by Andy Rausch and Joe Reinecker

A federal grant to assist getting people within the disability community Covid-19 vaccination shots is allowing SKIL to provide free vaccinations at their annual customer appreciation picnics. “It came to us that we were already having these picnics, so we thought, how about we marry these two things together,” explains SKIL President/CEO Shari Coatney.


Coatney says SKIL initially wondered if such a thing would be possible, but by partnering up with Labette Health, the idea became a reality. “We’re doing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because it’s a one and done, meaning the recipient only needs the one shot to be vaccinated,” Coatney explains. “That way the person doesn’t have to worry about a follow-up appointment.”


Coatney hopes that if people within the disability community trust SKIL, then the organization’s efforts in getting people vaccinated will help people to trust the vaccination process.


There are also practical considerations. “We know that sometimes people get out to come to our events, when they don’t get out for other reasons,” Coatney says. “So having the vaccination available at an event that SKIL has is obviously a good way to get those people access.”


The vaccinations are free to SKIL customers and DSWs, but just as the events are open to the public, the vaccinations are also free and open to the public. Coatney says there will also be incentives, such as giveaways and drawings for prizes (some of which will likely be monetary).


There will be six SKIL customer appreciation picnics, as well as the annual ADA celebration. Vaccinations will be available at all of them. The dates and locations of these events are as follows: Columbus picnic, June 10th, Chanute picnic, June 24th, ADA celebration in Parsons, July 27th, Independence picnic, August 12th, Sedan picnic, August 26th, Pittsburg picnic, September 9th, and Fredonia, September 30th.  

SKIL hopes to see everyone in these communities come out for free hot dogs and chips, as well as the free vaccination shots.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

You may have already heard by now but May 12 was announced as the start date for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.  

This morning, the FCC announced that on May 12, 2021, eligible households will be able to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

In announcing the official launch date, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated: 

“Families in every corner of the country have been struggling to get online throughout this pandemic. For those families, we now say help is around the corner. In less than two weeks, we will have a new way for disconnected Americans to access the internet to carry out their day-to-day life, so they can reach the virtual classroom, take advantage of telehealth, and seek new employment opportunities.” 

Beginning on May 12 households can apply in three ways: 

  1. Contact your preferred participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process.  
  1. Go to to apply online and to find participating providers near you. 
  1. Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with proof of eligibility to:

Emergency Broadband Support Center

P.O. Box 7081

London, KY 40742

Materials that partners can use to help promote the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the communities they serve will be available soon on

Earlier this week the FCC hosted a webinar that provided an overview of the benefit, eligibility criteria, how to apply, and the FCC’s partner toolkit materials. If you missed the event live, a recording can be viewed online

Thank you for all your hard work and continued efforts to ensure that every eligible consumer knows about the program and how to sign up. 


by Andy Rausch and Joe Reinecker

Will Fried in referee uniform blowing whistle during match

As a young man with autism, basketball gave Will Fried confidence. Today he’s hoping to share that confidence with autistic high school students. He’s also having fun along the way.

Fried started playing basketball in his backyard at the age of six after his father put up a goal. However, Will wouldn’t feel comfortable playing on a team or competing (due to his disability and the social anxiety that comes with it) for another two years. Then, at age eight, he began playing in a youth league. “I remember scoring my first basket in a game,” Fried recalls, “and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to keep on going.”

From there, Fried continued playing recreational-level basketball through his twelfth-grade year of high school. He also joined a traveling team for two years in grades eleven and twelve.

“I enjoyed the game so much,” Fried says. “After my time was done in grades one through twelve, I still wanted to be around the game of basketball. So, the summer before I went into college, I worked at a basketball camp in Maryland called Coach Wooten’s Basketball Camp. I started officiating basketball at that camp, and I’ve been officiating ever since.”


Fried, now twenty-two, officiates Kansas middle school and high school basketball. Fried says his goal as a player was to become the best player he could be, and now as an official his goal is to be the best referee he can be.

Fried has been excited to see more inclusion of players with autism on area teams. “I’ve gone to officiate basketball, especially at the middle school levels in Stockton, Kansas, and Hoisington, Kansas, and on their teams they have been very inclusive of players on the autism spectrum on their basketball teams,” Fried says. “They’re not just there to be sitting on the bench, they’re actually playing on the teams. I’ve talked to the coaches and administrators from both schools, and they want to include their players and give them as much playing time as they can to show them they’re a part of the team and their communities. They don’t want to segregate or exclude them from playing.”

