Under the gazebo at O’Brien Park in Parker, Eddie Biegel rang the ceremonial Rotary Bell on Sept. 1 to sound off the first meeting of a groundbreaking Rotarian club for special-needs citizens.
Biegel is the first president of the new Rotary Satellite Club of Parker, CO Cherry Creek Valley United. The United Rotary club inaugurated its first 25 members at the O’Brien Park gazebo and flower garden, both of which were gifts from local Rotary clubs.
The Cherry Creek Valley Rotary Club of Parker (CCVRC) is the parent to the satellite club. A Rotary International official told CCVRC officials that the United club is the first of its kind in the organization, which consists of more than 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million members.
“We are the first in our nation to be an inclusive club. We are the first in Rotary. We are the first globally. We are setting precedent, and I hope it takes off like wildfire,” Rivero said.
Rotary International does not discriminate against potential new members with special needs. The Parker United club is the first to be operated by and for people with special needs, according to CCVRC officials.
A Rotary International spokesperson said the organization does not track the number of clubs that are independently operated by special-needs individuals. The spokesperson stated in a Sept. 3 email that “there should be no reason that persons with special needs would not be able to join a club or participate with Rotary.”
Bob Kemp, Rotary’s district governor for the greater Denver area, welcomed the group to the Rotary family. Kemp governs District 5450, which consists of clubs from Longmont to Castle Rock and from Summit County to the Eastern Plains.
“The rights and privileges of being a Rotarian is something, hopefully, you will carry with you the rest of your lives,” Kemp said.
The United club members will be solely responsible for running meetings, providing labor for service projects and deciding how to raise and appropriate funds. The club is now eligible to receive funding from the District 5450 pool.
The United Parker rotary club formed in June, but the inaugural class has been practicing Rotarian principles for 10 years. The Rotary Community Corps (RCC) was established in January 2010 and functioned under the umbrella organization, but members were not Rotarians.
Rotarian Kam Breitenbach is the sponsor for the United club. Breitenbach and a few others will sit in on regular meetings and members from CCVRC will assist with such matters as the club’s treasury department.
“Ten years you guys have been together and have done more service projects than most people I know,” Breitenbach said. “I’m very proud the Cherry Creek Valley Rotary Club came forth and said, ‘They need to be Rotarians. Let’s make it happen.’”
Cheryl O’Brien said she had one question on her mind when she looked into creating a United group: Why not?
O’Brien worked her way through the leadership channels of Rotary International before reaching the headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. No one, she said, had heard of a Rotary club for special-needs individuals.
Having special needs “should not be a circumstance that holds somebody back from being what they want to be,” O’Brien said. “That’s why they’re Rotarians. They wanted to be, and everybody said ‘yes.’”
“When you get a response like that, you can’t stop,” O’Brien said to a social-distanced crowd at O’Brien Park Sept. 1. “You have to keep going.”
The United club is heavily involved with community service projects already and have been actively involved in the Parker area for 10 years.
Breitenbach announced the club will participate in a new badge program, where each member receives one badge for each service project they complete. Breitenbach awarded their first badges for their “Sunshine Baskets” project they completed in August.
The United members are fundraising by selling the “Sunshine” gift baskets. The club is also donating several baskets to the Parker Senior Center. Gift baskets are available for $35.
The United club helped pack 72 back-to-school backpacks and will help the Parker Task Force with Thanksgiving baskets come November.
The new Rotarians are: Biegel, Cameron Claeys, Robert Cueves, Megan Duncan, Matt Franken, Christian Garcia, Nathan Goodman, Heather Gossett, Tara Hanna, Todd Hicks, Jon Holderman, Ana Jessen, Michael Klene, Rhianna Klene, Jason Kruger, Alex Larson, Steven Lawson, Donnie Lederman, Megan McNish, Shelby Morris, John Mueller, Lauren Nier, Elizabeth Perkins, Paul Triggs and Hanna Vaughn.
Once local restrictions are lifted, the United rotary club will meet on the first Tuesday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Village Inn in Parker, 19502 E. Parker Square. All members of Rotary International pay annual dues.