Madison Blanton, CEO of One Step Beyond, Inc. (OSBI), was recently honored locally as a Champion of Change for its impact in Arizona and beyond. Blanton is passionate about improving the lives of the disability community with a vision of a world where everyone is respected, recognized, and valued for their unique abilities and contributions to society.  We recently sat down with Blanton and discussed the organization’s Scottsdale campus, new Phoenix campus, and her vision for the future. 

 

Congratulations on being among those honored as the 2024 Champions of Change in May! Tell us how and why you were honored.

OSBI stands out as one of the largest programs of its kind, with innovative culinary, education, fitness, fine arts, and vocational programs. Outside of our size, our collaborative approach sets us apart. We work closely with participants and their families to identify and provide personalized educational, employment, life skills, and transitional services. Unlike traditional campus-based day training programs, OSBI believes in giving its members a voice, allowing them to choose their desired opportunities and actively involving them in decision-making processes regarding how they spend their days as adults.

The impact of OSBI’s efforts goes beyond providing services; it’s about creating life-changing opportunities that foster independence, self-sufficiency, and employment. The organization’s core belief in setting an example for the rights of special needs populations is evident in its commitment to offering diverse programs and ensuring that desired opportunities are accessible to all members.

Madison Blanton

With her sister, Dylan

 

How did you become such a passionate advocate for adults with disabilities?

At the time, growing up with a sister with a disability was just something that was a normal part of life in the Rogers family. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how much of an impact my sister had on who I am today and how it’s driven my passion for working with adults with disability as a career. Seeing her encounter challenges in all areas of her life, but more importantly, seeing how she has overcome those challenges on her own or with a bit of help from her support system has opened my eyes to what’s possible when we focus on abilities and disabilities. The other major influence in my life would be my mom, Mimi, who has provided the best example of what happens when you have a servant’s heart. She instilled those values in me that have also transferred into my career, starting as a volunteer for One Step Beyond at 16 and then forging a path in nonprofit leadership later. I consider myself privileged to make a difference in someone’s life every day, and I am very thankful for my mom and sister, who obviously helped me get here.

What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure at OSBI?

I’m proud I’ve been a cornerstone of OSBI since its inception in 2003. Every day, I go to work with the mindset that we are providing the exact services and programming that adults with disabilities and their families need. Over these last 20 years, we have grown from serving 16 individuals in one small location to now serving 700 individuals throughout Maricopa County—including our newest campus in Southwest Phoenix to serve the growing cities of Avondale, Tolleson, Buckeye, Litchfield Park, and more.

My father always said, “Where there are individuals and families in need, One Step Beyond has the moral imperative to be there,” and I’d like to think that I’ve helped make that happen through our campus and service expansions throughout my tenure.

Tell us about OSBI’s busy Scottsdale campus.

Our Scottdale campus, located at 8224 E. Evans Road, serves 80 participants. When we opened in 2020, we made sure that the campus mirrored our other locations by offering employment, culinary, education, fitness, and arts programs. Scottsdale has embraced our participants, and we are so thankful for the community’s support.

One Step Beyond

With her team celebrating the grand opening of the newest campus in South Phoenix

 

You just opened a new location in Phoenix. What can you tell us about it?

Our strategic expansion plans have laid the foundation for OSBI’s financial and social services models, bridging gaps and capacity issues for adults with disabilities wherever they exist. With the Southwest area of Phoenix booming with economic and social development, social service needs would also be growing. Our assumptions were correct after meeting with members of the Special Education Department of the Buckeye School District, who supported and encouraged the expansion of One Step Beyond Programs to their area. Once fully operational, this location will serve an additional 200 individuals and families with Life skills, employment, and social recreation programs. We hope to partner and grow with other local businesses and organizations so that One Step Beyond and its participants actively participate in the success of our surrounding communities.

You mention that you want the participants at One Step Beyond to be active participants in the community. Can you give us an example of what you mean?

One Step Beyond offers social engagement and recreational programs tailored to the interests of the people we serve. These include music, dance, theater, and arts programs offering instruction, performance/showcase opportunities, and fair compensation for artists whose work is sold at local galleries like Art One Gallery in Scottsdale and online. Our employment program offers employment opportunities through partnerships with 20+ local businesses/organizations. We even opened One Revolution Coffee this year, a storefront tailored to individuals in our culinary instruction programs. This allows them to get practical job experience while instilling pride and a sense of accomplishment in a job well done. We even have an adaptive hockey team, the One Step Coyotes. We had 60-plus join us on the ice this year—and the results were magic.