By Niki D’Andrea
Cortney’s Place and Scottsdale Beer Company team up for intoxicating fundraiser
A woman sings along to a Spanish ballad on a microphone. A man stands up in front of his friends and dances to the beat of a Top 40 song. Another man gets on the microphone and simply smiles and giggles. Other people in their group are digging into pizza, sipping sodas and socializing. Everyone is clearly having a great day. And that’s the whole point.
It’s almost noon on a Thursday in late April at Scottsdale Beer Company, and the owner of the restaurant and brewery, Doug Ledger, has closed his business to the general public for a few hours so he can host this group from Cortney’s Place, a Scottsdale-based day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Earlier in the day, Ledger gave the group of 15 students a crash course on hops and malts, passing around bowls of each and encouraging everyone to smell and taste the ingredients.
“We want to make sure they have the best day they possibly can,” says Samantha Mason, development director for Cortney’s Place. “We want to make sure they’re always heard and their voices always count.”
Cortney’s Place was founded in 2007, after Jim and Cindy Carpenter’s daughter, Cortney, was about to age out of the public school system. “I started this program when I didn’t find a good program for Cortney and she needed a program to attend once she graduated high school at the age of 22 from the Scottsdale school district. This was 11 and a half years ago,” Cindy Carpenter says. “I wanted a stimulating and meaningful program filling her days that would be exciting, while continuing to work on skills learned in school and easily lost.”
In addition to a plethora of outings like the beer class at Scottsdale Beer Company, Cortney’s Place holds art classes, music therapy, fitness sessions, group chats and more for students at its center, located at 7000 E. Shea Boulevard. In that sense, it has achieved the Carpenters’ dream for their daughter. “Cort has had the good fortune of many experiences of going to museums, ball games, dinners, the circus, plays, etc., and I wanted her to continue being able to experience life and others just like her,” Cindy Carpenter says.
But the impact of Cortney’s Place has gone deeper. There are currently 32 students enrolled in the day program – and a waiting list of 22 people. “There are families who moved from out of state to come to Cortney’s Place,” Mason says. “We would like to be able to expand our model, and open another center.”
To do that, Cortney’s Place relies on fundraisers and assistance from the community – especially since they do not charge the families of any of their students for the center’s services. “Many parents can’t afford assistance or day programs. Those monetary restrictions are not restrictions for our families,” Mason says.
Ledger has been a supporter of Cortney’s Place for the past three years, since his banker – who was on the board of the nonprofit – asked him to donate some gift certificates for Scottsdale Beer Company. Ledger took it a leap farther, hosting myriad events for Cortney’s Place at SBC and joining the board this past January. “It’s such a great program for life enrichment,” Ledger says. “They get out so much and get to do so much. Some (participants) here were nonverbal, almost vegetative, and through the events at Cortney’s Place, they’ve opened up.”
On May 17, Scottsdale Beer Company will host the first of two major annual fundraisers for Cortney’s Place. The event, dubbed “Cheers to Future Years,” features a live band, a beer garden, a food buffet, raffle and silent auction. SBC made a special brew for the occasion called Cortney’s Beer, a golden ale made with Chico yeast and Willamette hops. “It’s a nice, light, low-alcohol beer,” Ledger says. (The second major annual fundraiser for Cortney’s Place will be an “Old Hollywood”-themed gala at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix in November.)
When Ledger tells the group from Cortney’s Place that their fundraiser beer is a golden ale “because you’re all gold on my list,” there’s a collective giggle-groan, followed by myriad questions: How many flavors and types of beer are there? Why do some beer grains taste like chocolate? How many calories does beer have? Are the yeast droppings in beer the same thing as poop? Ledger answers all the students’ questions with candor and humor. They are clearly curious and engaged, and Ledger clearly loves that.
“I consider all these kids family,” he says. “Hopefully, Cortney’s Place becomes the standard of care.”
Tickets to the May 17 “Cheers to Future Years” event at Scottsdale Beer Company cost $40 each for general admission (includes the buffet and two drink tickets) and $100 for VIP (includes early access to the event, meet-and-greets with Cortney’s Place families and a VIP guest, the buffet, two drink tickets, two well drinks tickets, and a raffle ticket). For more information about the fundraiser or to purchase tickets, visit cheerstofutureyears.eventbrite.com. For more information on Cortney’s Place, visit cortneysplace.org.