Monday, September 25, 2023

Bridget Brown's Blog for September.



I hope your fall is going well, picking apples and seeing the leaves changing. It is always one of my favorite times of the year. I hope you are enjoying the fall season as well.


Can you believe that the year is going so fast! It seems like it is flying by for me.


I am back in school at UIC and loving it. I met a few new students in my class.  I get dropped off at the Behavioral Science building and can get around the building by myself. I also went to the activities fair on campus and had a blast. I signed up for some groups and organizations and hope to get more involved in things on campus.


I am also doing fine in the LEND Program. I Love it!  I have learned about how trauma impacts people, especially in the disability community. Guest speakers presented who were self-advocates and they shared their personal stories with us.  I learned a lot about Autism screening and how that is the first step in getting a diagnosis. I understand more about what to look for when trying to make a diagnosis especially when kids are really young.   One of my friends presented and he works for para-Olympics and is an amazing self- advocate and a nice person.


I still work as a standardized patient actor in the nursing simulation lab at UIC. I also work in the lab helping to set up the rooms and help out the nursing students who are there.   


Today you are on a special treat because I am going to tell you about an agency called HELING HAND that is near me.  I went there to visit with a team of people to learn more about what they do.  This is also part of the work I am doing for LEND.  Helping Hand a place that provides support and services for people with disabilities.   I saw two of my friends there who I have not seen for a while.  One is a friend from high school and another one from the recreation program and a person I worked with when I was a person- centered planning coach support person.  I was excited to see them.

First we visited the day program where people do art, learn life skills, enjoy and participate in music, participate in a wellness program where they learn healthy living habits and participate in a fitness program. Some of the participants work at jobs in the community, One person we met actually works at  the Chicago Lyric opera house and loves music. He was very excited to tell us about how he gets there on the train and what he does as a job. 


We also visited one of their community homes where 8 people live. It was beautiful and the girls had a whole side of the house to themselves and the males had the other side.  It had a huge kitchen and big table where they share meals. I was really impressed with the laundry room because I love laundry.!!!


People are doing all different things in their life and so that makes me think that it is a place that tries to be person centered and that is one of my favorite things that I always encourage people to do when making plans and designing lives.


Here is a little information about Helping Hand. 


Helping Hand is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities in Cook County and greater Chicagoland communities. We offer a wide range of person-centered programs and services that enhance the educational, therapeutic, residential, and employment opportunities for those we serve. Our programs and services include a school, progressive employment programs that promote inclusive workplaces, pediatric therapies (occupational and speech/language), high school transition services, Community Living (CILA), and specialized programs with high team member-to-client ratios for seniors with disabilities.

Have a great month and I will be back soon.
Bridget Brown

Monday, August 28, 2023



Bridget’s Blog August 2023



Can you believe that we are in mid-August I can’t believe that summer has gone so fast!  I enjoyed this summer of 2023. I hope you all are having a wonderful time and ready to go back to school or work or just ready for the fall season.


I started back at UIC in the CO-OP program.  This is my second year and I am excited to get started. I also started the LEND program and I am learning so much about neurodiversity and more important things about disabilities that will help me be a strong advocate.  


Today I am going to tell you a dear friend of mine her name is Marge Nykaza.  She just passed away and I am so sad right now because she made such a huge difference in the world and in my life.   She started an amazing organization called  Harmony, Hope and Healing 20 years ago.

She mixed her love of music, her talent and her faith together and brought music to people in Chicago who have experienced homelessness.  She saved many lives with music because people found their voice and that helped them heal and go on to live full and wonderful lives.  She brought  music and hope into  people’s  hearts, souls, and minds. Marge brought healing music to homeless and previously homeless people in the Chicago area. She saved many lives over the years by just giving marginalized people a chance to find their voice through music


She was a friend and a wonderful director of this organization. 

I remember what Marge has giving to people from Chicago and how she

touched so many people and left a great legacy.  I hope the organization will continue but I know she will be missed by many but her memory lives on in the work she started.  


She inspired me to share my gifts and talents with the world.  I want to be more like her and help people find their voice so they can share their gifts with the world.  Many people she worked with were people with disabilities who struggled in many ways. She was a friend to all!

Below is some information about Marge.

Marge Nykaza was not just the founder of Harmony, Hope & Healing; she was the heart and soul that infused our organization with boundless compassion, unwavering dedication, and an unshakable belief in the healing power of music. Her journey was a testament to resilience, empathy, and the extraordinary capacity of one person's vision to transform countless lives.

Marge's belief in the transformative nature of music led her to create a haven of hope and healing, where individuals facing vulnerability could find solace and rebuild their lives through musical expression. Her pioneering spirit introduced music therapy as a cornerstone of our programs, making Harmony, Hope & Healing a leader in providing accessible and impactful music therapy services. Through her guidance, our certified music therapists have empowered individuals to find their voice, process emotions, and enhance their well-being through the profound connection between music and healing.


