UCP was started in Sacramento in 1955 by parents who had a child born with a brain injury – cerebral palsy. At that time, the assumption was that they would put their child into state institutional care. These parents wanted a different life for their children. Those parents did not want their children in institutional care – forgotten by society. They wanted their children home and in community.
This dream led to the establishment of United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Sacramento Area, Inc.
The agency began in March 1955 as a small group of parents. Those parents obtained a $500 loan from the State UCP office and began making their dream for their children come true in Sacramento.
During the first few years of operation, UCP opened a day care center for children with disabilities. UCP provided five scholarships for speech and physical therapy, with private drivers or taxis providing the transportation. Parents paid 25 cents a day to cover expenses. One major fundraiser was known as the “53 Minute Walk” because, at that time it was estimated that every 53 minutes a child was born with cerebral palsy.
To help support UCP programs and to purchase crutches, helmets and special equipment for people with disabilities, a group of 13 mothers began “Pals for Palsy” in 1961, which was later known as the Cerebral Palsy Guild.
The Cerebral Palsy Guild raised funds by holding rummage and bake sales, manning Christmas gift-wrap booths and selling “Talking Mother’s Day Cards.” Over the next two years, two extremely popular events were initiated: 1) The Spring Sing fundraiser where local groups performed for awards and recognition; and 2) In 1962, the first telethon was held at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium, which raised $40,000.
By 1965, UCP had grown. With help from the Guild, UCP purchased a building on 25th Street and opened its first UCP Development Center for children between the ages of 4 and 15. Parents and Guild members volunteered to assist the students as well as provide janitorial services. In addition, weekly physical therapy services were offered by professional therapists.
In the mid-1970s, the Development Center was closed with the advent of public school programs. In its place was born the Sacramento Adult Growth Experience programs. There were 55 clients in this program.
Today, UCP Adult Growth Experience programs are still going strong. As a benefit of all this growth, parents are no longer required to provide janitorial services. UCP now operates eleven other adult day programs in Sacramento, Placer and Yolo Counties which serves between 320 to 330 individuals with disabilities each year.
In 1969, UCP’s first van was obtained by collecting one million Betty Crocker Points, and UCP’s Transportation Department (then known as the “Blue Fleet Life Line”) was born. Over the years, the blue vans – with their rear-mounted lifts – have been replaced with white, 16-passenger, lift-equipped buses. UCP now owns 60 buses and transports more than 460 adults each year to UCP programs throughout Sacramento, Placer and Yolo Counties.
In 2017 alone, UCP’s Transportation program provided more than 165,881 passenger trips traveling 1,067,817 miles. The program operates Monday through Friday connecting adults to community.
The Guild also joined forces with UCP to establish a Residence Center for 15 men and women with cerebral palsy. The Residence Center provided the social and recreational opportunities, with the Transportation program supplying the transportation. UCP and the Guild also assisted in the creation of a pre-nursery program and Yolo County’s Infant Program, which is still operating today.
1969 also marked the hiring of UCP’s first Executive Director and the opening of an office on 21st Street. This decade saw the first of five “Poppycoction Cookbook” editions that boasted recipes from celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Julie and David Eisenhower and Nancy Reagan, along with submissions from local chiefs and Guild members. In addition to the other established fundraisers, there were two Domino Balls, a Black and White Masked Ball, and a luncheon with astrologist Jean Dixon. UCP and the Guild members also participated in the National Telethon every year.
On July 24, 1972 California’s Secretary of State Edmund G. Brown signed UCP’s name certification.
As UCP and the Guild continued their fundraising telethons, walk-a-thons, box lunches and coin canisters, another grand fundraising opportunity presented itself. It was the 1976 Bicentennial Gala: Whoop-De-Do/Red, White and Blue – a dinner, dance and show starring Bob Hope. Always on the look-out for new and creative ways to fund programs, in 1979, the Guild also began the first of three Miniature Shows. A new event was also added – “The Tasting Extravaganza” featuring local restaurants and wineries. UCP hosted this event for the next ten years.
The late 1970s brought about the establishment of In-Home Respite care. Families and caregivers could now feel comfortable taking some much-needed time off and leave their child in the hands of a para-professional trained by UCP. Ever since Respite’s inception, we have increased the number of families served, now providing more than 18,000 hours of home respite to approximately 1,650 families in our community each year.
