Monday, November 18, 2013

Two Messages of Hope in Great Loss

A Gift

When Marcus was born, an uncle of his father thought it would be nice to give me the gift of the book, Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss by Dale Evans Rogers.
From the liner notes: ”Written in a poignant, tender style, Angel Unaware is the compassionate story of Down’s Syndrome child, Robin Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of Roy and Dale Evans Rogers. A timeless message of hope and faith for parents of Down’s Syndrome children, as well as for those with other illnesses, this enduring classic has sold more than 500,000 copies since its first publication in 1953.”
Here’s the 50th anniversary version:

Oh My – isn’t that baby beautiful?!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another Treasure

We are thrilled to share a truly unique treasure created by the talents of Michaela Harper.

Michaela took hours of patient dedication to create this exclusively for the Madonna School and Workshop Celebration.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is your favorite view?

“Our hills and vineyards, the Alps early morning, just as the sun rises,” these are Giorgio Romansckyi’s favorite views. And when you visit his B&B, 5 chimneys, you may agree.

“You come as a guest, leave as family.” Is the slogan, as well as the best part of staying at Giorgio and Patrizia’s. 

At the Madonna School Celebration, August 24th, a 6 night, 7 day package for a couple at 5 Chimneys, including transportation to and from the Milan airport, accommodation, breakfast, dinner and tours will be in the live auction.  Wow! 

Introduced to the Madonna School and its mission by friends in Omaha, Giorgio and Patrizia and say that “in giving, we in return receive much more,” and helping the Madonna students and families fills their hearts with joy.  They both were born in Italy and returned to pursue this recent adventure only 4 years ago.  They visit Omaha when they can, but encourage Omaha to visit them as well.  In fact, Micheal Kelly did a very nice write-up just last year about his trip.

I asked Giorgio where he learned to give so generously and he said it is because of his Catholic upbringing. His favorite quote is “Where there is charity, there is love.” This kindness will be doubled for the Madonna School when the bidding begins for this great vacation.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Would you like $5000?

Hello Friends,

Do you know the winning ticket for the Celebration raffle is $5000? 

Each entry is  $50.  And your odds are very good.

Better yet, every ticket purchased goes toward a cause you care about, The Madonna School and Workshop!

Tickets will be on-sale at the Celebration Event or

Contact Fred, the event chairperson, for your tickets.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Golfers On Your Ready

Check out this gorgeous package to be auctioned off at the Live auction at Celebration:

The Prairie Club
located near Valentine, NE

2 day and 1 night for 4 persons.

Lodging (double occupancy) and
all the golf you want to play.


Get your foursome together and support the Madonna School and Workshop.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Greetings From Senator Bob and Peggy Krist

Greetings from the Honorary Chairs

Senator Bob and Peggy Krist

Peggy and I are proud to have been a small part of the Madonna Family over the years.  From the first “ask” from Sister Mary Evangeline to the present, we continue to be ever mindful and dedicated to what is best for the Madonna School and Shop.  We have loved the opportunity to work with many of you to improve the foundation and growth of all Madonna services.

 We are also proud to serve this year as the Honorary Chairs, knowing the real credit for the success tonight goes to Fred and Mary Kay Otterberg, whose hard work and continued dedication to this institution has never wavered.  I had the honor to serve with Fred on the Board when he was the Development Director so many years ago.  He used to tell all of us, “Just get them in the doors to meet our kids and they’ll be hooked.”

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

HER School Now

Guest Post by Parent Jennifer Arnold
Nearly three years ago, I stood in the Madonna School parking lot trying to coax my daughter out of the car. It was her first visit to Madonna. While she had agreed to visit the school earlier that morning, she suddenly was overcome with anxiety and fear. She was (still is) a very determined young lady with rigidity ruling her world. And this was not her school, she said.
Finally, after several minutes of negotiation, she walked with me to the front door where we were greeted by the welcoming smile of former Madonna Principal Dr. Bill. Elise hesitated but stepped in the building. She wouldn’t look at Dr. Bill or anyone we met as we walked to Ms. Jablonski’s classroom. As we turned the corner into the room, several bright, happy faces looked up and immediately welcomed Elise to their school. The students surrounded her with hellos and “would you like to sit by me.” This was something she had never experienced before. Typically it was just the opposite. Her face lit up, and I remember her turning to me and saying, “Bye mom, see you later.” She was off — and we’ve not looked back.
Today, Elise is getting ready to start her third school year at Madonna.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Joy of Normal

At the end of the school day, children of varied ages burst from the school doors. Some rush exuberantly, others meander, perhaps tired from the grind or maybe just too cool to run past their friends.  They climb into busses or carpools while loudly clamoring “Call me later!” or “See you tomorrow!” My son waits just inside the doors until his ride is in sight.  Very much like me as a child, always hiding from the wind, looking for shelter even during recess.

