Meet Claire Dees
Spectrum’s Executive Director Claire Dee’s shares her story with Canvas Rebel. Read an excerpt below and click to read the full story.
We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Claire Dees. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Claire below.
Hi Claire, thanks for joining us today. Can you open up about a risk you’ve taken – what it was like taking that risk, why you took the risk and how it turned out?
Getting involved as the co-founder of Spectrum was a life changing experience for me. I got involved to assist, thinking that having a 10 year old with autism had given me some experience to share and support others on the journey and I ended up as the primary leader in the first few years. Our first meeting drew over 100 people so there was no doubt a need for support in our community. People wanted more than just support group meetings. They wanted respite, summer programs, after school care and judgement free family events. So Spectrum quickly became more than just a support group, now serving over 1800 individuals with autism per year and their families. Spectrum offers support groups for parents of individuals with autism of all age and ability, sibling support group for ages 5-14, Dads group, Grandparents group, groups for autistic adults, and one in Spanish only for Spanish speakers. We offer day camps and overnight camps, respite, social skills groups, drama club, technology club, family events and community education and training. My son with autism taught me so much and when he passed away of a sudden heart attack in 2011 it only increased my passion for helping families and became a part of his legacy that I continue the work. So, after running the organization for 19 years as a volunteer I took a risk and a leap and after a strategic plan to board hired me as a paid Executive Director in 2016 which has made all the difference in Spectrum’s mission to provide support, education and resources for individuals and families impacted by autism, giving the time to accomplish so much more. I am proud that we took our annual budget from $125,000/year to now almost $1 million in less than 7 years. And, we took a really big leap and bought our first building in September 2022! We have been using area churches primarily for the past 24 years and to celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2023 we will have renovations completed and occupy our own space giving us the opportunity to serve more, offer more programs and supports and to make a bigger difference with a greater impact in our community. Raising $1,550,000 is not an easy task but I am up for the challenge and know God has brought us this far and will bring us where we need to be. Connecting families and sharing hope is what brings me the most joy and the risk has been more than worth it!