Via Services is a private, independent non-profit that has been dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and special needs achieve greater self-sufficiency and lead richer lives since 1945.
The Via Vanguard
Issue 10 - February 2020
In This Issue:


Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Families, Friends and Supporters:

As Via Services celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is nearly impossible to quantify the impact this organization has had on people and families with disabilities and special needs. But from my observations over the past four months - where I have been able to witness our work first-hand - I can tell you our impact is absolutely life-changing.

At Via West, we serve children and adults with a broad range of disabilities. In some cases, our participants have severe behavioral and/or medical requirements that necessitate one-to-one counselors to attend to all of their needs. The counselor role requires extraordinarily caring, compassionate, patient and skilled people to do this work. During our almost weekly respite sessions, our counselors are delivering outstanding experiences for our participants while providing much-needed respite and support for their families who otherwise care for their loved ones 24/7. A true win-win for all!

Here in the office, our First Step speech language pathologists and occupational therapists make great strides with their clients every day. This often slow, painstaking work is regularly rewarded with happy squeals from young clients that can be heard throughout the office, as well as smiles of happiness and relief from their proud parents. With every goal met and milestone reached, they see that their child's verbal and cognitive development challenges are being overcome.

So as we gather later this month for the 25th Annual Via Ball, we will be asking you to continue investing in these critically important services. If you come every year, we need you back! If it's been a while since you have attended, we'd love to have you once again for this special celebration.

This is our primary fundraiser of the year that enables the tremendous, impactful work I've described here, and we simply cannot achieve our mission without you. So thank you, in advance, for your generous support of Via Services.

See you at the Ball!

Thank you,

Matt Bell, Executive Director

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25th Annual Via Ball

Join us on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at Villa Ragusa for the 25th Anniversary of the Via Ball where we will be celebrating 75 years of Via Services! This is our most important night of the year, and we are so excited to share this momentous and historic evening with you! 100% of the proceeds go towards our programs - First Step, Via West, and Altitude.

This year's Moulin Rouge themed gala will feature dinner by Villa Ragusa, live music from Velvet Plum, exciting silent and live auctions featuring one-of-a-kind items, and so much more!

We are so excited to announce that this year our silent auction will be online!  That's right, you can bid on our exclusive packages directly from your smartphone without having to leave the comfort of your seat!  No more running back and forth to the auction room to check on your bids. We will also be launching our silent auction early so you can start placing bids before you even check in on February 29th! Keep an eye out for those notifications.

Tickets, tables, and sponsorships are available now.


This summer, the theme of our Via West programs is Around the World in 80 Days.  We will "visit" so many amazing places and get to see countless breathtaking sights along the way. From Madagascar to London and Brazil to Japan, we will leave no place untouched. 

Each week's destination will have a themed activity that goes along with it that will bring each place to life. Whether it's the Olympics, Color Wars, or a full camp game of Empires, Via West will always be a vibrant place with smiles and infectious energy. 

Our full rotating schedule allows campers to have all kinds of fun! We will have our regular summer favorites like sports, arts and crafts, science, swimming, and culinary activities, and we will up the ante with our petting zoo, horseback riding, fun field trips, and more. 

Our goal for this summer is to promote a space where anyone can go and have fun, lose themselves in the moment, and feel safe and comfortable. After so many years of smiles, great activities, and amazing moments, we have taken what we have learned and are looking to make this the most exciting summer ever!

Join us at Altitude
Our Altitude program offers summer camp experiences for youth with social cognitive challenges including verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger's, and high functioning autism. Altitude is a place where participants build social skills, independence and self-confidence. 

We offer a fun summer vacation where friendships are developed. With warmth, guidance, and ongoing support, we prepare our participants for the transition to young adulthood, future relationships, and the rest of their lives!

First Step
Did you know that Via's First Step program offers much more than speech and language therapy?

Our other services and contracts include:
  • Occupational Therapy services
  • Screenings and full evaluations for speech, language, and occupational therapy needs
  • Family based initial intake assessments through the Early Start Program  in home or at our clinic for children birth through 36 months of age
  • Contracts with local schools to provide therapy services based on areas of need
  • Afternoon and evening appointments available for speech/language and occupational therapy
Referrals for First Step therapy services are received through Parents/families, schools, Kaiser, and the Early Start Program. We can provide super bills each month for insurance reimbursement. Our First Step program is conveniently located in the heart of Santa Clara and serves children birth through 13 years of age.

donor Featured Donor: Olivia J.

