• Niki Clainos

A bequest to continue disability advocacy

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

We are so grateful to be one of the beneficiaries of The Judy Family Trust. As founders and longtime members of our board, we’re indebted to LaWanna and Robert “Bob” Judy for the time and energy they put into shaping and building our organization. Their only son, Ken, was a student of ours when we began as a school and a long-term employee of ours when we became a workplace. The entire family played an important role in defining and redefining the work we do here and had an awesome impact on the larger community around us.

Beginning as a nonprofit school for children with disabilities

For many years, the public school system was not available to kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A group of passionate and ambitious families decided to take matters into their own hands and form a nonprofit school where their children could play, learn and grow together in a safe and nurturing environment. These families founded our organization as Portland Children's Center in 1951. The Judys, whose son Ken was born with Down syndrome in 1952, enrolled him at the school in the mid-1950s. The family immediately connected with the caring and welcoming community.

Close up of young Ken Judy in jacket and tie for school photo
Ken Judy Elementary School Photo

Ken, a fun-loving kid, thrived in the social setting and LaWanna, always ready to roll up her sleeves and make a difference, joined our faculty of caring teachers as a speech therapist. Like his parents, Ken brought a lot of light and love to our community. Jack Brown, one of Ken’s schoolmates, still remembers the warmth his friend always exuded; “Every time he saw me, he would give me a hug.” All these years later, we are still so proud to have been a place where kids like Ken and Jack could be, well, kids. A place where they could play and learn and thrive. Together.

While this school addressed the needs of the families involved, the Judys were adamant about providing more resources for children who didn’t have access to schools like the Portland Children’s Center. Along with several other parents from the community, LaWanna took an interest in state legislature. She focused her attention on the law that restricted school access for kids like their son and were instrumental in getting a bill passed that made it possible for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to attend public schools.

From schooling to employment

It's said that the goal of a nonprofit is to put itself out of business - we agree and we love the integral role we played in fostering the community that would ultimately make our school unneeded. With the new legislation in place, we realized that kids coming out of school could use additional support in finding and pursuing meaningful work as they grew into adults. With the help of the Judys and other passionate families, we were able to reimagine our purpose and thus was born what is now known as Relay Resources.

Fortunately for Relay, Ken accompanied us as we transitioned from a children’s school to a workplace. As an employee here, Ken excelled in a variety of services, from assembly to laundry. But, of course, Ken brought more to his job than an excellent work ethic. Though years have passed since he was here, many of us fondly remember Ken’s fantastic personality, his loving spirit and his passion for keeping things neat and tidy. Our Program Manager Kathy Gay, recalls that Ken was always a “sharp dresser” and that he was a much-liked “ham” who “loved being the center of attention.”

In his later years, when Ken began struggling with health issues, he continued working at a limited capacity. Bob Judy felt that Ken's sense of loyalty to his work family helped continue to make a positive impact on him. That sense of connection is what we are all about; we cherish it and reciprocate it.

Employees pose for a group photo during a work field trip in 2007
Work field trip group photo

Making a lasting impact: donating to a nonprofit organization

At the end of 2019, we were honored to learn that Relay was named as a beneficiary of the Judy Family Trust. Bob, LaWanna, and Ken made a lasting impact on our organization, our community, and the world. The entire family was and will remain, an inspiration for us to continue making the world a more inclusive, accessible and caring place for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Their legacy of kindness and activism will live on here through their generous bequest, helping to continue cultivating meaningful work even after their passing.

If you or someone you know is interested in making a donation or adding Relay Resources in your estate planning, please visit our donations page for additional information and to contact us directly.

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