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Utah charity needs help bringing Christmas to disabled adults

By Jed Boal | Posted - Nov 29th, 2012 @ 10:44pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Donations are down for many charitable organizations this holiday season, and the need keeps growing.

The Utah Association for Intellectual Disabilities (UAID) tries to make sure that low-income people with intellectual disabilities are not forgotten on Christmas. Right now that seems like a daunting task, and the organization needs help.

"(It) makes me feel kind of bad knowing that we are their only chance to get Christmas," said Kristen O'Shea, office manager for UAID.

Thursday, O'Shea showed us colorful ornaments hanging along the office walls that display the pictures and wish lists of hundreds of low-income, intellectually disabled Utahns. Every year, UAID tries to make sure that low income people with disabilities are not forgotten on Christmas through its Holiday Gift Box program.

(It) makes me feel kind of bad knowing that we are their only chance to get Christmas.

–Kristen O'Shea, UAID

But this year the organization is scrambling to make sure that Christmas doesn't fizzle for them. Right now, that seems like a daunting task: donations are off 70 percent, and they need help.

Those who benefit from UAID live across the state, and range in age from 7 months old to 96 years old.

"These people are low-income individuals with intellectual disabilities: down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injury," O'Shea explained.

They are people who otherwise might not get anything for Christmas. Many who are 50 or 60 years old have the intellectual ability of a 4-year-old or 14-year-old.

"They're great people: great spirits, great hearts, always willing to learn," said Debbie Wyan, a program manager at North Eastern Service in Salt Lake City.

As part of her job, Wyan helps the intellectually disabled find jobs. She works with this population daily and knows how important it is for them to get simple gifts for Christmas.

"It means a lot to them, showing that someone actually cares about them," she said.

But right now there are more than 800 applicants, and 600 have not yet been adopted. To make the challenge even greater, the applications keep arriving.

Donation tips
If you plan on purchasing a gift for a UAID person in need:
  • It is suggested that you limit your gifts to about $75 per ornament.
  • Please do not buy iPods, computers or expensive items.
  • Gifts are due back to UAID by Dec. 5, but that date will likely be extended to accommodate need
For more information, call 801-870-7011 or visit

UAID had planned to cut off applications earlier this month, but the volunteer organization doesn't have the heart to do that and will likely accept donations and deliver gifts right up until Christmas.

O'Shea pointed out that these individuals could be our neighbors and family members, and their gift requests are simple: jeans, sweat shirts, pajamas, games and puzzles.

Because of their intellectual disabilities, O'Shea says that the childhood thrill and joy of the holiday season last for them through adulthood.

"Say you're 60-years-old and you have the intellect of a 4-year-old. That 60-year-old has the mentality of a 4-year-old, and they see Christmas through a child's eyes," O'Shea said.

If you'd like to help, you can drop by the Salt Lake UAID office, 1453 S. Major Street, and take an ornament or two off the wall. Take a look at the wish list, buy a few of the items, and return them to UAID. Wrap them if you can, but be sure to include a sticky note that details what's in the gift box.

UAID can also scan an ornament and email the picture and wish list to you. You can contact UAID at 801-870-7011 with any questions.


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