SKIL was created by; is driven by; and is focused on persons with disabilities, their families, and communities. We provide Advocacy, Education, and Support with Customer Controlled services to break down and remove existing barriers and bridge social gaps to ensure and preserve Equality and Independence for all.


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Marlo Barnhart text

Things Change


            I am Marlo Barnhart, and I live here in Coffeyville, Kansas and have for about five years now.  I used to live in the country; now I’m a city person.  I had an accident five years ago that left me paralyzed from the waist down, and I have come a long way since then I’d like to think.  I live by myself.  I drive a car now which is really exciting.  The way I got my driver’s license I went to Wichita, Kansas to take a driving course in accessible driving.  Later I purchased a car and had it handicapped accessible.  I have been driving for three years now.  There is no better feeling than to get out and enjoy life. 

            During the day, I like to plant flowers and water flowers, play with my dog and her puppies, and try to clean house.  I’m not so good at that.  I get out and ride around in the car, enjoy the day a little bit.  After my accident five years ago, I’d like to think that the reason I am here today is because of my friends and my family.  It was hard going from being able to walk one day to being in a wheelchair the next and not knowing how to do anything, having to learn things over again. 

            Some of the things I have learned in the last five years was how to deal with everyday life in a different way.  Just to be able to cook from a wheelchair and reach things from a wheelchair and learn how to do everything over from a wheelchair from a different point of view I guess.  I learned how to drive, and that was really awesome.  That was something I had wanted to do for three years but was scared to.  So that was a big step.  Just being able to live in a house by yourself.  I don’t know.  My friends and family helped me a lot through a lot of this and I think if it wasn’t for them then I wouldn’t be here. 

            My point of life from a wheelchair is a lot different than being able to stand up and see things.  It makes everything a little bit harder, but you can do it.  It takes a little while, but I can do it.  I don’t know.  My point of view has changed, but it’s still the same.  I can still do anything I want to do.  It just might take me a little longer and a little different way, but I can get it done. 

            My appreciation on life I guess is just to be here and be around the people that mean the most to me and I mean the most to them.  I appreciate life a lot more now because I know things can change in an instant, and for me they have.  But, I believe that just makes me stronger and more appreciative of the things that I do have. 

            Independent living to me is being able to do the things you want to do without having help from anyone. It’s an amazing feeling to me to be able to get up out of bed by myself and cook breakfast by myself or water my flowers by myself.  Those things may not seem like that much to someone else, but to me that’s pretty independent.  From coming from having to have help to get in and out of bed to cooking supper to being able to do that by myself is pretty awesome, I think.

            Before this happened five years ago I don’t think I really thought a lot about life being so hard, not being able to do some of the simpler things in life.  That’s something you don’t really think about until it happens I guess.  Now it’s things you have to think about, I think, to be able to get where you are today, to where I am today.  It took a lot of strength and perseverance.  It’s hard, but it’s worth it I think.  I think so. 

            I’ve changed a lot because I take a lot of the smaller things that I used to take for granted I don’t take for granted so much anymore because those things could be taken in an instant, and I know that.  I love to plant flowers.  I love to see them grow.  To think that I could make something grow (laughs) is pretty awesome.  It’s kind of relaxing, really,  It gives me something to look forward to each day, to see how they have grown, to see how something I can take care of makes me happy.  They are beautiful.  It’s something small that makes me happy and relaxes me and makes me look forward to each day.  Something that I’m proud, of.  Just planting a flower.  Watch it grow. 

            I have a part Rottweiler, part Chow dog that just had nine puppies, so that’s fun.  We have to bottle feed one of them, actually, because she’s the runt and the mother wasn’t taking to her.  They’re awesome little puppies.  (Laughs)  I love my dog.  She’s another thing that makes me feel really good about myself, knowing that I take care of her, and she loves me no matter what, no matter how I feel or what kind of day I am having.  She’s always there, and she’s a good friend to me.  So I think pets are really a good thing.  (Laughs)  They keep you motivated and give you something else to look forward to each day.

            I think on thing that scares me is getting old and being in a wheelchair, not being as able to get around as I do now.  I think from coming from experience that coming from not being able to push myself in a wheelchair to pushing myself anywhere in a wheelchair now, that it will all be okay, that it won’t be so scary I guess.  If I can overcome what I have, I can overcome pretty much anything. It’s just a mindset I think.  You have to set your mind to be able to do it. 