But Marge's impact reached far beyond the walls of our organization. She was a fervent advocate for collaboration, forging partnerships that extended our reach into schools, community centers, healthcare facilities, shelters, and other vital community spaces. Through these collaborations, her vision of healing through music reached those who needed it most, amplifying her impact and spreading hope throughout Chicago.


Marge's legacy lives on within us. Her values of empathy, collaboration, and resilience continue to be the guiding principles behind everything we do. As we mourn the loss of an extraordinary visionary, we also celebrate the indelible mark she left on Harmony, Hope & Healing. Every note played, every program conducted, and every life transformed is a testament to the profound impact of Marge's vision.

She is one of my leaders and bought so many talented people into this world of music. She mad a difference in the world.  I will miss her so much and hope that she is looking down on all of the people who were her friends.   

Bridget Brown

Monday, August 7, 2023

July Blog


Can you believe that the summer has gone by so fast and that August is approaching quickly? I am already planning the dates when I go back to school. 

 I hope your summer has been busy and you are having fun. I hope you are staying cool with this hottest month of the summer, and swimming to cool off.

What is your favorite part of the summer so far that you enjoyed?


Happy 33rd anniversary of the ADA!!

On July 26th, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President Bush. This act increased accessibility for people with disabilities all across the country. 

 The ADA is a radical civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public with disabilities Act (ADA)

I am so blessed that I grew up with the ADA so that I could be included in school and in my community.  Most of us are where we are because of the ADA.


A few months ago I was invited by a group called FUN FOR THE DISABLED to be in a video at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago.   Vanessa  Harris is the director of Fun  4 the disabled.  She started this project of making videos of individuals with disabilities enjoying all kinds of fun places in Chicago to see how they accommodate people with disabilities and make things accessible.  Garfield Park Conservatory is a beautiful place with tons of interesting plants.  I got a tour with a guide who showed us  amazing things. The video is just one of many videos that will feature a person with a disability participating in some of Chicago's amazing tourist events.   I am not sure when it will all be out on her website but it is worth checking it out to see all the different things she has done. 


The Mission for FUN 4 THE DISABLED is...

Our mission is to create a community by, for, and about disabled people, to help each other live our best lives! Through our videos and articles, we uplift disabled voices and share life-changing resources. Our videos check all the boxes! We make entertaining pieces with accessible events and activities, educational pieces about disabled experiences, and informational pieces about helpful products and organizations. There’s something for everyone!

 At Fun4theDisabled, we believe that disabled people have much to contribute to society, and we celebrate that! We create digital media that provides a platform for disabled people to share their perspectives, learn about up-and-coming organizations and movements in the disability community, raise awareness of different disabilities, and most of all, celebrate disabled people in ways that are truly F U N ! ! ! ! !


Happy SUMMER !!

Friday, June 30, 2023

June Blog by Bridget


I hope you are all having a great summer.  I always love June because it kicks off the summer. My favorite summer things are summing, fishing, camping, and sleeping at a cabin.

Enjoying the warm summer doing all the things you love to do.


We have a summer camp and this week we are hosting a group from the AWESOME LIFE ACADEMY.  They are a fantastic group of people!  Next week we are hosting a group from ENVISION and I am also looking forward to being with all of them. If you want to check out our camp video go to the website: You can see a really great video on there about camp.  I have been at this camp every summer since I was born and it is close to my heart. I work in the candy store, doing dishes and the grounds.  Great fun!


I am pretty excited that I am enrolled in the LEND training program that starts in the fall.  Illinois LEND is LEADERSHIP EDUCATION IN NEURODEVELOPMENTAL AND RELATED DISABILITIES.   I had to apply to get accepted so I am really thrilled.  They have a group of people who are self -advocates that they include in this training program so I will let you know how it goes.  If you are interested in doing this go to their website and think about applying next year.


Another great thing that you might be interested in is that I received an amazing scholarship from Ruby’s Rainbow. Ruby’s Rainbow gives college scholarships to people with Down Syndrome. I have about 1 ½ years to continue my program at the University of Illinois Chicago so this scholarship will help me reach my dreams. If you have Down Syndrome and want to go to college, check out RUBY’S RAINBOW.


My friend Ashley and I are the keynote speakers at the Illinois Transition Conference this November.  We are applying to present at the SPEAK UP SPEAK OUT conference also.   Check out these two events.  Join us at SPEAK UP SPEAK OUT! It is a lot of fun and you will get to meet a ton of self–advocates!!


I will be in touch next month to talk about FUN FOR THE DISABLED!!


May you find lots of fun things to do in July.

Dwell in the possibilities!

Monday, June 19, 2023

Focus on new opportunities


June Blog: Part 2


Hi There!


I hope you are continuing to have a fantastic summer! Speaking of summer, it is a great time to focus on new opportunities,  experiences, and goals you may have. This could be related to your future career goals or perhaps be related to applying for college. It could include exploring housing options once you are finished with school or starting a new hobby that brings you fulfillment and joy! Check out our list of things you can do this summer that will help set you up for success in the future!


Happy Summer!



