United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people of all ages with a broad range of disabilities and their families.
Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP of Nebraska has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting one person at a time, one family at a time.
UCP of Nebraska works to enact real change–to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities–impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities.
For more than 60 years, UCP of Nebraska has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents, caregivers and associated professionals, UCP of Nebraska will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond.
The Early Years 1946 – 1953
In Nebraska, Cerebral Palsy as an organization can be traced back to 1946. Known then as the Nebraska Parents Council on Cerebral Palsy, it was a committee of the Nebraska Crippled Children’s Society or “Easter Seals.” There were chapters in a number of the larger cities in Nebraska, but the focus remained on eastern Nebraska. The services provided in Omaha by J.P. Lord Therapy Center and in Lincoln by the State Orthopedic Hospital weren’t available anywhere else in Nebraska. Those two programs drew children with cerebral palsy from all over Nebraska.
During this era the news media and medical experts referred to persons with cerebral palsy as “spastics.” Much of the focus was on children during this period. Another misconception of the 1940’s was the generally held belief that persons with cerebral palsy were mentally deficient in some way, primarily because they were non-verbal.
United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska 1954 – 1965
In March of 1954, Nebraska United Cerebral Palsy Association was incorporated. Its basic mission statement was, ‘Assist those suffering from cerebral palsy, both children and adults, by providing medical treatment, nursing care, hospitalization, and braces; training personnel to care for such persons; by providing medical and scientific research in connection with such illness’.
During the 1950’s UCPA began using telethons to raise support and money. The popularity of the telethon was high because television was so new and everyone wanted to be involved and costs weren’t nearly as staggering as they are today with huge advertising revenues. During the first telethon pledges were collected immediately by a local cab company and trucking company. Services provided during the telethon by local companies, such as the cab company, TV station, telephone company, and many others was donated free gratis. Needless to say it was a great success financially.
The End of the Omaha Era in UCPA 1966 – 1979
In the 60’s and early 70’s, the local Omaha affiliate continued with direct grants to other supporting organizations in the Greater Omaha area. This money helped the flag ship providers such as J.P. Lord School, Hattie B. Monroe Home for Children, and summer camp at Elmwood Park.
During this time, the Omaha affiliate used the traditional Sunday afternoon ’53 Minute March to help raise money and a new fund raising media called the walk-a-thon. Walk-a-thon’s proved to be a very good way of making money in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Another method of raising money involved passing containers around in movie theaters before movies started. This effort was provided by a local college sorority Alpha Gamma Delta and its Alumnae Club in the Omaha area.
Because the Southeast Nebraska affiliate was doing so well and the Omaha organization seemed to be running out of steam, in 1975 a merger took place that combined the three organizations remaining in the state at the time. Southeast Nebraska, Greater Omaha, and UCPA of Nebraska were merged into one organization called United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska with responsibilities of both the local affiliates (direct programs) and the state affiliate governmental influence.
The Lean Years of UCP of Nebraska/CP of Nebraska 1980 – 1990
The merger was not a marriage made in heaven, although it worked reasonably well for several years. It tended to support the Southeast Nebraska programs and neglect the Omaha area. After the merger, the organization maintained a $300,000 budget for several years until the money source began to dry up. Over the balance of the decade the budgets declined to under $120,000. Another key factor was the resignation of Dee Coalson to move with her husband to Georgia and the loss of one of the key program people to illness.
In the later part of the 70’s another merger occurred between a local disabled athletes association and UCP of Nebraska. UCP of Nebraska continued to support the telethons moving them to KETV in Omaha when the telethon went to a national feed. The change to national feed was the beginning of the end for UCP of Nebraska’s solvency.
Programs during the 1980’s were minimal with the granting of funds for purchase of equipment and services being the primary one. For a number of years Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska has supported a group of persons with cerebral palsy attending the Cerebral Palsy games in Kansas City. But because of unresolved transportation problems it was also dropped in 1989.
United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska 1990 – 2000
UCP of Nebraska began to grow and expand services in the 1990’s. In 1992, Terri Mecham Butler was hired as the first Executive Director since 1982. The organization began to publish a quarterly newsletter to keep the public informed of the organization’s activities and provided some educational materials, as well.
The Client Assistance Grant Program remained the main program for UCP of Nebraska and a part-time coordinator was hired to oversee this project. UCP of Nebraska became a member of the Coordinated Funding Committee, a network of 20 agencies who refer to one another to better meet client needs.
In 1994, a new program was added. The TECH TOTS program, providing toys adapted for use by children with disabilities, opened sites at Children’s Hospital and the Teachers Administration Center both in Omaha. A part-time coordinator was hired to oversee this new program. In 1999, an additional site was opened at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. The program was very successful in reaching in reaching more Nebraskans. Grants from Assistive Technology, The Sowers Club of Nebraska and First Data helped to develop and expand this program.
Fund raising changed during this decade. The first “HIT THE LINKS AND DRIVE AGAINST DISABILITIES” golf event was held 1998, and it was a huge success. This event has become one of the major fundraisers for the Organization.
The last official Benefit Auction for UCP of Nebraska was held in February 1999. It was a sad note but it had become increasingly more difficult to organize and hold the event. A combined UCP of Nebraska and The Antelope Park Challenged Playground Auction Event was held in May of 2000. That ended 27 years of Benefit Auctions for UCP of Nebraska.