Donors fund new educational and well-being spaces for children and veterans

The Freeberg family visits CSU for two celebratory ribbon cuttings. Video by Sylvia Bao.

Two programs in the Colorado State University College of Health and Human Sciences are serving students and the community in beautiful new spaces thanks to gifts from the Freeberg family.

Freeberg family
Nancy and Dan Freeberg, right, with their daughter Amanda Donovan, at the CSU Early Childhood Center.

Dan (B.S., agricultural business, ’71) and Nancy (B.S., home economics education, ’72) Freeberg and their daughter Amanda Donovan, who serves as executive director of the Don & Lorraine Freeberg Foundation, visited CSU this fall for a celebration of their giving. The Freeberg Family Library and Parent Resource Center at the CSU Early Childhood Center (ECC) and the Freeberg Well-Being Room at the CSU Center for Community Partnerships (CCP) were unveiled at ribbon-cutting ceremonies on Sept. 17.

The ECC, part of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, unveiled its new library space, and the CCP in the Department of Occupational Therapy opened its new well-being room dedicated to serving student veterans at CSU. In addition, Dan and Nancy Freeberg have designated a charitable gift in their will to support scholarships for students in the Departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Human Development and Family Studies.

Early Childhood Center library

The celebrations kicked off in the morning with a visit to the ECC. The space that was used for the library was originally an office space for teachers, but it wasn’t being used to its full potential.

“One of the delightful consequences of the Freebergs’ generosity was that we were able to take a closer look at our use of space and how we could transform it into this incredible library for the children,” said Karen Rattenborg, executive director of the ECC.

A student collaboration

ECC leaders worked closely with interior architecture and design students and faculty to plan the new space. The junior design studio class took on the service-learning project, and the students were excited to be able to hone their skills working with real-world clients. They observed how existing space was used and conducted focus groups with the teachers, parents, and children to understand better how the new library space would be utilized and the needs and vision for it.

“Anything that is experiential and moves beyond the hypothetical is awesome for our students,” said Leah Scolere, assistant professor in interior architecture and design. “Their experience on this project was very true to what the students will be doing in their future careers working with clients – including research, design, and budget considerations.”

Unveiling the new library

After a celebratory ribbon cutting, the Freeberg family and other guests explored the beautiful new library, which features cozy spaces to sit and read, and gleaming new shelves filled with books. A wooden book shelf in the shape of a tree adorns one wall, signifying the “rooted connections” theme from the final design concept, a reference to the library as a catalyst for growth within the community.

“A library is nothing if not a collection of stories, as well as a profound way we introduce children to the power of stories and new ideas that they may not have had before,” said Lise Youngblade, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “I am so grateful for the belief and the vision the Freebergs have in the power of stories and ideas and for their generosity that will last for many years to come.”

“The new space is delightful, and I think the kids and parents will enjoy it very much,” said Nancy Freeberg. “Dan and I have always believed that reading is the gateway to all learning and experiences, and it also provides the opportunity to hold your little ones and read to them. We regard reading as the key to helping every child learn and a map for most everything you need to know throughout life.”

Nancy Freeberg’s memories of the ECC date back to when she was a CSU student working at the ECC in its former location, which was in a former building that stood near Ammons Hall.

“My most interesting experience was the day the children were finger painting with chocolate pudding, and I made the mistake of wearing a white pantsuit,” she recalled with a laugh.

Poudre Library collaboration

Group portrait in the new library
Librarian Vicky Hays, left, with Dan and Nancy Freeberg, center, and Amanda Donovan, right.

Vicky Hays — the early literacy librarian from the Poudre River Public Library District, liaison to the ECC, and human development and family studies alumna — talked at the ceremony about the importance of inclusivity in choosing new books for the library. Hays, who is known as “Ms. Vicky” and comes to the ECC every month to do story time, also volunteered her time to help categorize and organize all of the books in the collection.

“Literacy and language development are the foundations of all learning,” she said. “It’s important for us to show young children all of the facets of our world and the people they may have as neighbors or across the globe. So many great books are coming out now including children of different races and abilities and celebrating the perspectives of all people.”

Well-Being Room

In the afternoon, the Freeberg family visited the new Freeberg Well-Being Room located in Alder Hall for the second ribbon cutting of the day. The CCP is the service and outreach arm of the Department of Occupational Therapy, and offers a variety of programs to empower CSU students and community members with disabilities to succeed in school, work, and life.

The Don & Lorraine Freeberg Foundation, which made the gift, supports organizations focused on education, health care, children, and veterans by funding capital improvements and programs, and the Well-Being Room at CSU offered an opportunity to fund a project at the intersection of several of these priorities. The Well-Being Room will act as a retreat for student veterans, some of whom are challenged with issues related to PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or other injuries as a result of their service. The room is also equipped to promote greater understanding of calming strategies through sensory modulation, mindfulness, and yoga.

CCP programs to assist veterans

Jeff Tousignant speaks to the group
Student veteran Jeff Tousignant

Several programs in CCP, such as New Start for Student Veterans, help student veterans as they re-integrate into college and civilian life. The Restoring Effective Sleep Tranquility in College Veterans with Service Related Injuries, or REST, provides a sleep intervention to help veterans improve their sleep quality and duration, which can be interrupted by stress and anxiety.

Jeff Tousignant, a first-generation student studying interior architecture and design and a combat veteran, has been part of the New Start program, the REST program, and yoga program. Tousignant, who also was part of the class of students designing the new ECC library space, spoke at the ribbon cutting about his experiences with the CCP programs and the new space. Because of his personal experience and expertise in ADA accessibility, sensory modulation, and creating spaces that provide refuge and respite, Tousignant helped with the vision of the new room and will continue to provide his expertise moving forward.

“In 2005, I joined the Army as a signal support systems specialist,” said Tousignant. “One of my deployments was in Baghdad, where I encountered a lot of small arms fire, IEDs, EFPs, and mortar explosions. I’ve utilized many of the resources offered by CCP, and this is my way of giving back to the program. The Well-Being Room project gave me the opportunity to ask how I could help using my expertise as a designer. Having this resource will really help me.”

Veteran Well-Being Room

The features of the Well-Being Room work together to contribute to a relaxing and meditative environment, including comfortable chairs, mood lighting from a series of lamps, a large screen showing a stream with a mountain in the background, and a fountain providing soothing background sounds. The mountain theme employed throughout the room is a symbol of strength and resiliency.

The room offers not only a respite for veterans, but also a place for classes and appointments with occupational therapists on different topics, including yoga, mindfulness meditations, and good sleep hygiene. There is a desk and computer where OTs can work with clients to demonstrate and try out different interventions to help them with concentration during studying.

James Graham, director of the CCP, noted that the impacts and benefits of this gift are multifaceted.

“Clearly, the Well-Being Room is a great new resource for helping us to enhance the resilience and self-efficacy of student veterans in improving and maintaining their own health and well-being,” said Graham. “Importantly, it will also stimulate research collaborations across campus and in the community to further our development of best practices as well as serve as a teaching laboratory for our occupational therapy graduate students and students in other disability service-related programs.”

“The Freebergs’ vision and generosity is helping us build resiliency starting with the littlest Rams all the way up to our student veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifices,” said Youngblade. “Our thanks go out to the Freebergs for their gifts to CSU, their passion, and their belief and partnership in what we do. We are so grateful for their support.”

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the Department of Occupational Therapy are part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.