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  • Guest Writer

STARability Foundation

Shining a light on ability, not disability

Trailblazers Tierney and Felipe join staff and volunteers making candles to be sold at the STAR Store & Studio.


For nearly four decades, STARability Foundation has been shining a light on abilities, not disabilities. Formed by a small community of caring parents, STARability has become one of Southwest Florida’s leading nonprofits. Today, the organization is opening a world of possibilities for hundreds of individuals ages 14 and older by offering a variety of inclusive, community-based programs focused on vocational training, continuing education, teamwork, social engagement, and community involvement.

Left to Right: The Kandel family at the 2022 STAR Gala.

Trailblazer Academy participant Frank R. warms up before hitting the field for the STARability baseball league.

STAR participant Adam with Instructor Woodly Charles shared his story with guests at the 2023 STAR Gala.


“We refer to the individuals in our programs as STARs because they brighten our lives, our community and our world,” said Karen Govern, CEO of STARability Foundation. “Our STARs inspire our work and spark our passion to create new initiatives and to build on the innovative programs that help them thrive. STARs show us, again and again, the achievements and milestones they can accomplish—reaching new goals each day, developing critical life skills, and laying the foundation for a positive future.

Intellectual and developmental disabilities affect approximately seven million individuals in the United States, as well as their loved ones and caregivers. While families receive support while their children are in school, they are often unable to find services once they age out of the school system. In Collier County alone, an estimated 1,000 students with disabilities in Collier County schools will need supplemental services when they age out of the system.

That is where STARability Foundation comes in—as true advocates for building inclusion through work, play, learning and living.

STARability is working hard to fulfill its mission of transforming the lives of its participants through impactful programming and strengthening awareness and respect for individual abilities. Their experienced, compassionate team strives to ensure everyone has access to transformative programs, vital resources and an inclusive community that provide opportunities to live meaningful and productive lives and become vibrant members of society.

Adam V., a participant in the Trailblazer Academy, is just one of the many STARs that is thriving with STARability. “I started doing the Trailblazer program four years ago,” said Adam. “STARability has changed my life. I help out the community. I have new skills. I enjoy meeting new people. I love coming to Trailblazer four days a week. I'm becoming more independent every day.”

STARability is dedicated to promoting solutions for the needs of participants at every level, allowing them to express themselves through music, art, and dance, use technology to interact with others, and find rewarding jobs. Caring staff and volunteers take pride in helping them reconnect with old friends and form bonds with new ones. Currently, STARability offers a variety of programs that promote inclusive employment, engagement, and independence such as STAR Connections—creative expression workshops, wellness classes, continuing education and sports leagues, the Trailblazer Academy—a pioneering day program, employment services, and the STAR Store and Studio.

For many families, such as the Kandels and STAR participant Hannah, STARability has become a lifeline. “One of the biggest goals for my family and for many others in the area has been finding, creating and sharing services and resources,” said Hannah’s sister, Geena. “Over the years, watching the growth of Hannah, as well as the growth throughout Naples and Southwest Florida to create options for jobs, social events, skill development, housing, etc. so that these individuals can become a productive part of society has been so important to me and my family. STARability has been a wonderful organization in providing tools and opportunities for participants and their families, helping us grow our support network and foster additional awareness and outreach within the community.”

To learn more about the services and program offerings available, please visit


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