Olivia first learned about Via while in high school through her sister, Grace, who had worked as a counselor at Via West. She then worked and volunteered at Via while she attended college.  "Working at Via West took the seeds of leadership capabilities and emotional intelligence I had gained through activities in high school, and grew them to new heights," Olivia says of her time at camp. "Being a counselor pushed me to think beyond myself and care deeply about the success and well being of each one of my participants."

Olivia currently works at Elevate Labs, a tech startup in San Francisco that makes brain training and personalized meditation apps. Via has meant so much to her that she now makes a recurring monthly donation to give back to us. She would love to see more people of her generation give regularly to their favorite charities and says the key to do that is to make it easy. That is exactly what we have done! To set up your own recurring monthly donation, please click here.

For anyone hesitant to commit to a monetary donation, we have also set up an Amazon wish list. Next time you're on Amazon, simply select an item from our Via Wish List and it goes right to Via! It is so easy!

Thank you Olivia for being a valued supporter of Via! You are the reason we are able to do what we do for the thousands of families that we serve each year!

If you have any additional questions about donations, setting up recurring payments, or our Amazon wish list, please contact us.

Featured Employee: Emily DiPiero
Emily is the First Step Manager and a Speech-Language Pathologist. She is responsible for managing the employees of the First Step Program with the Director and is a lead mentor for intake assessments and related procedures. She also completes assessments and provides therapy to clients on her caseload. 

Emily began her clinical fellowship at Via after earning her Master's Degree at University of the Pacific. While in school, she also held an internship in a preschool as well as an externship at Stanford Hospital working with adults in the intensive care and neurosurgery units.

Emily loves the collaborative nature of Via and her colleagues that share her passion for supporting families across the lifespan. She shared, "we take a lot of pride in our work and challenge ourselves every day to better serve and advocate for our clients."

Jennifer Baird, First Step Director, believes that Emily is an essential part of the Via team and says that "she brings a positive attitude at all times and her friendly demeanor makes everyone feel comfortable when she is working with staff, playing with young children in assessments, and providing therapy service to her clients." Jennifer continues to say that "all of the families and children who meet with her connect with her immediately, and she is often asked for by name." 

Outside of Via, Emily loves to be outdoors hiking with her dog and spending time with her family. She also coaches a club field hockey program and plays in recreational leagues for soccer and field hockey.


We really want to get the jump on getting our 9 month old daughter ready to talk. Are there any books you would recommend that help to develop her language skills? - Hannah M.
Answered by Jennifer Baird, M.A., CCC-SLP, First Step Director, Via Services

Reading books with your children is a great way to foster speech and language development. Below are some books, broken down into age groups, that I recommend:

  • First 100 words (Roger Priddy)
  • Baby Touch and Feel Animals (DK publishing)
  • Simple First Words Let's Talk (Roger Priddy)
  • My First Peek-A-Boo Animals (Eric Carle)
  • Peek-a-Baby (Karen Katz)
  • Baby Touch and Feel Animals (Jennifer Quasha)
  • My First Baby Signs (Phil Conigliaro and Tae Won Yu)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See? (Eric Carle)
  • Moo, Baa, Lalala (Sandra Boynton)
  • Where is Baby's Belly Button (Karen Katz)
  • Poke-A-Dot books (Melissa & Doug)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
  • Go, Dog Go! (Dr. Seuss)
2-6 Years Old
  • Giraffes Can't Dance (Giles Andreae)
  • Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes (James Dean)
  • Where's Spot (Eric Hill)
  • Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell)
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury)
  • Where the Wild Things are (Maurice Sendak)
  • The Rainbow Fish (Marcus Pfister)
  • The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)
6-8 Years Old
  • Bear Snores On / Bear Books Series (Karma Wilson)
  • The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
  • Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson)
  • The Pout Pout Fish (Deborah Diesen)
  • There was a Cold Lady who Swallowed some Snow (Lucille Colandro)
  • Oh the Places you'll go (Dr. Seuss)
  • The Magic Tree House Series (Mary Pope Osborne)
8-12 Years Old
  • The Diary of Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney)
  • Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
  • James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake)

I noticed that in the Via West summer brochure, there are only 5 day and weekend long camps. Can we combine multiple sessions to make them longer? - Will S.
Answered by MyHanh Duong, Admissions Manager, Via West and Altitude

Our original summer brochure with the blue cover did only have 5 day and weekend sessions. However, after listening to the initial feedback from our families, we decided to add more day program options as well as bridge days to create 7, 8, and 10 day long sessions.

To avoid confusion, we created a new version of the summer brochure with a green cover, Please click here to use this version moving forward as it contains all of the new and exciting changes for our summer program.  

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