When Dessie and Al Bailey found out that their beautiful baby Claudia had Down syndrome, their first question was, Why? "Don't feel sorry for those kids," a wise doctor told them; "feel sorry for the kids who have the mentality but don't use it."
The Baileys' thoughts then turned from why to what: what can we do for our daughter and other children like her? It was the late 1940s in the small desert town of Las Vegas, Nevada. Mandatory schooling for children with mental and physical disabilities was still a distant dream, and there were no non-profit facilities to help families with a child like Claudia in the little community of less than twenty-five thousand souls.
The Baileys and a small handful of other families, along with some unlikely allies, came together with a mission of hope and determination to find a place for these children in their community. With fund-raising help from the Variety Club, and the generous assistance of a few men who ran the town - yes, they were mobsters, but to the handicapped they became saints - the Clark County School for the Handicapped was eventually founded after a lot of hard work and a few bitter disappointments. This was only the beginning of a journey that was filled with hope and despair, joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, for the small group, including the Baileys.
Eventually the School for the Handicapped morphed into Opportunity Village, which today serves the mentally handicapped adult population of Southern Nevada with job training and placement, social skills, and recreational and cultural opportunities. With three major campuses in Las Vegas, Opportunity Village is unlike any other organization of its kind in the nation in what it does, and more importantly, in how it does it.
While the first half of the narrative deals with the history and founding of this unique organization, the second half deals with the organization today: how it's organized, the caring people who staff it, the volunteers who make such a big difference, the community that has adopted it as "Las Vegas favorite charity," and the clients whose lives are made whole by being a part of it. It also describes the financial end of the operation, and how Opportunity Village, unlike any other not-for-profit of its kind in the country, is able to raise 80 percent of its operating capital through its own efforts, rather than through more customary government funding.
This story of how one determined woman overcame all the odds to find a place for her child, and what that organization has come to today, is truly a story you'll never forget.