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The unified mission of Wispact and the Wispact Foundation is to improve the quality of lives of persons with disabilities in Wisconsin.

Foundation Newsletter – December 2023


Message from the Foundation Director

As the 2023 year comes to a close it is pleasing to reflect on another incredible year for the Wispact Foundation. I am grateful for all the support the foundation has received from the community, and Wispact’s dedicated team of staff. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the grantees we have supported in this year’s grant cycle. The work each of them are doing in their communities provides invaluable service and we are proud supporters of their missions.

The Wispact Foundation put $667,289.85 into the community of disability service supporting over 80 different organizations. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet so many and see first-hand the benefit of their efforts. We are of course glad to see so many grantees return and participate in true partnership of service. It was also exciting to be introduced to many other new organizations as well. The Wispact Foundation took steps to improve the application process through a new online portal which helped to streamline both the application and review processes. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Wispact’s Board of Directors for their exemplary service and dedication to the process necessary for proper stewardship of the grant funds.

It has been a tremendous privilege to partner with so many outstanding organizations and see so much intentionality to increase capacity of non-profits, access to resources, and move toward inclusivity and true shared life experiences for persons with disabilities in Wisconsin. At the Foundation we have seen so many innovations in the arts, sports, parks, education, community support, advocacy, and vocation just to name a few. There is a shared desire among the non-profit organizations we have partnered with this year to increase their impact, provide more service, and create more opportunities for persons with disabilities in Wisconsin. We are proud to support these collective efforts and look forward to continued partnership in the year to come.

Eric DeGroot, Foundation Director


A Wispact Beneficiary Story: Nic and Patch

Our mission at Wispact is to improve the lives of people with disabilities across Wisconsin through the management of special needs trusts. We are continually amazed at the wide variety of ways we’ve been able to fulfill our mission and we’d like to share a unique and heart-warming story of the empowering bond between Nic and his support dog, Patch.

Like all parents, Donna and Art have a dream for their son Nic, who was born with Down syndrome, is largely non-verbal, and has a hard time communicating his thoughts, feelings and needs. Donna and Art first learned about Wispact when they received a modest settlement for Nic as the result of a negligence lawsuit for mistreatment during a special needs summer camp outing. By establishing a special needs trust through Wispact, the family was able to maintain Nic’s social security income which is important for his continued support.

“Securing a service animal for Nic has been something we’ve been hoping for the last six years, and Wispact’s support has been a blessing for us in this situation.” — Art

As Nic grew, his needs and opportunities for support evolved and Donna and Art felt that adding a service dog would be a valuable addition to their family. After a national search, an ideal companion named Patch was found for Nic. Patch graduated from Medical Mutts, a service dog training school in Indianapolis, Indiana. Patch is trained to be a calming presence for Nic when he becomes frustrated. Patch is also trained to help Nic with sleep disorders, and allow him more independence while walking. Perhaps most significant is the increase in Nic’s speech. “We had only seen pictures of Patch and when the time finally came to meet him, we were all very anxious. When Nic first met Patch he immediately uttered, ‘How are you Doggie?’ More than just words, Nic spoke an actual sentence, which is very rare” Donna said. “In addition to Nic’s vocalizations, he has taken on a lot more responsibility. Nic feeds Patch and takes him for walks,” Art added.

Unfortunately, Nic’s special needs trust was not large enough to cover the total expense for Patch including travel, training, and adoption. When Amy Voss, Wispact Beneficiary Specialist, discovered the financial need, she recommended the family apply for a Wispact grant to cover the total cost to bring Patch home. The resulting support through the grant enabled Patch to join the family and he has been a dream come true.

We quickly learned that Patch would be so much more than a service dog to Nic. One night, shortly after we got Patch, we were awakened by a very bad thunderstorm. Since Patch was new to the family, we didn’t realize that he was frightened of storms. When we checked in on them, we thought Patch would be comforting Nic. But it was actually Nic who was comforting Patch. Nic was petting him and loving him because Patch was obviously in distress. We were surprised that Nic could sense that Patch was upset and he, in turn, helped calm Patch down. It was then we realized that the two were forming a relationship that will benefit them both for many years to come.

“Wispact is obviously a much-needed vehicle for helping families with special needs members maintain their benefits. Also, any funds that are placed into the trust will be made available to others with special needs in the event Nic should pass away before being able to utilize them.” Art concluded.

In closing, Patch is also a very special dog in his own right. If you’d like to read more about his story or more about Medical Mutts, check out this link:


Attorney Feature, Jon L Fischer, McCarty Law, LLP

The continuing support of attorneys throughout Wisconsin is vital to the success of Wispact’s mission to improve the lives of people with disabilities throughout our state. Hearing firsthand from the attorneys we work with helps us better understand their needs and also illustrates the value that Wispact provides the people we serve.

Jon L. Fischer, from McCarty Law in Appleton, Wisconsin is an elder law attorney who began his practice in 2013. Fischer first learned about Wispact from a partner and then from the many continuing educational programs Wispact sponsors and attends.

According to Fischer, “Wispact trusts are a fantastic tool to hold on to funds for beneficiaries that have an asset limit from the state of Wisconsin, or from social security. This service gives them a buffer and an ability to withstand the challenges of life.”

Because people receiving state and or federal support are limited to having a maximum of $2,000 in cash or they jeopardize their monthly support. “Having $2,000 or less leaves you with no emergency fund to support yourself. With a Wispact trust, an individual can set aside some extra money and not jeopardize their benefits. A Wispact special needs trust gives them breathing room that every person deserves,” Fischer added.

