Mikaylas Voice

Inspiring kids of all abilities to share the message of inclusion.

NAZARETH, PA   |  www.mikaylasvoice.org

Mission

Inspire children and young adults to embrace individuals of all abilities. Empower them to create cultural change by teaching others to include everyone. Educate our community about the meaning and importance of inclusion.

Ruling year info

2010

Executive Director

Rita Cheskiewicz

Main address

PO BOX 232

NAZARETH, PA 18064 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

01-0958973

NTEE code info

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

Arts, Cultural Organizations - Multipurpose (A20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Everyone needs to be included. Inclusion and diversity are often and widely discussed today, with almost every organization and company developing a policy to support them. Yet, as we are seeing greater progress for all races and genders, even sexual preferences, people with disabilities are not enjoying the same opportunities. While other groups are able to campaign for equal rights, many people with disabilities don’t have a voice. Those that have ability to speak have little strength left to advocate for themselves after expending the energy to overcome their challenges,. They need a voice to reverse the prevailing perspectives about people with disabilities and recognize their ability to bring communities together.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Wheels of Friendship

In this unique program developed and coordinated by Mikayla’s Voice, children paint not with brushes, but the wheels of a wheelchair and the paws and tail of a service dog. Their paintings are a beautiful reminder that it’s always possible to find a way to include everyone.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Mikayla’s Voice Tri for Inclusion is much more than a race. It is a priceless opportunity for all kids and young adults, and an important message for our entire community.

Every year, on the last Saturday in June no one in the Lehigh Valley is left on the sidelines. Kids of all abilities compete side-by-side and together in something they had likely not dreamed possible or ever planned to do and show our entire community that there is always a way to include everyone in everything.

Children and young adults with disabilities are welcome and encouraged to compete in the swim, bike, and run ~ or just one event (with assistance if necessary) as the captain of a relay team. Other kids may or register as assistants or relay team members for these inclusive teams or “try a tri!” (compete all three events)

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Mikayla’s Voice is proud to have published three books written and illustrated by children for other kids about having a friend with a disability. Kids are sometime the best teachers because they know what will be most meaningful to other children. Simply explained by these young authors, “All kids are different… so kids with disabilities are really no different than us.”

While Brady is challenged by autism, Mikayla was born with a brain injury and Jeffrey has Down syndrome, these books are about much more than their main characters or their disabilities. They are about friendship. And kindness.

Invaluable messages for kids of all ages and abilities. Valuable books for every home and classroom. All proceeds benefit Mikayla’s Voice.

Originally designed for elementary schools and in response to requests for both older and younger audiences, Mikayla’s Voice Inclusion Assemblies have evolved into presentations equally successful for children (and adults!) of all ages.

Mikayla and her mom, Kimberly Resh, have given presentations at elementary, middle, and high schools as well as preschools, colleges and places of employment. After sharing their own personal story, they facilitate valuable discussion about the meaning and importance of inclusion for all.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Where we work

Awards

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of works published from new writers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Children's Books and Assemblies on Inclusion

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Books written and illustrated by kids for kids about having a friend with a disability. These books are not about the main characters or their disabilities. They are about friendship. And kindness.

Number of books distributed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Children's Books and Assemblies on Inclusion

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Each book was donated to every public elementary school in the state where it was written (PA or NJ), with Super Brady also going to every 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classroom in two counties.

Total number of audience members

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Children's Books and Assemblies on Inclusion

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

These numbers do not yet include 2020-2021 school year.

Number of participants attending course/session/workshop

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Young adults

Related Program

Wheels of Friendship

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

These are all school-based project numbers. For 2020, 370 students participated in-person and 168 remotely. We have worked with hundreds more at community events.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We seek to inspire and empower children to be the voice of inclusion for everyone and show our world a better way. Our organization is unique, and we are proud of our differences. Mikayla’s Voice is the only local non-profit organization in our area, and one of a just a handful in Pennsylvania, focused on inclusion for people with disabilities. Other state and national groups are primarily centered on inclusion in education and/or employment, while we focus on inclusion in all aspects of life. But what really sets us apart is our commitment to empower children and young adults to lead our efforts toward a culture of greater inclusion.