What makes this scene so great is the normalcy of it.  When Marcus was born, the concept of normal seemed to fly out of our lives.  I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.  Instead of a normal birthday, we faced specialists, social workers, and fear.

I was a young mother, forthright and possibly stubborn.  I did not like the term “normal.” It seemed to be the barrier between us and the great, indistinct them.  The doctors told me, “normal infants” will cry in the night; yours will not.  A “normal baby” will roll over at three months; don’t count on this.  “Normal children” will go to school and learn and play and make friends; don’t have high expectations. 

Marcus did cry in the night, and I wept with joy because of it.  He rolled over when he was two weeks old; the doctor didn’t believe me.  And he goes to a school where he learns, plays, and most importantly, makes friends. 

This is what Madonna School gives to him – the joy of normal. 

The Madonna School offers Marcus and over 50 other children a safe and nurturing environment.  He is encouraged based on his own strengths; he is educated in academic and independent living skills.  And alongside his friends, he is moving to conquer the next normal.

Please help us ensure a Madonna education is available to children who need it now and for decades to come.  Browse through the tabs and pages on this blog for tickets to our Celebration event. More information about the school and how you can help. 

Thank you!

                                                                                               (c) Mardra Sikora

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Special Gifts

This blog post is written by Robin Moses,
the director of the Madonna Workshop. 

Some view personal disabilities as a hindrance, but at the Madonna Workshop we see individuals with special gifts. Each person has talents that benefit not only himself but also others. 

No one at our shop views their challenges as a way of disqualifying themselves from living a self-sufficient and full life.

They teach us in so many ways to have patience and to appreciate the little things which we might otherwise take for granted. Many days, they teach us that the only real disability in life is a bad attitude.

When I meet with families, it fills my heart with joy to hear parents say:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


This week we are sharing an interview with Ryan de la Garza a member of the Madonna Workshop staff. After fulfilling a variety of job roles at the Madonna School, he moved to the Workshop in 2011 to manage client programs. His care and attention to detail allow members of the Madonna Community to continue to learn and be active members of society.

You've met him before as a guest blogger focusing his attention on clients. To understand the value of the Madonna Shop and the work they do for the community, it helps to also meet the staff and hear their perspective:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


“Hi! How are you today?”

It’s how he greets us every morning, each member of the Madonna Workshop staff, one by one. It’s as though his workday can’t begin until he’s asked each employee how he or she is doing. “Hi, how are you today?”

A simple gesture to be sure, but five simple words mean so much on a slow, early morning. What better way to start the day than to know that someone cares enough to inquire about your wellness? In fact, until Maurice makes his rounds of “Hellos” and “How are yous,” it’s as though our workdays can’t begin either.

Maurice embodies a genuine kindness which extends far beyond his daily greetings and those of the Workshop staff; his thoughtful actions reach our highly valued client base at Madonna via sharing, teamwork, and above all, friendship.

As with any workplace, keeping employees engaged and occupied is an important facet of our daily routine. In order to adhere to this principle,

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Special Olympics with Coach V

Diane Vaiskunas, Coach V. as she is called by students and teachers alike, has been a fixture at Madonna School for 34 years. Since first working with Madonna students as a YMCA swimming instructor, her energy and devotion have never slowed down. Coach V. now directs all Special Olympics activities at Madonna.

To Coach V., Special Olympics means more than just physical exercise. She describes practice and games as social events that build team spirit and offer learning experiences that are useful well beyond the court. Special Olympics, coach says, gives students “something to be proud of no matter the level of skill.” Participants get a ribbon whether or not they finish first and, most importantly, they have a lot of fun competing. 

One of Coach V.’s favorite experiences with the Madonna students

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Impact of Camp

I'm lying awake at camp                                        

"What is camp?" I asked in our first year at a parents meeting at Madonna.