Fried says one of his favorite experiences took place during a game in Stockton. “An autistic individual hit a three-point shot, the whole crowd went wild,” he says. “And I was the official and actually the one ruling it. I knew it was special for me, as well, to see that now there are other autistic individuals playing sports and having the opportunity to have that sense of camaraderie and inclusion. When I was in Hoisington, Kansas, officiating a middle school boys’ basketball game, the teammates on that team were stealing the ball so their one player on the autism spectrum could score. They wanted him to score just like the rest of them because he is part of their team and he is seen as a teammate.”

Fried says he hopes that his accomplishments will encourage the young players with autism and other disabilities. “I would really like these middle schoolers and high schoolers to understand that they can practice self-determination and use the philosophy of independent living where they, as people with disabilities, understand their own needs and develop their own path to their careers and set their own goals and objectives they want to meet with their own interests and be allowed to benefit the community and have opportunities to become change agents and doing and accomplishing what they dreamed of.”



Rondo Hatton Award-nominated author/journalist/screenwriter/graphic novelist

Web editor at Diabolique magazine

Contributor to Shock Cinemaboth Screem and Scream magazines, DiaboliqueSenses of Cinema, Cemetery Dance, Scary Monsters, Cinema Retro, etc.

New nonfiction book My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film and gritty new crime novel American Trash now available on Amazon.


COVID-19 vaccines give us our best shot at beating the virus. Concerned about what’s in them? These facts may give you peace of mind.

No live coronavirus in the vaccine

None of the current vaccines use the real coronavirus to build immunity. Instead, they deliver instructions to your cells to make a harmless piece of the virus called the spike protein. This teaches the immune system to fight the real virus. But there’s no way the vaccines can give you COVID-19.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to deliver those instructions. Janssen’s vaccine uses another harmless virus to deliver the coronavirus’s DNA into your body. And it can’t change your own DNA in any way.

Also not included

The vaccines also do not have:

  • Preservatives, such as thimerosal (which contains an organic form of mercury)
  • Formaldehyde, used to help make some vaccines
  • Eggs, latex or antibiotics. Some people are allergic to these things.
  • Microchips. No one is putting microchips in the vaccines to track us. That’s a myth. In fact, it’s not even possible to do so.

Talk to your doctor

Like all vaccine ingredients, those in the COVID-19 vaccine serve a specific purpose. Some help the vaccine work. Others are needed to help make the vaccine. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns about what’s in the vaccines.

You can help make your shot even safer by telling your doctor if you:

  • Have any allergies or other health problems
  • Have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine

This newsletter is published as a community service for the friends and members of Aetna Better Health of Kansas. This newsletter contains general health information that should not replace the advice or care you get from your provider. Always ask your provider about your own health care needs.


Written by Nancy Holman

PARSONS, Kan.—The SKIL Resource Center recently held mandatory diversity training for its entire staff, said SKIL President/CEO Shari Coatney. Staff at the Independent Living Center’s downtown Parsons headquarters, six branch offices, the Assistive Technology for Kansans and K-Loan offices participated in the formal training on April 20 and 21, 2021. The training, which lasted approximately two and one half hours, was held virtually via ZOOM due to COVID-19 concerns, Coatney said.

Coatney’s executive assistant Adina Harrison, who is a member of SKIL’s Diversity Team, led the virtual training assisted by Coatney, which included education on racial bias and systemic racism, information about the LGBTQ community, gender identity and its use of proper pronouns, and lively staff discussion on the topics.

“As we fight for disability rights and hold trainings on diversity, it is long overdue that we include trainings on all marginalized minority communities,” said Coatney. “Everyone has bias. We get it from our experiences and our background.”

Harrison, who wrote the presentation assisted by SKIL’s Diversity Team, said she appreciated the opportunities the training created.

“It was an honor to take part in creating this training to help represent groups of minorities who don’t normally get recognized,” she said. “I am grateful to have reached fellow co-workers—especially when receiving messages about how inspired and enlightened it has made people feel.”

SKIL, as a Center for Independent Living, welcomes everyone. It serves people with all disabilities or those whose environment is disabling. Headquartered in downtown Parsons, SKIL has branch offices in Chanute, Columbus, Fredonia, Independence, Pittsburg and Sedan. It also operates Assistive Technology for Kansans offices in Parsons and Wichita, and the K-Loan office in Parsons.

For more information, call Parsons SKIL at: 1-800-688-5616 or contact any SKIL office.

Safe Haven Fundraiser

Safe Haven is doing an Adopt-A-Room fundraiser to help with maintenance refreshing and renewing! To help with this we are asking local businesses to make a donation to purchase the supplies needed in each area of the house.