  1. Apply for a summer job. Many businesses and local organizations are interested in hiring for the summer!
  2. Explore colleges online that have programs similar to your interests.
  3. Not sure what you want to do in the future? Take a career interest and/or skill aptitude test!


  1. Volunteer. Find organizations in your community to get involved with! This can be a great way to build your professional (and personal!) network. This website helps match volunteers to opportunities in their areas


  1. Build your resume. Consider taking online courses that provide certificates or tangible experiences in your area of interest.


  1. Find a new hobby! There are plenty of ways to get involved in new or old hobbies! This might include joining an intramural league through your local Parks and Recreation Department, taking art classes at a local art studio, or taking cooking classes at a local restaurant. Summer is the perfect time to take time to invest in yourself!


List of Different Hobbies to Try:

Seven Tools to Find People with Similar Interests:

Monday, June 12, 2023

Happy Summer


Family Matters: June Blog Posts


June Blog: Part 1


Hi Everyone and Happy Summer! 


We hope you are enjoying the start of your summer break or summer programming! We know how busy the end of the school year can be and we congratulate each of you on making it to the finish line! For those of you that graduated, we celebrate your success and wish you the best in your next chapter! This week, we are going to talk about and share tips for success when interviewing for a job. Whether you are entering your career or looking for summer employment, we’ve got you covered! Take a peek at some of these quick tips and tricks to landing your next job!


Talk soon!



  1. Be on time for your interview! By arriving 10-15 minutes early for your interview,  it shows your employer that you are serious about the position, have a reliable means of transportation to get to and from work, and that you are committed to the job!

  2. Bring a few copies of your resume to hand to the interviewer or interviewing team. You want to highlight your experience and success! Unsure of how to make  a resume, consider using this resources!


  1. Greet the interviewer with a handshake and a smile. If you prefer not to shake hands due to COVID-19 precautions, consider providing a wave instead!

  2. Be prepared to talk about your strengths and what qualifies you as a great candidate for this position!

  3. Bring questions. You will almost always get asked if you have any questions about the position you are applying for. You may ask questions regarding your role and responsibilities, the work culture, or if there are opportunities for advancement. This is the perfect opportunity to determine if this position is a good fit for you!


Wednesday, May 31, 2023

When Irish Eyes are Smiling



Welcome! This is a wonderful time of the year because summer is almost here!!  I hope you are enjoying your spring so far! It has gone by quickly.    I am excited that my classes are finished for the school year.  Happy late Mother’s Day.


Right when I was done with school, I went to IRELAND with my parents for two weeks.  It was an exciting adventure.  I am Irish and many of my family came over from Ireland during the potato famine. You may have immigrants that came to America from Ireland or from another country because they were looking for a safe place to live and America was that place.  We went to the place where my ancestors left Ireland for America on a boat. My great great grandmother had small pox on the boat and they thought she was not going to live, but she did and that Is why I am here!! I do my family tree and ancestry so I know a lot about where my family is from and the history of all the people in my family.  It is so much fun and very exciting to learn so much about where my people came from.


I have great stuff to tell you about what we saw and what we did in Ireland.  Our Adventure started In Dublin.

We took our time traveling all over Ireland to some of the places that I never saw before: we went to my dad’s friends that he met when he walked the Camino in Spain called “the way of Santiago”. They were very nice and friendly people. I got to know them, and the best part is that they fed us lots of yummy food.  The lady who was hosted us overnight was named Gillian Guest. She works for an agency for people with disabilities in Ireland.  She helps people live in the community and her agency supports people all over the area. Another lady named Heather teaches children with disabilities and has worked at her school for a long time.  It seems like they have a vision for inclusion in Ireland and people are welcomed and part of the community. 


The Kennedy’s came from Ireland and we went to see the family homestead.  It was very interesting. There is also an arboretum named after JFK right near where they family home was located.  I learned about their family and their sister, named Rosemaire Kennedy, that had a disability and how she made a difference in her family.   Her sister Jean and the Kennedy family started Special Olympics and now Special Olympics is all over the world.   It actually started in Illinois over 40 years ago.  Now it is in many countries and of course they have special Olympics for people with disabilities in Ireland. I have participated in Special Olympics mainly in Gymnastics. I have not done it for a few years but I loved it.  I was also a global messenger for SO.  


I went to the Kennedy memorial museum had lots of great information and I got to know the Kennedy family.    
Another fun event was a ukulele group that gets together in a bar every Thursday called FUREY’S BAR.   And I was very excited to see that one of the Ukulele musicians had Down Syndrome.  It made me want to play the Ukulele!


Ireland is beautiful and I was so happy to visit! Everyone was kind and nice and said hello or waved!!  We don’t have that much in our country.  There are no guns in Ireland and that was also a very nice thing that I liked.   I really loved that People seem to really care about each other and include people with disabilities. 


Have a great June !!

Bridget Brown  

Bridget Brown's Blog for September.

    I hope your fall is going well, picking apples and seeing the leaves changing. It is always one of my favorite times of the year. I ...