As the years passed, services expanded to El Dorado and Placer Counties and we became United Cerebral Palsy Association of Sacramento – Yolo/Mother Lode.
In 1982, with six participants we initiated the Community Living Arrangements Services Program (CLASP), an independent living skills program. Today, this one-on-one instructional program continues to provide an invaluable service for 25 to 35 individuals in our community. The training it provides builds a strong foundation and contributes to an individual’s ability to live independently with confidence. This foundation assist participants to become advocates for their own rights as they gain the skills required for independent living and to become contributing members of their community.
In 1982, the Guild began the CAR PAL Program. This was a low-cost child car seat rental and sales program. UCP continued to run this program until the late 1990s.
By the mid-1980s, the Guild had grown to 185 members who actively supported UCP. Additionally, the Guild offered parent education, pre-natal and prevention classes.
Throughout the years, UCP and the Guild also sponsored parent support groups, a speaker’s bureau and an information and referral service for community members.
In the 1990s UCP added the Toy Box, a lending library for children with disabilities, to its services. This unique library was committed to the concept of “learning through play.” Toys and computers, many specially adapted, were loaned to families and teachers of children with developmental and physical disabilities.
The Cerebral Palsy Guild disbanded in 1995 after 34 years of exceptional dedication to UCP. The times had changed and many of the Guild women had now joined the workforce, thereby having less time for volunteer work.
UCP has been actively involved in recreational activities for people with disabilities. Over the years, Camp Thunder and our weekly recreational program, River City Thunder, have been replaced by our current collaboration efforts with Project PLAY (promoting physical fitness, recreational and social opportunities for children with disabilities outside the traditional school day), Camp COOL and WAVE Camp.
UCP entered the new millennium with a merger between UCP and Saddle Pals Therapeutic Riding Center. This extremely popular and successful program, as with so many of our programs, began life through the efforts of an extremely caring group of people and a large number of committed volunteers.
We held the first UCP Humanitarian of the Year Award event in 1992. The event honors the leading leaders in our community.
In 2003, UCP began holding online auctions that brought participants from as far away as Massachusetts.
In 2006, Doug Bergman became UCP’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. Doug’s leadership has helped UCP to refine its mission and Strategic Plan to tie directly into UCP’s continuing heritage in the Sacramento region and beyond.
In 2007, UCP launched in partnership with Paratransit – UCP Shuttle to provide door to door services for adults with disabilities. We also expanded our Respite Program.
In 2008, we acquired a building to be UCP’s permanent office – as a base for our multiple services under roof. This continues to provide further efficiency of money and human capital.
In 2009, UCP established The Foundation for UCP to fund the future of needs of today’s children with development disabilities. The Foundation for UCP is building on legacy gifts to ensure UCP addresses the dreams of tomorrow.
In 2010 UCP of Sacramento and Northern California added three more counties – Butte, Shasta and Sutter to our service area.
In 2017, we launched our Odyssey program. During the wake of CA-run institutions closing their doors to severely disabled patients, we were one of the first organizations to provide these adults, who have been institutionalized at Sonoma and Porterville Developmental Centers for most of their lives, with a quality community-based care program in the greater Sacramento area. With the opening of Odyssey, 30+ more clients were served in the Rancho Cordova area.
Though initially founded as a support for parents of children with cerebral palsy, UCP of Sacramento and Northern California now serves all people with disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities, learning disorders and sensory impairments. UCP is now a nonprofit agency serving over 4,100 children and adults each month through multiple programs and services that empower people with developmental disabilities to live life without limits.
UCP is the region’s leading provider of evidence-based practices that enable children and adults living with disabilities and their families to better their abilities to live a life with increased independence, productivity and self-confidence. With more than 54 percent of our clients considered low- or middle-income, our services are pivotal to improving their quality of life, alleviating barriers to independence and helping individuals of all ages reach their full potential.
UCP provides a wide array of programs to people in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Butte, Yolo, Nevada, Shasta and Sutter Counties. Programs include Saddle Pals adaptive horseback riding, adult day programs, independent living services, transportation and in-home respite care for families.
Ninety cents of every dollar donated goes directly to UCP programs and services, giving dignity to people with developmental disabilities.
Whatever the challenge, UCP has welcomed the multiple opportunities to serve our community. We continually strive to fulfill our mission of Life Without Limits for People with Disabilities.