Community is an essential component to our daily lives, and everyone wants and deserves to feel welcomed and included. That basic concept is at the heart of a new organization in Omaha. Daily Yaymaker offers opportunities for adults with unique needs to attend local events, do some traveling, and enjoy experiences in a safe, appropriate environment. It’s a concept created by Dawna Daily, who for years saw a gap in services and finally followed her heart and faith until it came to fruition.
Daily’s passion for helping those with unique needs started with her own sister who is hearing impaired. Her family lived in Yutan, NE, and she’d often drive with her back and forth to Omaha where her sister attended the Omaha Hearing School. It was through this exposure that Daily developed her strong spirit to advocate for people with disabilities. As an adult, she began her career as a paraprofessional in the high school resource setting, and later decided to go back to school and earn a degree in special education, all while raising two small children at home.
After earning her degree, Daily began working for Elkhorn Public Schools resource program, and after nine years, helped develop the district’s Young Adult program which she directed for another six years. After reaching a point where she felt she’d gone as far as she could with that phase of her career, she decided it was time for another change and accepted a position as the part-time director of the Down Syndrome Association for Families of Nebraska. It was during the midst of these professional changes that a seed was planted in Daily’s mind.
“Every time I was out and about, I never saw groups of people with disabilities at events on the weekends,” Daily said. “Parents would comment that their adult children were socially isolated, but they were worried about their children navigating outings on their own, plus adult children don’t necessarily want to have to bring their parents.” Despite all of the quality daytime programs available, Daily really felt there was a need for outings that allowed people with unique needs to interact with the rest of the community at local events. “They want to be with everyone else and do what everyone else in the community does,” she added.
It was during a conversation with a friend in which Daily was describing her idea that the name “Daily Yaymaker” was created. Daily’s husband’s family had owned the first grocery store in Elkhorn, and she wanted to bring the name back to the community. She also explained that she wanted to create experiences for individuals that made them say, “Yay!” Her friend paused and said, “You’re the yaymaker.”
Daily Yaymaker officially launched in May with a monthly membership model. The fee includes opportunities to attend up to six events per month and includes transportation to the event and any admission fees associated with the event. Daily accompanies attendees to each event, but she makes a point to let the members be as independent as possible. “I’m there if they need me, but otherwise I encourage them to experience it on their own,” she said. That includes anyone age 21 and older being able to have alcohol, assuming it’s within their caregivers’ rules. “I talk to parents to find out what their family rules are and to make sure they’re open to having their adult children make their own choices. No one has taken advantage of it so far, and it’s amazing to see them develop as people and not just as students.”
Sheryl Havermann’s 25-year-old daughter, Aleigha, is a Daily Yaymaker member and said it’s been an answer to her prayers. “I tried to encourage her to attend events for individuals with developmental disabilities, but she never wanted to go unless it was with us. It’s been fun to see her smile and look forward to going out where she can interact with everyone. Now we can’t keep her at home, which as a parent is what you want—for them to live their own life.”
Daily gets input from the members on the types of outings they want to do. Some have included attending Junkstock, the Demo Derby, a concert at Stir Cove in Council Bluffs, and visiting Adventureland. She also offers individual “Yays” in which she’ll accompany someone one-on-one, which she did recently when a member wanted to go camping but their parents weren’t able to do it on their own. With her experience in special education, she’ll also help families with transition consultation and adult disability paperwork. “If you need me for anything, I’m here,” she said.
Her next venture is to launch a non-profit called The Daily House, which will be a respite bed and breakfast for those who need a temporary break or a retreat for parents and those entering and exiting the foster care system. It would also provide work opportunities for differently abled individuals who could participate in the caretaking, housekeeping, and morning coffee service, as well as other areas. It’s all part of what Daily calls “inspired belongings,” ideas that aren’t written down but just keep coming through.
One of her goals is to establish different chapters throughout the state. She also has a “Yay it forward” program, where someone can donate to cover the cost for a member. A good member fit is anyone who wants to get out into the community, make and maintain friendships, and have new experiences. “Everyone deserves to be treated like an individual, be heard, and welcome,” Daily said. “Being part of the larger community is so important, and I want these individuals to learn from the best in our community.”