Updated: May 5
United Cerebral Palsy Central California is thrilled to announce that three members of our extended family are being recognized for their lifetime of service and advocacy for people with disabilities.
Kale and Carolyn West and Diana Salinas will be honored by the Central Valley Regional Center’s Champion Awards. The West family will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award and Salinas will be receiving the Direct Support Professional Award.
Unfortunately due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony where they were to be honored was postponed until further notice.
For more, here’s a look at these deserving honorees:
KALE AND CAROLYN WEST
Kale and Carolyn West have spent a lifetime of working for people with disabilities. It’s a subject very dear to their family because their youngest daughter, Lori Ann, 49, has Down syndrome.
When Lori Ann was born, the Wests looked for programs that would help their daughter and found that few – if any – programs existed.
With help from contacts at the Central Valley Regional Center, the Wests and other parents of children with special needs organized a program on their own that would socialize their children and expose them to early education models while giving the mothers some respite time during the day.
The program with five infants first housed in a Fresno church grew to 18-20 students, arriving to school with the help of volunteers driving donated station wagons to pick up students from their homes, and is now known as the Lori Ann Infant Program, operated by the Fresno Unified School District, serving more than 170 children aged birth to three years old.
Kale West, who retired after 35 years as a police officer, says this is their life, contributing their time – and hearts – to people with disabilities because the need is there … always.
The Wests have been very involved with Special Olympics, supporting the program for more than 40 years; for 12 of those years, Kale West was area director and also worked as a coach. Carolyn’s favorite activity to lead was Bowling Buddies, where people with disabilities would come to Rodeo Lanes every Saturday to bowl.
The Wests are all about grass-roots fundraising. Like the donated station wagons, the Wests use whatever connections they’ve made through the years to get the funding they need to support the programs near and dear to them, like United Cerebral Palsy Central California.
When buses were needed to shuttle athletes to a Special Olympics event in Southern California, the Wests reached out to their friends in the business community and everyone got a ride to compete.
Every Christmas, students at the Lori Ann Infant Program are gifted soft books donated by the West family.
The Wests give birthday parties and “candy sacks”: gift bags with treats for students in their daughter Karen’s special education classes.
The Wests have flipped more pancakes than an IHOP short-order cook to raise funds to support the causes they are passionate about.
Kale says his wife of 57 years, Carolyn, who passed away almost two years ago, believed “a kid who has never been in a hotel or had his own toothbrush should have that opportunity.”
Kale and Carolyn West have three daughters, Linda, Karen and Lori Ann; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Lori Ann has been a student at UCPCC for 27 years. Kale also has been a board member and president of the board at ARC, and a member of Kiwanis, Eagles and Lions clubs.
“The years here at UCPCC have been the most supportive and best programs,” Kale says. “We tell people that’s the place to go.”
Diana Salinas came to work at United Cerebral Palsy Central California in 1987. She had worked in convalescent and group homes and had experience working with people with disabilities.
While working for UCPCC, she did a little bit of everything. She started as a respite care worker, then became an instructor’s aide. Eventually she worked as an instructor in art, a floor supervisor and finally the director of the art department.
When she started in the art department, Diana said they didn’t even have colored pencils. They made art using papier mache. Diana, who had no previous experience with art, transformed the department. Under her watch, UCPCC started creating Halloween decorations as far back as May of each year to prepare for UCPCC’s Halloween Haunted House in October. The Haunted House is designed with handicap accessibility in mind.
She also managed to bridge the gap between higher-functioning adults with disabilities and those folks with disabilities that required more care. Diana says she would get the students working together as a team, which would help build a bond between the students that would help them empathize and look out for each other.
Diana says working with people with special needs is her passion. Even though she retired in 2017, Diana decided to keep helping UCPCC as a volunteer. With her help, UCPCC students enter the artwork they create here into The Big Fresno Fair. Diana fills out all the paperwork necessary to enter artwork at the annual event and delivers the art to the fairgrounds. For those students who she knows won’t be able to attend the fair to see their artwork displayed, Diana goes and takes pictures of the art after it’s been judged.
“I love it,” Diana says. “Even when I stopped working here, it took me almost two years not to be able to look at the pictures back. It was very, very hard. Now it makes me happy: all the fun things we’ve done.”
One of the best choices Diana says she ever made was to become a mentor in CVRC’s mentor program. By becoming a mentor, Diana was able to bring an adult with disabilities into her family to care for them. Jack, who would not attend a day program before coming to live with Diana and her husband, Joe, has been living with the couple for 14 years. Jack, who is in his 50s, requires feeding, changing, bathing – all physical work. But Diana, with the support of her family, was happy to do it.
Six years later, Diana and her family welcomed Judy, 79. Both Jack and Judy are students at UCPCC’s Fresno center.
When Diana isn’t helping out at UCPCC, she’s busy being a wife, a mom, and a grandmother to three. S
he also enjoys helping local 4-H clubs by collaborating with them on their own art projects, teaching them how to use papier mache, mosaics and even how to plant succulents. She also helps the Fowler Lions Club with its town display at The Big Fresno Fair.
To purchase tickets for the Champion Awards dinner, visit https://www.cvrc.org/central-valley-champion-awards/.