Honoring Kim Rains’ Legacy

Kim Rains was an exceptional human being.  Kim was kind, caring, funny, intelligent, passionate, visionary.  I was looking back this week on all of the videos she helped produce over the years for the college.  She did so very much for us to grow this collegiate model of education since the very beginning.  She was in almost all of our CreaTV PSAs, in our original marketing videos, she was CAA’s first valedictorian, she gave the student speech at our Giving Breakfast in May.  She was the interviewer for Ms. Wheelchair CA, Ms. Wheelchair America, and Richard Alexandre Rittelmann, a world-renowned European opera singer.  She would often contribute amazing ideas for new classes, new dance choreography, and more opportunities to showcase abilities in the community.  She was a true leader.

I would love to watch her at a site when a guest would walk through our doors.  More times than not, she would stop what she was doing, make a bee-line to the guest, one hand firmly thrust out for a handshake mid-stride while the other hand firmly on her trach as she marched across the floor to introduce herself and let the guest know that she was a student leader and ambassador to our college.  I would love to be on her heels as she often caught guests a bit off-guard with a follow-up that Kim is our very first valedictorian of our college.  I would love to watch the faces of each guest when they were trying to reconcile what they were seeing and hearing, and you for the overwhelming majority, they would break into a wide grin of sheer joy.

In one of our very first marketing videos, she stated that she wanted to start her own ministry.  Then, in the last video I took of her when she visited our art faire on November 4, she had said she was sorry for ministering, at which time I said you can minister to us forever.  She said, Ok, and proceeded to say this world is about Faith, Love, and Caring.

I believe that Kim was able to realize her life’s dream of starting her own ministry in the short time I think she knew she had to share with us on this earth.  I am not a very religious being by nature, but when I was in her presence, I very clearly felt a divine force that was simply incredible to experience.

I think at the very fundamental level that force is love, and it still strongly runs through me each time I remember Kim’s wide smile and liberal chuckle where she would crinkle up her eyes and heave her shoulders in laughter.  She would often tell me, DeAnna, you are the best teacher in the world.  And I sensed that she meant it with all of her being.  I felt so safe, so inspired, so loved.  When I was around Kim I felt like that was the best moment of my life – that nothing else mattered except for the human bond taking place at that very moment.  I believe I was feeling unconditional love and caring, and I believe that Kim knew exactly what she was doing to bring out the very best in each of us.  Kim most definitely achieved her goal of starting her own ministry.

As I look at the vibrant picture of Kim holding that fan, I hear Kim continue to minister to me every day.  Through this picture I hear the message, “You’re on the right track, De & Pam – don’t give up.”  It’s great that adults with disabilities have jobs in this world where they are holding brooms or cleaning cloths or pushing carts.  These are noble and essential tools.  However, our true contributions and gifts to the world are when you give an adult with a disability a microphone or a paintbrush or a prop such as a fan.” That’s when their true essence can shine through, and we are all better human beings through experiencing their joy and abilities.

And I think often to myself how hard it is to keep going sometimes with this college model, and how often I fail in my attempt to get others to understand.  But then I look at this photo and I hear her words, I feel her love, I sense her ministry, “You’re on the right track.  I got up everyday for 39 years when often the world was not on my side, and you can do it to.” And I thank Kim for sharing her vision with us.  And I reaffirm my pledge to her and to you that we will not give up showcasing the authentic abilities, gifts, and passions of adults of all abilities.  I love you, Kim Rains – you are my true hero forever and always.

-DeAnna Pursai