Jeff Clemetson | Editor
San Carlos resident Ryan Bowcott is a life-long difference maker who has generously given his time and energy to charitable work since high school. His current role as a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit Options For All was, in part, inspired by his mother who taught special education.
Options For All is holding its annual fundraising event Taste of Our Community on March 14 in Liberty Station. For more information about the event and the organization, visit optionsforall.org.
Can you share a little bit about your background: Where did you grow up? If not from San Diego, when did you move here? What did you study in school? What do you do?
I grew up in Poway and graduated from Poway High School before heading to the East Coast and studying at Duke University. After graduation, I moved back to San Diego and began a career in banking, which is something I still love to this day. I am currently a private banking officer for Comerica Bank and am now in my 19th year in the industry. After meeting my wife nine years ago, we were fortunate to settle in San Carlos and have enjoyed Lake Murray, meeting new neighbors and exploring East County.
What other kinds of volunteer work have you done in your life, other than Options For All?
I began volunteering in high school for the Key Club and have been fortunate to work in an industry that encourages volunteerism. Over the last 20 years in San Diego, I have been involved with Junior Achievement, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and of course, Options for All. I also fully support the San Diego Symphony because my wife plays violin for the orchestra and therefore works for a nonprofit.
When and why did you become interested in helping developmentally disabled adults?
My mom was a teacher while I was growing up and taught special education classes for several years. At the time, almost all development disabilities were lumped into special education and it didn’t seem there was any specialized care. It always stood out to me that her classes were supposed to be for one population of children, but it was clear that each individual had unique abilities. When I began volunteering as an adult, I felt like I was only sticking my toe into the water. When I discovered Options For All and their amazing population of adults with developmental disabilities, my childhood memories came back. I felt a connection with the mission and could finally jump head first into the organization and joined the board.
Tell me about Options For All. What is its history? What does it do? How did you become associated with the organization?
Founded in 1985, Options For All serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping empower them to become fully participating members of their communities. Options For All provides services in San Diego, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Riverside counties. The organization is a leader in helping people get and keep a job and live as independently as possible and serves as many as 1,300 individuals annually who face the challenges of autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing and vision impairments, learning and intellectual disabilities, and severe behavioral disorders.
Each year, thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities need a helping hand to get by. Without community support, they are destined to live isolated, unproductive lives, at great societal and human cost. This is why the organization seeks to create and support opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in making choices to live and enjoy life in their community with dignity and respect.
We work as a team to achieve positive perceptions in the community and among employers about the value and abilities of these remarkable individuals. Options For All offers its participants programs to enhance life skills, employment and independence. These include assistance with banking, budgeting, and money management; computer and writing skills; job interview techniques; nutrition, cooking, meal planning, and exercise, and learning personal responsibility such as taking directions and social skills. Options For All offers supported employment services that have achieved placement for more than 175 individuals in approximately 500 businesses in the last five years. More than a third of these individuals have remained on the job each year.
I became associated with Options For All through a former colleague, and the Taste of Our Community event. I was invited and attended without knowing much about the organization but knew the event would be fun. The event did not disappoint, and I immediately put it on my calendar for the following year. When I attended the second time, I began to know a few of the employees and board members. At this point I knew the mission and connected with it and was happy to serve on a committee when asked.
What is the Taste of Our Community event about? Why should people attend and support it?
The 10th annual Taste of Our Community will be held on Thursday, March 14, from 6–9 p.m. at Brick in Liberty Station, located at 2863 Historic Decatur Road. The event celebrates a decade of fundraising for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in San Diego. The event will feature tastings from local top tier restaurants, specialty cocktails, wine and beer tasting, live entertainment, live & silent auctions, an opportunity drawing, raise the paddle, and special guest Steve Cassarino (Chef Roc).
The event is an amazingly fun that also happens to serve as our annual fundraising party. This will be my seventh time attending, and I am more excited than last year. The event is networking style and attendees are free to mingle at will. We always have a broad selection of food, wine, beer, etc. for everyone to enjoy. Also, the silent auction gift baskets are always thoughtfully put together and many of them by the population we serve. Anyone should attend if they like fun, food, people, drinking, auctions, or just want to support a great organization. We are a very friendly bunch and would be happy to meet all of the new faces we are hoping to see there.
Your support would allow us to expand our services and provide better, alternative, different programs for our 1,200-plus participant population. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available. Individual tickets are priced at $100, and day-of tickets are $115 and can be purchased online at bit.ly/2GYdHO2.
For more information, please contact Philanthropy Outreach Manager, Kellye Buchanan, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 858-565-9870 ext. 226.
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.