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KU School of Health Professions doctoral student presents community program benefitting people with disabilities

Resource fair with local nonprofit provides bridge between academics and real-world experience

Dress for Success participant scoops ingredients into a bowl
Recently hired “super scooper” Annie Block learned to make energy bites during the Dress for Success event.

At the beginning of her second year at the University of Kansas School of Health Professions, Caitlin Fitzpatrick was looking for a job when she got an email from a fellow student. “They said there was a job opening for a shift manager at The Golden Scoop, a nonprofit ice cream and coffee shop that employs uniquely abled people,” she said. It seemed like a good fit for someone studying to be an occupational therapist.

Now in her third year of her occupational therapy program, Fitzpatrick is still working at The Golden Scoop. She also organized a health and wellness fair designed to support individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities entering the job force. The event, called Dress for Success, took place in the KU Medical Center Health and Education building on Saturday, April 6.

The event demonstrated how KU Medical Center students work in the local community while gaining valuable practical experience in their field. As a shift manager, Fitzpatrick got to know the employees (known as “super scoopers”) while becoming an advocate for them. The Golden Scoop University’s mission includes four pillars: health and wellness, professionalism, on-the-job and technical training and parent/caregiver education.

“They saw how passionate I am about the population I work with as well as their health and wellness,” Fitzpatrick said. “But they didn’t have the resources or time to develop the program. So, we partnered to create Dress for Success.”

Dress for Success was a resource fair to support individuals ages 14 and older with intellectual disabilities as they prepare for the workforce. Fitzpatrick invited current and potential scoopers and their families and caregivers, along with anyone else interested in understanding the challenges and opportunities available.

Amber Shreiber is founder and co-owner of The Golden Scoop, which celebrates its third anniversary this month. “We are opening our new location soon, so this was a unique opportunity to introduce the staff, job candidates and their families and help them understand how to be successful,” she said. The organization also distributes their ice cream in single-serve portions throughout The University of Kansas Health System’s cafeterias.

Dress for Success attendee looks at items in gift bag
Patrick Chapman, current “super scooper” at The Golden
Scoop, played a round of hygiene bingo and received a
gift bag to take home.

Dress for Success included different stations for groups of participants, including a discussion about the importance of a pre-work hygiene routine, a bingo game with prizes, and a gift bag full of products such as deodorant, soap and lotion. A local chef led a demonstration for how to make a quick and nutritious snack — a hands-on project that resulted in giggles from participants navigating bowls of oats, chocolate chips, peanut butter, coconut and honey. A group fitness activity presented ideas for staying active and healthy.

In another room, parents and caregivers attended presentations about ABLE accounts (a tax-advantaged savings account used for qualified disability expenses), special needs trusts and basic disability employment expectations.

Local vendors were invited to set up information stations, including Sweat Worx, KITCH, Arcare, Autism Society Heartland, Special Olympics, the Farmers House, Supplement Super Store and others.

Dress for Success became the theme of Fitzpatrick’s capstone experience, fulfilling a requirement for her occupational therapy doctoral program. Later this month, Fitzpatrick will present her capstone project to faculty who will evaluate her work.

Her faculty mentor, Lauren Foster, OTD, a licensed occupational therapist and clinical associate professor at KU School of Health Professions, said that Dress for Success showcases how students can facilitate interactions between the medical center, community sites and job settings.

“While we are located at KU Medical Center, occupational therapists often work with people in their homes and communities,” Foster explained. “It is important to include community projects like Caitlin's because it shows how people live their lives outside of the health care system. It's really important for all people to have the opportunity to work and live their lives doing things that make them happy.”

Fitzpatrick, who graduates in May, will study for her board exam and begin looking for career opportunities this summer. In the meantime, she will continue working at The Golden Scoop —working with the people she cares about in a place where they’ve found so much success.

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