Several folks piped up to explain it is a camp where the kids and teachers stay overnight at the 4-H grounds near Louisville, NE. The kids participate in all kinds of nature and outdoor activities.

The first year camp was available to my son, we thought he may not like the overnight aspect but when the time came, we went for it.  We listened to him share his experience. He felt safe and comfortable because he knows all the campers as they all attend his school.

Coach V. asked me three years ago if I would consider being a parent volunteer. They needed adult males to stay with a group of young lads. I agreed.

Which brings me to tonight, or rather early morning, as I cannot sleep. I lie awake thinking of so many awesome events I’ve witnessed today. Even on my third camp with Madonna, I am emotionally awake at what has transpired around me today. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

reflections from Madonnapalooza and what's next...

Mary Kay and I attended the Madonnpalooza event last Friday. Wow! What a wonderful opportunity for Madonna students and their families to enjoy and evening of food, music and great fun. Seeing the kids on stage with the band was heartwarming - so much energy and joy for life. Some of them I have known for years – what progress they have made. Watching the parents and family members take pride in these young people reminded us of those moments we shared with our children as they grew. What a difference Madonna School makes in the lives of special young people.

We need to make sure these growth opportunities continue so I asked you to get involved by supporting the Working Wonders event coming in August. I know what a difference this fundraiser makes in the lives of these special children. Please help Mary Kay and me and all those who are working to make this event a success. Whether you help sell a few raffle tickets or donate an auction item or help invite people to attend, your contribution will benefit many who need your help. Please consider joining us in Working Wonders by contacting me directly. You can also call Jay or Toody at the school for more information.

Thank you and may God bless you and your family.
Fred Otterberg

Click here to read the note from Fred Otterberg.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Path to Independence

The Life Skills Transition program, now in its sixth year, fulfills the promise of reaching a student’s potential after high school graduation. Created to ensure these young adults move into adulthood with confidence and improved independence.

This independence is centered around achieving sustainable work experiences, independent life skills and fulfilling social activity in the community.  

This new program ended up not only attracting students from Madonna’s own high school, but students from the greater Omaha area. A few of these students heard word of the exciting life and job skills being taught at “Madonna U” and inquired.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Madonna Shop: Comfort and Hope

Why I chose the Madonna Shop for my Sons      

Madonna shop for the exceptional is just what the name says and more.

The first day I entered the workshop I was greeted with smiles and laughter from the people who work there, beginning with Sandy, who greets everyone with such thoughtfulness.

I chose Madonna Shop because it’s a business with a statement they truly believe in; therefore, making them a place of faith and hope. I trust the Madonna Shop and that the staff will do their best to meet each individual’s needs.

Starting with Robin

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 6 - End the R Word

March 6 is the nation day of campaign to end the usage of "The R Word."

The NYT's article "A Word Gone Wrong" is a well crafted argument.

One Mother's thoughts (mine:) are shared here.

And, last but not least, more information and to take the pledge, check the official website.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Somehow, it always comes back to gratitude...

February 11, blogger Cassy Fiano shared much of another anonymous blogger’s opinion in the on-line article, “Is there a wrong answer to terminating a baby with Down syndrome?

The anonymous blogger began:  I was so late in pregnancy, there seemed not to be time to meet with a genetic counselor so I did my own research on Down syndrome. I concluded it was a grey diagnosis where best case was hard and worst case terrible. I could envision handling the early years, but not the long term.

She goes on to explain how, though she chose to terminate this pregnancy, she will always think of and love her son with T21. In fact she says, I loved him just as much as the kids I have living here with me today, and how she is a better mother now to her other children from this experience. Also, according to her blog: The parents (of children with Down syndrome) have suffered. The kids have suffered too. I didn’t want that future for my son or for my family.

As for me…wow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do you know this bird?

The first time I saw this Pixar© short, I laughed. And I cried.

Watching the innocent outsider, his purity of character allowing him to enter the group and join in; he does not perceive of any malice intended by the small minded birds that he hopes to befriend.

Do you know this bird? His desire to be included and his naïveté at the blocking misanthropes?  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

With your help, Madonna School & Workshop is Working Wonders!

In the autobiography of Sister Mary Evangeline Randolph, RSM, I Have Seen Him, she describes the then developmental director Fred Otterberg as “…unequalled in his love for the students and full of hope for the future.”

The Madonna School is delighted to again be benefiting from Fred’s dedication and experience
link to the official
Madonna School Website