in.

Casual Day is huge for us. It is the biggest project we have to raise money primarily for our childrens services, UCP executive director Diana Reid said.

She said UCP is a one-stop shop organization for people with disabilities.

The money that comes from Casual Day makes a tremendous difference especially in this economy.

This year UCP decided to salute the way Americans rallied after Sept. 11 and along with the usual Casual Day buttons and T-shirts are special Salute America items as well.

Last year, UCP raised $130,000. This year, the organization hopes to top that considerably.

UCP not only supports those with cerebral palsy but also acts as a resource for many with disabilities who live in the Mid-South.

Reid has been UCP executive director for the past 20 years. She came to realize the local affiliate was about more than cerebral palsy. Last year, she requested the national office allow the local organization to change its name from United Cerebral Palsy to UCP.

In the past, we primarily served children and adults with cerebral palsy. However, its always been the philosophy of UCP affiliates that we would open our programs and services to children and adults and families with all types of disabilities, she said.

Currently, only 23 percent of the people UCP provides for locally have cerebral palsy.

We serve children and adults who have had strokes, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, hearing and sight loss, as well as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome and autism. We run the gamut of all the types of disabilities, she said.

UCP of the Mid-South supports persons with disabilities from West Tennessee, East Arkansas and North Mississippi.

The local organization offers 16 programs and services some of which are housed at its center in north Memphis and some in the community.

Located at the back of St. James Catholic Church, 4189 Leroy Ave., UCP has a 15-year lease. Since moving in five years ago, the organization renovated the building, adding 5,000 square feet, and is looking to expand even more.

Housed at the center is a vocational skills training program open to anyone regardless of the severity of their disability or even to those without disabilities.

This is free of charge to anyone in the community who has a disability. Also, we provide job placement services, she said.

Also at the center is a literacy program for children and adults in math and reading, as well as job retention literacy.

Run by UCP, Camp Livitup, housed at the Jewish Community Center, is the only eight-week day camp for children with disabilities.

UCP also has the only therapeutic horseback-riding program in the Mid-South.

We have physical and occupational therapists who work with children to give them therapy. As far as children are concerned, it builds self-esteem and they have a lot of fun, she said.

This program runs four days a week at Highgrove Farms, which is owned by David Halle and located at Bray Station Road in Collierville.

Although Casual Day is officially today, that shouldnt stop any companies or groups from holding their own casual days after the event. UCP has plenty of posters and T-shirts available, Reid said.

Four of the Top 20 Casual Day fund-raising companies in the nation were from the Mid-South.

Kemmons Wilson Cos. has been the top fund raiser for UCP, raising more than $33,800 last year.

Martye Slayton, executive assistant to Spence Wilson, Kemmons Wilson president, has been coordinating the UCP fund-raising effort since 1994. In that time it has grown from $100 to more than $40,000 this year with three events to go.

We start early in the year and run different events we plan for the employees. Then, we have a silent auction of donated items from several companies we associate with during the year. There are many people who are friends who think this is a very worthy cause, she said.

Slayton said they organize a range of activities including grab-bag sales, raffles and breakfasts.

Anything we can do to raise money, she said.

Slayton said she is grateful she has been blessed with healthy children and grandchildren and wanted to give back to the community.

As well as employee participation, the Wilson Foundation is very generous each year, she said. Slayton hopes other corporations will get similarly involved.

I think one of the most unfortunate things for UCP is the lack of community knowledge and all that UCP does in the community.

PROPERTY SALES 39 202 12,960
MORTGAGES 25 110 8,113
BUILDING PERMITS 114 645 30,579
BANKRUPTCIES 37 122 6,186