Creating Connections at REVEL Lounge
RMHS Mill Levy Partner REVEL Lounge Helps Individuals with I/DD Stay Connected to Peers as They Age Out of High School
Ben Goff (left) and Adonis Nieves (right) proudly present their artwork, painted flower pots, which they made as Mother’s Day gifts. They painted the pots at REVEL Lounge, a place where those with intellectual and developmental disabilities can connect.
Ben Goff is a bright young man with an entrepreneurial spirit. At 21 years old, he owns his own lawn-mowing company, B’s Lawn Mowing Service. When he’s not busy working, Ben spends time at REVEL Lounge, a place where individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism, can build community. He exercises, creates art, learns from mentors and takes the time to research lawn-mowing tutorials to better his business.
REVEL co-founder Stephanie Hill said their programs helped Ben through his transition from high school to adulthood – a change with which he initially struggled. Ben had lost his high school community, and his loved ones felt he was becoming lonely. When Stephanie first met Ben, his love of life wasn’t shining through. But after just one month at REVEL Lounge, he started enjoying life again.
“His growth over the last year and a half has been remarkable,” Stephanie said.
Ben’s struggle through transitioning to adulthood is something Stephanie noticed was common for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As these individuals get older, they have trouble replacing the support systems they had in school, and funding for supporting adults with I/DD can dramatically decrease. That’s why Stephanie and Diane Osaki co-founded REVEL three years ago – to help provide community when it’s most needed for people with I/DD.
The REVEL Lounge is just one of the programs offered at REVEL, with others including REVEL Supports and REVEL Summer Program. The Supports Program helps those with I/DD build greater skill sets that lead to more independence through one-on-one individualized programming, and the Summer Program offers summer programming in Denver for young adults with I/DD.
REVEL co-founder Stephanie Hill enjoys the lounge space where REVELers spend their time hanging out, learning, growing and creating together.
Stephanie has worked with people with I/DD for about 13 years. Her passion for the community started when she was in college at Colorado State University and got a job at an organization called Respite Care. She was inspired to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), a professional who helps individuals obtain new skills using behavior analytic principles and learn alternatives to challenging behavior. Stephanie’s expertise helps her design effective programs for those with I/DD.
REVEL Lounge is housed in the RiNo district of Denver. REVEL offers a variety of activities focused on health and exercise, artistic expression, exposure to new interests, career exploration and daily living skills. REVEL also partners with the University of Denver through a national mentorship program called Best Buddies, with about 15 mentors volunteering at REVEL.
“We’ve been able to really ramp up and get more volunteers and mentors,” Stephanie said.
The program looks forward to a bright future, but that wasn’t always the case. Stephanie knew REVEL might struggle with funding, even from the beginning., but she discovered REVEL could partner with Rocky Mountain Human Services to access funding from the Denver mill levy that is dedicated to Denver residents with I/DD. The program has received mill levy support since 2018 and continues to receive funding through 2019.
“The mill levy has allowed us to keep this program open,” she said.
Stephanie was able to access funds that give REVEL the opportunity to grow. The lounge went from being open only three days a week after school to five days a week with day and evening programming. Stephanie is excited to bring in more REVELers, like Ben who looks forward to the program’s future.
“We might get our own building sometime,” Ben said with a smile.