Pal Experiences is changing the game for families impacted by autism and other non-visible intellectual and developmental disabilities
Grant Thornton providing funding assistance, business advice and volunteer support
CHICAGO — Grant Thornton LLP has named Pal Experiences as the third nonprofit in its Purple Paladin initiative – a program that helps emerging nonprofit organizations move from start-up to sustainable by providing funding, business advice and volunteer support, while also helping them share their stories more broadly.
Grant Thornton selected Pal Experiences as a Purple Paladin because the nonprofit has found a unique and innovative way to address an important, but often overlooked, need: helping people with non-visible disabilities – such as autism – have more inclusive experiences at museums, entertainment venues, sporting events, and more.
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Pal Experiences founder Melanie Isaacs was moved to action when she realized that places like museums, restaurants and sporting events – while designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities – had no accommodations for families with invisible disabilities such as autism. With that in mind, her organization provides free, interactive digital tools, including custom videos, to make experiences more accessible and outings more enjoyable for these families.
The tools help families understand and prepare for what to expect during a visit, including crowd size and possible sensory pain points. Pal Experiences also utilizes a ‘behavior-chaining approach’ to break each experience down into more manageable tasks.
Pal Experiences works closely with the venues and events that have agreed to partner with it – known as Pal Places. For each Pal Place, the organization provides interactive, mobile-friendly Pal Guide web apps to support visitors with developmental disabilities when they are onsite, including finding quiet spaces, restrooms and staff support with the click of a button.
Pal Experiences has partnerships with venues in 11 states and is growing. In Phoenix, Arizona, where it launched its efforts, Pal Experiences has partnered with a diverse range of venues, including the OdySea Aquarium, Phoenix Suns basketball games, Arizona Science Center, Children's Museum of Phoenix, and Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games. In addition, the organization works with restaurants, urgent care centers and other locations important to families.
“Purple Paladins is all about helping promising and innovative nonprofits scale and grow,” said Brad Preber, CEO of Grant Thornton. “Pal Experiences is the ideal Purple Paladin. They already have many partner organizations serving as Pal Places — and Grant Thornton hopes to help them add more across the nation, while also helping them increase their use of technology to improve their services.”
According to Isaacs of Pal Experiences: “We believe that it can be socially and economically transformative for a diverse spectrum of people to participate in the activities many of us take for granted. Being designated as a Purple Paladin will help us dramatically further our mission. We are honored that Grant Thornton has selected us.”
The public can learn more about Pal Experiences, or make donations, by visiting the nonprofit’s website: www.palexperiences.org.
Pal Experiences joins two other non-profits that Grant Thornton previously selected as Purple Paladins: Coming Up Rosies and Sneakers for Soldiers.
Coming Up Rosies is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides ‘smile kits’ to hospitals so children – particularly those suffering from hair loss – can engage in therapeutic art activities to create custom head scarves, neck scarves and superhero capes based on their own unique designs. To learn more, visit: www.cominguprosies.com.
Sneakers for Soldiers is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides properly fitted athletic shoes to deployed combat troops in all branches of the military. To learn more, visit: www.sneakersforsoldiers.org.
Grant Thornton’s Purple Paladins program derives its name from the word paladin, a champion of a cause. To learn more about Purple Paladins or to nominate a nonprofit for potential support, visit Grant Thornton’s website: www.grantthornton.com/PurplePaladins.
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