            I’m a city girl now.  Five years ago before I had my accident, I lived in the country, but when it came time to be released from the hospital in a wheelchair, the house that I lived in was not accessible.  So I moved into the apartments.  Well, I realized I didn’t want to live in the apartments forever, so I decided to look at some houses.  The house that I own now is probably the fourth house that I looked at, and I got very lucky because all the doors are wide enough, the bathroom is huge.  The only thing we had to do was build a ramp, and I was ready to go.  My house is totally accessible, and people shouldn’t think that there’s not a place for them because if you try hard enough you’ll find one so You don’t have to feel like you’re stuck in one place forever because you’re not.  You don’t have to.  Just try and look and find people that will help you.  It can be done.  It can be done.  So don’t give up, and just try.  Just keep trying.  That’s all you can do, and that’s all people expect you to do.  Just don’t give up, and things will eventually fall into place.  They have for me, and I’m sure they will for everyone else.

Jim K video 2

Mom Knows Best, Video 2


Joyce:  My husband was kind of a workaholic, and he tried to instill in children that they needed to work.  He instilled that in Jim.  Jim worked at the service station.  I mean he was at work every morning and worked all day, and never asked for any help or anything.  It was, “I can do it myself,” and he always did.  He was a great little trooper and the community dearly loved him, and yet, to this day, he hasn’t lived around there for sometime, but there’s not a sole that doesn’t know him. 


Jim:     I kinda of what to know, when I was…when I was in driver’s ed, that was an experience and a half.  There were two driver’s ed teachers.  One… I will say this, wasn’t wanting to go along with the idea of mea learning to drive.  One was refusing to let me use the school vehicle and etc, but the other driver’s ed teacher said that wouldn’t be a problem.  He said it would be summer in a couple of weeks, and using Mom and Dad’s car.  He didn’t even ever break on that one, on his side, and he said he rarely used it anyway, but I’m thinking he didn’t know what he was getting himself into.  That’s okay.  So basically, didn’t he kind of teach me in about two weeks? 


Joyce:  Probably a couple of weeks early in the morning at eight o’clock, and every so often they’d come past and ask me if I wanted to go for a ride.  He taught him, probably yes, in two weeks I would say, taught him to drive which is great because I don’t really think Mom or Dad would have been real good at it.  You know, you’re kind of jumpy. 

            I remember when he was in high school and being one handed, he was going to take typing and the teacher said, “I can teach him to type one handed,” and she took…  Everybody actually went out of their way to teach Jim, and he did extremely well with one hand.  I kind of use one hand, too, but it’s hunt and peck system.  He did quite well.

            Yes, I was fearful at different times, but I thought I couldn’t live in fear, didn’t want to teach Jim that.  So, our faith alone, I just always let God be in our presence and know that He’s taking care of us, and that’s when I let go and let him forge ahead, which he done well. 

            I decided, since we went boating every week and skiing, and Jackie Kennedy always look Caroline, held her, and went skiing.  I thought if Jackie Kennedy could do it, so could I.  So I got a hold of Jim, and he clamped his arms around mine, and I told him to stand on the ski.  The minute we took off, he wrapped his legs around mine.  Well, I’m pretty stiff at this point, and I’m thinking if we fall, he’ll drink the lake.  I told them to go slow and we’d come in, which we did.  We swung around to come in, and I said, “Okay, when I say ‘Okay’ you hold your breath cause we might get a little splashed here.”  So we came around, and I held on with one hand, grabbed him around the tummy to hang on to him cause I knew we were gonna go down, and he drank a little bit of that lake, but he always trusted me.  I thought afterward, “Oh, my.  I wonder why I ever done that?” 

But probably the worst was we had a pontoon, and Jim had had surgery, and he was in a full body cast.  Well, we decided that we could get him up on the pontoon.  We had this little car, ambulance car type thing, got him on the pontoon, and we pontooned around for I don’t know how long, and we I look back at it now I think I must have been really young and dumb because to think, with a complete body cast he would have sunk mighty fast.  You look back at some of the things you done and it scares you a little bit.

Jim:     I never did think that I was disabled.  I knew that I walked or I couldn’t but as far as being disabled, I never did think I was.  Somebody has to tell me once in a while.  Back then, they didn’t do that.  Kids that were my friends that I had always figured out how to include me and want in like, uh, like graduation or the prom or a full body cast.


Joyce:  Yes.


Jim:     They figured out how to get to the prom, so that was a milestone and I thought, that I had that over with.  Then a couple of weeks later graduation came, and Mr. Stark called me and said we got to figure it out how we are going to do this.  Well, we borrowed an ambulance cot from the local funeral director, and we went to graduation, and it was long.  After the ceremony, I thought, “If I don’t fall off this thing, it will be a miracle.” 


