2017 Class of Rising Stars – Patrick Parkes

Following graduate school, Patrick Parkes has worked in Our Town’s non-profit sector for three years and is a member of the 2017 Class of Rising Stars. He serves as the Fiscal Policy Analyst for the Kansas Policy Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research organization dedicated to providing information about Kansans’ tax dollars. Patrick essentially analyzes how funds can be spent most efficiently in order to preserve low-tax environments that do not sacrifice quality public services. He blogs regularly on government spending priorities of state and local agency payrolls. In June of 2016, his research into large overtime payouts for local police officers was featured as part of a 41 Action News investigative report.

His organization also works to bring increased educational choices in Kansas through policies that give new educational options and funding sources to families who feel they are not being served adequately by their traditional public schools. Patrick’s own interest and passion for this work has led him to volunteer with EMBRACE, an upstart non profit focused on helping Catholic schools in Kansas more accessible to students with disabilities. Patrick often takes vacation days to volunteer in helping these schools become more inclusive and overseeing changes in playgrounds to meet the needs of children with disabilities. 

He also has started working to help grow a young professionals group supporting Horizon Academy, a private school serving students with learning disabilities in Our Town. Said Katie Lindgren, Horizon Academy:  “Patrick is passionate about education and helping students learn in different ways. He asks great questions and is thoughtful about brainstorming solutions. We appreciate his participation and involvement with Horizon Academy.”

PARKES_Patrick_ind

Patrick also has been extremely involved with Variety KC. According to Deborah Wiebrecht, Variety KC; his most enduring contribution lies in his knack for building relationships. “Patrick has the unique opportunity and ability to use his personal experiences with a physical disability (i.e. cerebral palsy) to be a positive light, resource and source of friendship for the children and parents Variety serves.” Patrick has spent countless hours, introducing Variety KC to the general public, recruiting other young professionals like him to volunteer and to network, brainstorm and support Variety board members and benefactors. He also makes a conscious effort to get to know and work alongside siblings and other youth attending Variety events to help get them excited about and being a part of the organization. 

Because of his understanding of the scope of Variety’s impact on individual families and the broader community, Patrick assisted in the drafting of the script for Variety’s 2016 mission video, which introduces the organization and summarizes its accomplishments to date.

Patrick volunteers at every Variety event and engages kids, adults and donors with grace and ease. “He is everybody’s friend,” said Deborah Wiebrecht. “He makes people feel special about volunteering and is helping change the landscape of kids with disabilities in our community.” He eagerly takes on greeting roles at Variety KC events, serving as the first face many see. This requires not only conversing and interacting with ongoing supporters but also introducing curious passersby to Variety’s mission and work. Added Deborah: “Patrick sees the importance of these seemingly small first impressions and takes pride in the fact that many of these introductions have secured both on-the-spot donations as well as deeper inquiries into how individuals might become Variety supporters or volunteers.” 

He recently helped Variety raise $27,000 with a volunteer golf event and was volunteer coordinator of the Variety show in 2016, helping the organization to raise $260,000. In addition, he has coordinated efforts for the first ever radiothon as well as other golf events and presentations to build awareness of the importance of inclusion in Our Town. 

Patrick feels honored to be nominated as a Rising Star and has enjoyed the awareness that his involvement has brought to Variety KC and to the mission of the organization. “I have also had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people, and it has been a real eye opener for me. I am now aware of all the great initiatives going on around Kansas City.”

By Ann Slegman
Also featured in the June 24, 2017 issue
Photo Credit: Tom Styrkowicz