The Rainbow Project Restores Troubled Families Lives

By Marni McEntee

INSIDE AN UNASSUMING BUILDING on busy East Washington Avenue, The Rainbow Project’s staff has created a universe of healing for families affected by abuse, neglect, loss or community violence.

The child and family counseling and resource clinic helps over 700 children and 700 adult caregivers every year overcome crippling pain, grief, fear and misunderstanding.

At the helm, and at the project for 36 years, is Director Sharyl Kato, who still carries a caseload in addition to handling fundraising, administrative duties, outreach and other efforts to keep the nonprofit afloat.

“At the heart of it, it is very human, compassion,” Kato says of the project’s work, which focuses on young children from infants to 11 years old and their families. The project offers 10 separate programs, including a rapid response team that quickly reacts to domestic or community violence incidents, a monthly support group for grandparents raising their young grand kids and services for Latino children and families. It collaborates with several others agencies in the education, domestic violence and mental health realms.

The key to success in cases of abuse, neglect, loss and violence, Kato says, is getting kids the help they need right away. “The younger child is at higher risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder when there is trauma, because of their brain development, so we really want to make sure we’re getting in there as early as we can,” Kato says. “If we don’t get in there early it can really devastate a whole life.”

The Rainbow Project helps restore family relationships with a non-offending parent, grandparent, siblings or other caregivers. Sometimes families are treated for several years before they’re in “good family health.”

The Rainbow Project’s amazing work happens in a well-worn building with 18-year-old carpets, bad lighting and a mishmash of donated furniture, toys and books in the clinic’s eight therapy rooms.

“We try to maintain our environment but it is hard. Nothing matches, but we’re proud. We are very proud because we know trauma victims need this environment,” Kato says.

Imagine Kato and her 20 staff members’ joy when The Rainbow Project was selected by Design for a Difference—Madison, to undergo a complete makeover of its facility. The Rainbow Project was selected from among 20 applicants this year, says Bob Tobe, owner of Floor360, which spearheads the Madison movement.

After touring the project offices, Tobe says, “It was obvious that the space at The Rainbow Project was in great need of a makeover and that design could make a difference.”

Kato and her staff provided a list of needs and wishes to the design team, and work is expected to begin in October.

She’s still flummoxed over the project’s selection. “Oh my gosh. You know it really hasn’t sunk in yet.”

For information on The Rainbow Project’s many services, visit therainbowproject.net See more about the Design for a Difference movement at floor360.com/dfad/.


Madison’s Design for a Difference team includes about 25 designers lead by Angela Skalitzky of Floor360. The store and owner Bob Tobe are spearheading the movement to spruce up one nonprofit agency each year, floor to ceiling. The design team is reaching out to businesses and the community for the items they need to complete the project, which is set to start in October, Tobe says. Volunteers are needed to sew, paint, lead clean up crews and lend their talents or expertise in myriad ways. In-kind donations are being accepted of paint, artwork, building materials and furniture. In addition, anyone who donates money to the project by July 15 will be entered in a drawing to win a massage and facial package at Sundara Inn and Spa. floor360.com/d4ad/.

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