Joyce:  Cause all the kids come rushing up to him.  He was down on the floor, and they walked across the stage of course.  I don’t know who was passing out diplomas, but… he did walk down…


Jim:     It was Stark.


Joyce:  Stark, he gave him his diploma.  I think it was the first reaction of all the kids.  They rushed.  I thought if he doesn’t land on the floor like a cracked egg I’ll be surprised.  But he didn’t, and they took very good care of him.  Jim was always very independent.  I tried to teach him that, and that he isn’t any different than anybody else.  It might be harder for him walk, there are things, that he’s...  He’s intelligent, and he can learn to do these things.  I didn’t want him to be dependent on me all of his life.  He owns his own home, drives his own car, goes to work probably about everyday.  We tried to teach him these important things just as you would teach someone that is not handicapped.  He definitely…he won’t admit it, or he doesn’t believe it that he is handicapped.

Jim k video 1

Mom Knows Best, Video One


Joyce:  I’m Joyce Kleinsorge.  I live in Alden, Kansas. 


Jim:     I’m Jim Kleinsorge.  I work as an independent living counselor for SKIL, Southeast Kansas Independent Living.  I was born with Cerebral Palsy.  I have worked and not worked.  I have worked in the social service field for approximately 28 years, and hopefully, 32.  Prior to SKIL, I have worked with the independent living center in Western Kansas, and also worked in a group home setting for mentally challenged individuals in Wichita.  We deiced that, or I should say, I decided to ask SKIL if they would interview my mother about parents before the disability movement and all the challenges and difficulties that we had, that we didn’t have because I didn’t feel like we had any.  Looking back, yes, but she can tell you more.


Joyce:  we lived in small town America and there were physically handicapped children before Jim came along, probably two or three, but they didn’t get to go to school.  When Jim became the age to go to school, I went up to the school and asked them if he could start school.  They said they didn’t take physically handicapped, and that I should look into sending him to Kansas City where they had schools for the handicapped.  I told them, I didn’t live in Kansas City; that I lived in Colby, Kansas.

            Anyway, we met with the principal probably two or three times.  He just knew that there was no way that they could take anybody who was handicapped.  I happened to know the superintendant quite well, and I said maybe I could go talk to him.  They said, no, they would.  So he said, let’s try it.  So he got along very well in kindergarten and first grade. 

Second grade came along, and they had a new teacher.  She had just got out of school, so she didn’t make Jim do anything.  He was just there.  So by the end of the year, I decided I was just going to have to hold him back because he hadn’t progressed much that year.  So I went back to talk to the principal and said, “Don’t you think it would work better if the teacher that was willing to take him was willing to educate him?”  He said they would try it, and they did.  As it turned out, Jim had some really good teachers.  By the time he reached the age, the decided that he could do everything that the other kids did except maybe timed tests, which wouldn’t have worked at all, so they were grading him individually. 

So by the time he got to junior high, they decided, we had a wonderful principal friend, they decided that we should give him an IQ test and see how he could do.  We could put him on the curve system.  That’s exactly what they done.  They said he could work and do well the curve.  He was above average IQ.  He could certainly handle that, and he did very well right through high school, went to college at Emporia.

We tried to teach him to be as independent as…and independent he is.  We are just really proud of him.  Back then, they just didn’t understand about handicapped children.  You know, they didn’t have any of the things that we have now.  It was defiantly a challenge, but we have worked through it all.  By being a small town, we knew just about everybody and everybody knew Jim and dearly loved him. 

I think it was second grade that Ron, when they had a fire drill the teacher told the kids to go out and she would make sure that Jim made it out.  Well, his little friend was leading the group outside, and all of the sudden he thought about Jim.  Of course he was a little bigger than Jim, and he ran back through the kids, grabbed Jim and carried him outside.  It’s just amazing that the kids were taught right.  They were extremely good and understanding of Jim’s situation all through high school.  He has been truly blessed. 

My dad had made a walker for Jim so that he could be outside.  Jim could walk quite well inside, but outside with the terrain, it was a little hard.  So my dad had made this awesome walker that could be taken outside.  Then all the sudden we decided that he could go outside without the walker.  I opened the door, let Jim go down the steps, and my prayer was that I could look after him in the house, but God, please look after him outside, which he always has. 

