Part fundraiser and part celebration, “Walk With Me 2014” on April 26 at Steele Indian School Park (7:30 a.m. to noon) is completely dedicated to the mission of Southwest Human Development — providing the strong foundation Arizona’s children need for a great start in life. The organization was founded by Ginger Ward in 1981 after having worked with Head Start while completing her graduate degree. “I didn’t like the limitations of a government agency, and I felt I would be more helpful in a nonprofit in the community,” says CEO Ward.
Honored with many awards — for its programs and a “Teacher of the Year” — SWHD serves more than 135,000 infants, toddlers and children with about 40 programs. “We try to figure out community and family needs, and develop programs to fill in the gaps,” Ward says, describing SWHD as unique in that respect and noting the critical importance of early intervention in any developmental issues.
This year’s “Walk With Me” will support two of those programs: the ADAPT Shop, which provides individualized products to support the specific needs of children with physical disabilities, and the Children’s Development Center, which provides assessment, diagnosis and treatment for children with disabilities at an early age when intervention can make the most difference.
- Walk With Me’s title activity is a 1.25-mile easy walk in which everyone can participate. Entertainment includes face-painting and bouncy playhouses, and this year’s event debuts a 5K Run.
- Southwest Human Development serves as a single resource for families “to go to just one place to tell their story and get help,” says founder Ginger Ward. Its extensive programs help educate and support the families in the issues they face.
- Staff of 800 is comprised of a wide range of professionals in the early childhood field, including a developmental pediatrician. Most of the work is through home visiting services.
- Financial donations and contributions and donated goods and services help support the organization. Its budget ($55 million for 2014) relies primarily on public funding, which is crucial, Ward explains, because effective program requires “an intensive one-on-one with families” over an extended period of time.