Mikayla was brain injured at birth resulting in profound physical and intellectual disabilities, including her inability to speak. Despite the severity of Mikayla’s disabilities, her family always strived to give her as normal a life as possible and requested that Mikayla be included in regular education classes at the same school her younger sister would later attend. Her attendance was the most important factor in her ability, and the ability of her family, to move forward, and ultimately benefitted everyone. She matriculated through the Nazareth Area School District, remaining fully included at the intermediate, middle and high schools. She graduated with her class in 2014, but not before having silently taught her friends some most valuable life lessons. According to former Superintendent, Victor Lesky, “The Nazareth Area School District was so lucky to share Mikayla’s life during her journey through school. She provided so much love and inspiration, much more than we could ever return to her.”

Children have always been the most accepting of Mikayla’s disabilities and this generation has an important message to share. For too many years, people with disabilities have been excluded from social, educational and employment opportunities. Most adults remember when all children with disabilities were placed in separate classrooms or schools. Through increased inclusive practices in our schools and communities, our children have been blessed with greater appreciation for and friendships with children with disabilities. Mikayla’s Voice was founded on the belief that children are in the best position to teach our community about the importance of inclusion. Our children are our future and we are proud to let them lead by example, teaching others to celebrate diversity, embrace individuals of all abilities., and show kindness to all. This builds their self-confidence, empowers them to stand up for what they believe and encourages their growth into adults who to continue to advocate for inclusion.

Children are our future, Mikayla’s Voice was founded to let them lead by example today: teaching others to celebrate diversity, embrace individuals of all abilities, and show kindness to all.

They are Mikayla’s Voice.

Mikayla’s Voice has developed and coordinates three inclusive programming initiatives: one each in the arts, education, and sports and recreation. All are well established, have enjoyed significant growth, and are positioned for even greater success. Each allows kids of all abilities to enjoy and demonstrate successful inclusion as they work and play together. Fear can be the biggest barrier to inclusion so we talk openly about differences, providing honest answers to any and all questions the children may have. Those with disabilities enjoy greater understanding and acceptance as their peers’ anxiety is quickly relieved. As they become comfortable together, develop strategies to include everyone, and establish genuine friendships, they teach others to do the same. Our unique and innovative programming gives children the opportunity to educate their communities and create cultural change as they prove inclusion is possible in all aspects of life.

We have published three books written and illustrated by children for other kids about having a friend with a disability. Jeffrey has Down syndrome, Brady is challenged by autism, and Mikayla was born with a brain injury, but these books are not about the main characters or their disabilities. They are about friendship. And kindness.

Our Inclusion Assemblies introduce valuable dialogue that can be continued in every classroom, demonstrating children’s capacity for understanding, acceptance and compassion. Facilitated with the help of a child or young adult with a disability, these assemblies begin by sharing the book Our Friend Mikayla to provide background knowledge about having a disability. After sharing their own stories and photos, the hosts’ field questions about Mikayla’s and their own personal experiences. All questions are welcome and encouraged to ease any remaining apprehension and foster greater inclusion, kindness, and friendship. Each assembly concludes with an invitation for all students to serve as Mikayla’s “Voice.”

Children paint not with brushes, but with the wheels of a wheelchair (or walker) and the paws (and tail) of a service dog in our unique art program. Wheels of Friendship® has expanded to represent and include those with deafness or hearing impairment, by adding sign language with cutout handprints. We have also featured braille and diverse textures made by, appreciated by, and symbolizing people with blindness or visual impairment. Finished paintings are unveiled at school-wide presentations and remain on permanent display in the schools where they were created.

