My mom was always my best friend. When she was battling colon cancer in her late 50’s, my world was flipped upside down and I didn’t know how to process all of my feelings… the fear, the anger, the sadness, the desire to be with her every moment, and the hope that she would conquer this vicious disease. Most of her treatments were only 3 miles from where I worked, but it would have taken me like an hour and a half to get there on the bus and train so I started running to meet her at the hospital. What started out of pure necessity quickly became a way to handle all the stress and worry I was carrying around. So when Michele shared her own personal journey to running, I could feel her story in my bones or more precisely…. in my feet.
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Michele’s son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. Suddenly she and her family stopped getting invited over to friends’ houses for dinner and were asked to leave restaurants and shows. Michele and her family were rocked by the social isolation and the doors that were closed to them. Though Michele didn’t previously consider herself a runner, she started running daily to take care of herself and cope with the challenges she and her family faced. And then she decided to tackle the societal issues impacting her family by founding KultureCity. KultureCity is a non-profit which creates sensory accessibility and full inclusion for those with invisible disabilities.
How do you juggle work for you and your family?
When I’m in the ICU it’s my entire focus. I cannot be side tracked or distracted- so it’s pretty intense in that way. But when I’m not working and i’m spending time with my sons, I make sure that they are my only focus. And so I try to be very deliberate and thoughtful about not being distracted when I spend time with them too.
What led you to start KultureCity?
My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. In our journey with him we realized that society really excluded us and excluded him from being a participant in our community. I don’t think we realized it in the moment, but over time we started to feel the isolating effects after getting kicked out of restaurants and losing touch with friends who used to invite us over.
We met with a lot of families and other individuals like us who had similar stories of isolation and exclusion. The stories of these families and our experience led us to found KultureCity. The mission behind KultureCity is inclusion. How do we equip our society? How do we bring that level of awareness to our community, that there are many kids and adults among us that don’t come out because of barriers they face? Beyond that level of awareness, how can we help them? And how can we help our community to remove the barriers and include these individuals? We were determined to remove these barriers both for our own family and for countless others in our community.
How does KultureCity create opportunities of full inclusion?
KultureCity provides venues such as museums, zoos, and sports arenas with not just the foundational knowledge, but tools. Part of our work is to spread awareness and remove judgement if staff see a child or an adult who is having a difficult time.
KultureCity also trains staff to know how to help these individuals as well. We teach communication strategies to talk in a way thats calming to them- such as using language that is simple and direct. We also provide tools such as noise cancelling headphones and fidget tools, and things like that. I think awareness is definitely the first key. But after that, we need to take the next step to change our communities and make them more accepting and inclusive for individuals with invisible disabilities.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.