Living room – $500.00 (Paint, replace rotten door frame, clean carpet and furniture and new curtains that fit)

Kitchen- $1500.00 (Repair kitchen floor and replace flooring, repair chairs for table or replace, paint)

Bedrooms (3) – $700.00 (New dressers, paint, new curtains and bedding, clean carpets)

Bathroom (2) – $500.00 (Replace sheetrock around shower, paint, new curtains and shower curtain and rugs)

Laundry room – $2500.00 (New updated washer and dryer, curtains and paint)

Flower beds – $350.00 (New plants, mulch or rock and container plants for planters)

Safe Haven is also planning is a work day on May 21, 22, and 23rd 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. for anyone who would like to come out and donate time to help with repairs and yard work. Lunch will be provided. If you can help please call 620-605-6107 or 620-717-1444

April 9, 2021

Hello From Shari

Many people don’t realize that hate, intolerance and discrimination are not based only upon color of the skin today. Historically; however, there was much more focus on skin color involving these evils than there is currently. We have made some progress, thankfully. Now we have Federal Protected Classes: Race, Color, Religion or Creed, National Origin or Ancestry, Gender, Pregnancy, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Age, Disability – Physical or Mental, Veteran Status, Genetic Information, Citizenship and Familial Status. These Protected Classes are supposed to ameliorate the evils of discrimination, intolerance and hatred.

Theoretically, anyway.

But even government-legislated protection doesn’t seem to stop society from developing these evils against people because they are different. For many, it sadly seems far easier to hate than to try to understand and accept others’ differences.

The answer may lie in education. If citizens would just take time to educate themselves about the differences and try to take into consideration how others feel based on their own experience, maybe we could discover a place where people could truly love and accept one another for who they are. We, as advocates with disabilities, certainly know about the discrimination and the ignorance society often has toward us. Hate can be fueled because of ignorance and a lack of willingness to change.

We hear the patronizing in people’s voices. We feel the stares behind our backs. We know that society often has pity rather than empathy for us. And we know, down deep in our hearts, that some have a total disregard for us and just wish we would go away.

If people would take the time to educate themselves about our disability and empathize with our styles, they would understand why we have disability pride. We’re proud of who we are! We’re proud of our disability. We’re proud of our accomplishments. The disability movement focuses on removing barriers for those with disabilities wherever and whenever we can.

If we could only remove the hate, intolerance and discrimination, what a wonderful world this would be.

Love, Shari

March 26, 2021

Hello From Shari

The events are coming! The events are coming!

Approximately one year ago our world changed when the Coronavirus became an unexpected and most unwelcome part of it. Much of normal life changed—slowing down, skidding to an unhappy halt or far worse. COVID-19 altered the way we lived, and usually not for the better: to date, more than half a million Americans have died and many more people around the globe.

At SKIL we had to implement changes to protect our customers and employees. Some of those changes were grievous, like closing our buildings to customers and the public except by appointment, sadly cancelling both our Fishing Without Boundaries annual customer event and “My Home For the Holidays,” our popular Christmastime free community dinner/annual meeting event.

Yet even amid all that we faced, we determined to continue going forward in the ways we could. When other businesses shut down—we stayed open, determined to keep serving you, our beloved customers, and doing our best to be there for you and your DSW workers. When other management teams and boards of directors said “No We Can’t”—ours asked “How Can We?” More than ever we realized, and sometimes on a daily basis, that surviving and thriving in life is as much a mindset as it is an action. And our minds strengthened and we took action to survive and thrive, in the safe, protective and positive ways that we could.

A brand New Year is now in full swing. Temperatures are warming, spring flowers are starting to bloom and there is much hope that COVID-19 is lessening so that our lives can return more to normal. We are still slowly continuing forward in the ways we can and thankfully, that will again include our annual picnics and the July ADA Celebration public party. Last year, we offered the picnics and ADA Celebration via a new and creative “drive-through” method, and we are going to continue that method this year. Drive-through events work! And they are a creative, real way to continue serving people while practicing safe measures like social distancing and wearing masks.

Our annual series of picnics will kick off with Columbus SKIL’s free drive-through picnic on Friday, May 28. Our summertime ADA Celebration will be held on Friday, July 23 and will also be a drive-through event. Like last year, it will be held in the parking lot just north of the Parsons SKIL headquarters building. We hope these events will be bigger and better than last year, with more food and with area community partners joining us via vendor booths. Please keep checking our website for specific dates, times, events listings and any possible updates, remembering that our events are subject to government laws and ordinances. Information will be posted after it is finalized.  

Please also give us your support, by encouraging us as we continue to serve you, by attending our events as you can/telling others about them and by offering us your ideas on how we can do things better. We love you all, and we continue to exist to serve you. I hope that, by doing so, we make a positive difference in your lives.

The events are coming! The events are coming! Celebrate with us as we continue forward!!

Love, Shari