“Wispact trusts are a fantastic tool to hold on to funds for beneficiaries that have an asset limit from the state of Wisconsin, or from social security, which gives them a buffer and an ability to withstand the challenges of life.”  — Jon Fischer, Attorney, McCarty Law, LLP

Wispact is also uniquely able to protect their trust clients with their extensive knowledge of the rules and regulations surrounding special needs trusts. The average person who receives Medicaid does not fully understand the complexity of the rules and regulations which could affect their ability to receive their monthly support.

“I had a client who was very unhappy about his Wispact trust for the wrong reason. His name is Willie and he had some money in a Wispact trust and needed a new car. Based upon that, Wispact insisted on proof that he no longer possessed another car,” Fischer explained.

It is not possible for someone to use their trust funds to purchase a second automobile. According to Fischer, “Willie was not pleased that he couldn’t immediately access his trust funds and buy a car immediately. I explained that Wispact is doing this to protect you. If you have a second car, you’re going to lose your benefits eligibility. The very thing that he was upset about was exactly why he needed a Wispact trust.”

According to Fischer, Wispact offers elder law attorneys a useful alternative to drafting their own special needs trusts. “It’s very difficult to stay current with the web of rules from Social Security and the State of Wisconsin. And if there is a change, Wispact is able to update a single master document whereas an attorney would have to update dozens or hundreds of documents. Plus, Wispact is Wisconsin based and they have a local touch which is also very important,” Fischer concluded.

In each issue of this newsletter, we feature an attorney specializing in helping their clients though pooled trusts. We will share their experience and relationship with Wispact. If you’d like to be featured, or know an attorney we should feature, please reach out to us.


Legacy Grant Recipient, Mequon Nature Preserve s

Mequon Nature Preserve (MNP) exists to instill environmental empathy and action into the consciousness of surrounding communities. We are proud that this non-profit was able to benefit from a 2023 Legacy Grant from the Wispact Foundation to help strengthen their ability to achieve their vision.

Streich Wetlands - NMP

A summer camp enjoying a lesson in biotic indexing at Streich Wetlands at MNP. During this lesson, children have the opportunity to learn about the benefits of wetlands on filtering rainwater before it flows into Lake Michigan, and to catch some of the wildlife living in the wetland to better understand this particular ecosystem.

“Most of the land that Mequon Nature Preserve calls home was cleared about 180 years ago for large scale agriculture, and we’re in the process of returning it back to its historic conditions. We’re in the midst of restoring 510 acres back to a mosaic of forests, wetlands and prairies here in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Cory Gritzmacher, Director of Land Restoration & Operations.

The Preserve includes over 5 miles of hiking trails, a 40-foot observation tower and is open to the public 365 days a year from sunup to sundown. Access is provided at no charge and there are no required trail passes.

“Wispact viewed this as a partnership and it was cool to be on the same page. This has been a collaboration to help us increase our accessibility…” — Esha Pillai, Development and Strategy Manager, MNP

Because accessibility is a priority, MNP is free of charge, including for the 5,000 children that take part in environmental educational activities every year. For these children who go to financially limited schools in Milwaukee County, MNP even pays for the roundtrip bus transportation.

“One of our goals is to increase accessibility across everything we do, including access to the land. We had a couple manually powered wheelchairs that worked occasionally, but there was just a growing need and growing interest for other options to increase our accessibility,” said Esha Pillai, Development and Strategy Manager.

Not-a-Wheelchair Program at MNP

A member of the Pace Adult Day Program (Pace) enjoying traversing the trails in the Not-a-Wheelchair. This program is offered by Balance, Inc., a nonprofit based in Grafton, WI that specializes in enhancing the lives of adults and children with intellectual & developmental abilities through housing, programming, & support.

The Legacy Grant from Wispact provided the necessary funds for this new option: Not a Wheelchair, a motorized off-road battery-operated vehicle that can navigate all of the trails. People who were previously unable to utilize the trails can rent this vehicle for free to access virtually the entire preserve.

“The Wispact grant has opened up the doors for more accessibility to all our 510 acres comfortably and safely. This continues to increase accessibility across all our events so everyone has opportunities to get out on the land,” Gritzmacher added.

When asked how it was to work with Wispact to secure the grant, Pillai responded, “It’s been great. Wispact viewed this as a partnership, and it was cool to be on the same page. This has been a collaboration to help us increase our accessibility, and then also potentially see other areas where we can help each other out to really benefit the community.”

To help support MNP, individuals or corporate groups can volunteer or make any donation big or small, which would be well-received and well-appreciated. Support will allow them to continue to increase accessibility and keep things free so there’s not a financial barrier to folks enjoying the land. They also whole-heartedly welcome anyone to come and just visit and enjoy the natural beauty of the great outdoors in Wisconsin.



About Wispact

Wispact’s mission is to improve the lives of people of all ages with disabilities across Wisconsin through the management of special needs trusts to provide more choice, more opportunities, and a better quality of life.

Our special needs trusts are created to help preserve the assets of people with disabilities without endangering their eligibility for public benefits or placement on waiting lists.

About the Wispact Foundation

The Wispact Inc. Foundation was established in 2021 in recognition of its dedication to provide a broader scope of service and create more opportunities for improving the lives of persons with disabilities across Wisconsin.

As an agency endowment fund established by Wispact Inc. and managed by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the organization endeavors to make lasting community impacts through grants to organizations that serve persons with disabilities.


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