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Yolande ‘Yo’ Childers Bestgen

Yolande “Yo” Childers Bestgen, 66, passed away December 7, 2014, at Homestead Assisted Living in Garden City, KS. She was born November 10, 1948, in Anthony, Kansas, the daughter of Don and Alice (Vlcek) Childers.

Yolande is survived by her parents, Don and Alice Childers; sister, Stacey King of Satanta, KS; a brother, James Childers of Huntington Beach, Calif.; three nieces; and two nephews.

Yolande graduated from Garden City High School in 1966. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in communications from Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS and a Master of Science Degree in Speech Pathology.

Yolande is remembered by family, friends, colleagues, politicians, government officials, persons with disabilities, their families, supporters, and advocates across the nation for her lifelong commitment to ensuring that justice, equal rights, and access to services and supports become a part of the fabric of state and federal laws and policies and practices.

Ms. Bestgen began her career as a speech pathologist and assistant director of special education in Newton, KS. She was noted for her work in Kansas as the Executive Director of the Kansas Association of Rehabilitation Facilitie, (now InterHab), where she led initiatives to significantly expand community services and reduce the waiting list for children and adults with disabilities through the enhancement of the Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver. Her work informed the drafting and ultimate passage of the Kansas Development Disabilities Reform Act, a landmark law in the history of the state of Kansas.

Her success in Kansas led her to leadership positions in Washington, D.C., with the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, United Cerebral Palsy National and the President’s Committee on Intellectual Disabilities. She followed this national experience by holding key positions as Vice President for Strategic Development of Commission Accreditation Rehabilitation Facilities, and in leadership positions for nonprofit organizations in California. She concluded her professional life in early childhood services program management for the state of Texas. Her final commitment to helping others culminated in her volunteer, then employment, in organizations providing support to persons experiencing cancer.

Yo’s life represented the truest commitment to supporting people with disabilities in living lives of independence and dignity. Among numerous honors, she was a Mary Switzer Scholar; a guest at the 1990 Presidential signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act; served as faculty for the National Conference State Legislatures; served as Chair-Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Services; and a Women in Leadership honoree.

She will be fondly remembered by all for her appreciation of good wine, fine restaurants, a boundless love of dogs, and her sense of fashion as a statement of her vitality and creativity.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 3, 2015, at the Community Congregational Church in Garden City with Rev. Steve Bridwell and Pastor Kelvin Heitman officiating. A private family interment will take place at a later date.

There will be no calling hours. The family requests memorials given to the Yolande Bestgen Scholarship Fund in care of Garnand Funeral Home, 412 N. 7th St., Garden City, KS 67846. Condolences may be given at garnandfuneralhomes.com.