Tri for Inclusion is our inclusive youth triathlon but is much more than a race. It is a priceless opportunity for all kids and young adults, and an important message for our entire community. Kids of all abilities compete side-by-side and together in something they had likely not dreamed possible or ever planned to do and show our entire community that there is always a way to include everyone in everything.

Having experienced first-hand the benefits of inclusion for themselves, Mikayla and everyone she met, Mikayla’s family and friends started an organization to encourage and support inclusion for all. Mikayla died this past January, and without being cliché, her services were truly a celebration of her life. At the age of twenty-four, she had doubled her predicted life expectancy and led a life full of love and friendship. Without a doubt, the single most important thing in her life was her inclusion in her school and community, and she had a greater impact on this world than most of us ever will.

Before Mikayla died, her mom promised that her voice would continue to be heard. Louder. Stronger. Farther. There is no stronger motivation than a mother’s love for her children. Kimberly Resh remains committed to the growth and success of Mikayla’s Voice. She wishes to continue to the work they started together, building Mikayla’s legacy in her memory and honor. Equally important is her desire to ensure all children have the opportunities Mikayla and her friends did. They truly made a difference, and through Mikayla’s Voice so can every child. Joining Kim is another mother on a mission. As the mom of a son with an intellectual disability and autism, Rita Cheskiewicz understands the struggle for equality and acceptance individuals with disabilities encounter. She shares Kim’s passion to inspire and empower children and young adults to be the voice of Mikayla, AJ, and others who need to be heard.

These two women come with much more than a personal interest and desire for a more inclusive world. Rita is a proven non-profit executive with a wealth of professional experience navigating the public-school system as well as state and local agencies supporting children and adults with disabilities. Her most recent work as Program Director for a statewide inclusion project supported the inclusion of children and young adults in schools and community. As Mikayla’s Voice new Executive Director, she is excited for this opportunity to empower children to improve the culture in these settings. As the founder and past Executive Director, Kim was excited to assume the role of Director of (Fun and Innovative!) Programs and focus her time and talents on the development, replication and quality of Mikayla’s Voice inclusive youth programming.

Perhaps most important, Mikayla’s Voice Board of Directors brings more than donations of time and funding. Each and every director shares a passion for inclusion and belief in children and envisions a kinder world for all.

We are proud of our programs, their ingenuity, quality, and the integrity with which they are delivered. Our inclusive programming is always unique and innovative ~ never a duplication of services. And, in keeping with the importance and value we place on our message and children, we never sacrifice quality. We publish our children’s books as hard cover library bound editions not only to ensure a durable product for schools, but to underscore the importance of the authors’ message. Likewise, we purchase quality supplies for their artwork, and substantial medals for all triathletes. Quality matters. It sends a message. All kids deserve the very best. And will get nothing less from Mikayla’s Voice. We give every child our attention, honesty, patience, and respect. Always.

Accordingly, Mikayla’s Voice has enjoyed much success including:
• Three completely innovative first-of-their-kind before programs
• Delivery of 110 inclusion assemblies to 36,832 students.
• Inclusive art projects conducted with 1801 student artists in 33 schools.
• Three books written and illustrated by kids for kids.
• Almost 6000 books donated to school and classrooms.
• Over 600 athletes have participated in our truly inclusive sports event.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    University led program outcomes,

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback,

Financials

Mikaylas Voice
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Mikaylas Voice

Board of directors
as of 2/15/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Rose Allshouse

Retired Elementary Principal

Term: 2020 - 2022

Jen Miller

Vice Chair / Easter Seals

Heather Joseph

Treasurer / Retired Pension Administrator

Jared Brown

Director / Sign Language Interpretor, Self Advocate

Maria Fidelibus

Director / QuickChek

Logan Houptley

Director / Graduate Student

Wendy Houptley

Director / Pat's Brake Service and Lynn's Garage

Nick Wilder

Director / Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Nathan Schriver

Director / Entreprenuer

Mike Truchan

Director / Bank Manager

Lauren Resh

Director/Secretary Student

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 02/15/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data