I think when Jim first started to walk, which he was three before he started to walk, that my little niece he watched her and saw how she got off the divan and stood, and I thought, I had to take this walker away from him or he would never learn to walk.  I wanted him to be independent, and not knowing if I would always be around to protect him and help him, I hid the walker.  He sat for probably three days and looked around, and he asked about his walker and I told him we had to give it to some other little child that needed help.  I was doing dishes one morning, and I looked up, and he came walking in.  It was the biggest thrill of my life.  H has been, a I mean he is always, “I can do it myself,” and he has.  I always encouraged him to do it, because I think the more you make them independent, the better of they’ll be.  I just…  You just don’t want that for a child that is holding on to you and never advancing.  He certainly did advance. 

Donna Cruz Text

“I Just Wanted More”


            I’m Donna Cruz.  I live in Parsons.  I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, and I thought I had everything that anyone would want in the world.  In 2002, we were on our way to Branson to have the weekend there.  We left early in the morning, and by 7:30, I was in the emergency room at the hospital because we had had an accident.  We went off the road because we didn’t know there was a stop sign ahead.  The fog had covered it.  We had a narrow ditch, and a steep embankment.  My husband did everything he could to keep the damage and anyone from being injured.  The Lord took care of the rest because we could have been hit by someone coming from either direction.  No one could see us from the highway even though we were not that far off it because the fog moved with us.

            I knew I was hurt instantly.  I felt pain in my back.  I felt like I was probably just in for the long haul with a chiropractor.  That’s really what I thought.  I had to take roll call checking on everybody.  I had to call for help.  I learned a few things.  If you have a cell phone, anchor it, because when you hit something or something hits you, it goes flying.  It took a little bit to find the phone, and I couldn’t move because the pain was so great.  My husband, bless his heart, is no good in an emergency.  He becomes instantly angry because he doesn’t know what to do.  People were walking around the ditching finding and saying, “Does this car part belong to your van?”  (laughing)  Here my husband is at the accident sight still. 

They had loaded my two kids into the ambulance, my mother ended up in the emergency room, too, because she was having chest pains, and I’m by myself and the doctor walks in and says, “How’s your pain level?” 

I said, “It’s still pretty high.”

He said, “Your back is fractured.  If you would have stood up, you would never have walked again.”  Because I had crushed three vertebrae.  The pain has been horrific.  There is no cure for my problem.  There is no fixing it.  It has caused me to get into a wheelchair now if I want to do anything.  I can’t stand for any period of time.  I can’t sit up for any period of time.  I can’t take a road-trip and enjoy it.  Anything I do, I pay for a week or three or four or five days. 

I did not go a get the help that was available mostly because of pride.  Not knowing where to go was another one.  I had no idea where I was going to get the help.  I asked home health care after I got out of the hospital.  I long as I was locked up in my house and didn’t leave my house, then insurance would pay for someone to come into the house, help bathe me, exercise my legs and my arms and stuff.  Beyond that, if I started leaving the house, no more help.  So then, that left my husband doing everything. 

I wasn’t happy being locked up.  I was in a hospital bed for almost a year in my living room because I couldn’t climb the stairs.  But I have to get more help now.  But I was told, somebody said to me, and I cannot tell you who, that I need to come out and talk to somebody at SKIL.  I said, “I don’t know if I want to go up there.  I’m not sure what they do.”  And then when someone told me what SKIL stood for, you know, trying to make people, give people the right to be independent because I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like me with all these problems would end up in a nursing home or a mental health center somewhere.  Permanently! I’m not dead in the mind.   I’m not! 

I think that is really what brought me to SKIL, was to get the battle won to get my chair.  My insurance company, I’m sorry I’m jumping around but I have to tell you this.  My insurance company was willing to pay for the chair, but they weren’t going to pay for the batteries.  (Sarcastically) Now that was going to do me a whole lot of good when I couldn’t wheel the wheelchair because I also now have a bad heart. 

I got my chair, and I thought, “Oh, this is fantastic!”  And it never ran.  What was I going to do now?  Well guess what.  SKIL was there.  They helped me find funds.  They even let me answer their phones.  I know I messed up a few calls, but they let me answer the phone.  And I have a ramp.  I have a little bit of independence.  Now I can take public transportation.  Our hospital here, not will take you to your doctor appointments. 

I guess, if it hasn’t been for SKIL, I would still be in that hospital bed or locked up in my house.  Is this the way you want to spend the rest of your life or do you want more?  I was never satisfied to not have more.  I would pick up the phone, and I would call every number until you find somebody who says, “I know just exactly where you need to go.”  I’d call your hospital.  I’d talk to your doctor.  I’d talk to your friends that maybe know more about that kind of thing than you do.  I mean, I would even, wouldn’t stop until I found somebody, especially like SKIL that can guide you to the places you need to go, because if I hadn’t, I would still be sitting at home not doing a thing.