To empower people with disabilities and their families with information and training to help them become their best advocate.


Through love, wisdom and support of their families and communities, people with disabilities can lead happy and productive lives.

Parents who have children with disabilities or any special need benefit from the support that comes from others who have had the same experience.

El Grupo VIDA offers this opportunity, education and information and valuable social spaces during the year for the whole family.

Families who have children or adults loved ones with disabilities:

  • are encouraged to take charge of their situation and take the road to take part in the real world, and
  •  celebrate the gifts of all your children but especially those who have disabilities or special needs.

We invite you to connect with us with a call to (303) 904-6073 or by sending a message to elgrupovida@gmail.com.

Our History 

El Grupo VIDA was founded in 1990 to help and support families who have children with special needs. The group was founded by Ellie Valdez–Honeyman and Maria Castillo who had something in common; they both had children with special needs. 

Ellie and Maria saw that there was a need to support and educate the Spanish speaking community and decided they would start a support group for families like themselves.    

The first support group was small with 5 to 6 parents who met every month with the support of Little LEEP and Laradon Hall.  During one of the meetings, the group came up with the name El Grupo VIDA. The support groups grew every year and in 1997 the group held its first educational conference completely in Spanish. A few years later became a 5013c.  

The idea of holding a conference came from another challenge they knew families were facing.  They would attend other conferences and have a hard time getting resources in Spanish or understanding the sessions through interpreters. 

The conference would offer the opportunity to have other parents connect and learn about resources available in their language. El Grupo VIDA created a committee of wonderful volunteers and professionals, some of these volunteers were parents of kids with special needs. Together with passion and enthusiasm started to coordinate further conferences.  Every year the number of attendees grew, from 100 to 400 attendees.   

El Grupo is very grateful for all of the partnerships it has had throughout the years, together we can make a bigger impact in the community.


El Grupo Vida staff Eli Aucancela

Elisa Aucancela

MA IMH-E® Infant Family Specialist | Executive Director

My name is Elisa Aucancela. I am a Bilingual Early Childhood Special Education Specialist/Developmental interventionist in the state of Colorado with over 13 years of experience working with young children and their families in school- and home-based services. I am a former dual language psychology professor at Regis University.


Veronica Adames

Program Director

Balbina Contreras

Community Navigator

Born in Jalisco, Balbina Contreras lives a bicultural life in Denver. As a young woman she helped her family get through so many things, from school enrollment to registering a business. After this she found herself helping families read important documents and fill out forms. Those experiences guide your professional life. Aware of the challenges facing the Latino community, she remains committed to supporting our community through hard work and support.

Michell Lozano

Resources Coordinator | Family Advocate

My name is Michell Lozano. I have a degree in Social Work. Michell is aware of the needs of the community, especially the Latinx population, and believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to receive services and benefits, regardless of their legal or financial situation.


El Grupo Vida logo

Claudia Carmona

Project Support Specialist | Community Navigator

Denice Alas-Chinchilla

ED Assistant | Social Media Manager | Family Specialist

Francina Taveras

Bilingual Parent Advocate

My name is Francina Taveras. I have worked in the education field as a Montessori teacher for the past 10 years, especially in bilingual institutions. I have always believed that access to education and tools to support the family are effective weapons against discrimination and inequality. I really enjoy teamwork and serving the community.


Board of Directors

José Torres Vega | President

Social Media Manager / Family Specialist / ED Assistant

Jose was born in Guatemala, Guatemala City during the Guatemalan Civil War. He was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at six months old. At age twelve, he had his first encounter with the war when his older sister and nephew were forced to leave Guatemala for their safety. At age seventeen his father was killed and Jose, his mother and younger sister had to hide. He lost all aspects of his life at that time including his house and his girlfriend. He joined the opposition to the government at this time.

Jose and his family eventually fled to the U.S. for their safety and he began to advocate for the civil rights of the disabled. He joined ADAPT (Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit) and CCDC and advocated for the civil rights of people with disabilities. According to Jose, “In these last years I have met true friends, people who fight with the same passion and love. Now I have a whole new world of opportunities, like being invited to be trained by and work for CCDC. The best has been to be able to work for and with the disability community

Silvia Contreras | Vice President, Parent

Silvia Contreras is the mother of a young woman with different abilities of 22 years. She is Mexican with sixteen years in the United States, has participated as a volunteer in Grupo Vida for 16 years, and has been on the Board of Directors for six years. She is currently Vice President of the Board of Directors. She has participated and trained in different disability organizations.

Cruz Pedraza | Treasurer, Counselor

Cruz Pedraza-Ruiz, MA studied psychology at the University of Puerto Rico. He has worked in the area of mental health for the past 25 years with babies, children and adults. He serves as part of the mental health team at Florence Crittenton School. High school that offers services to pregnant and parenting teens.

Yudi Morales | Secretary

Izabel Ramirez | Secretary

Maria Lopez | Board Member

Educational Training and Support Group Facilitators

Bob McGill

Advocacy Denver, Volunteer Facilitator East Denver-Aurora Educational Support Group

Bob McGill is a Child and Family Advocate for Spanish-speaking families of children with disabilities. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from William Jewell College. His work for AdvocacyDenver draws on more than 15 years’ experience in personal and public advocacy for farmworkers and recent immigrants; program evaluation and development; and assisting non-profits and public agencies that serve Latina families in the areas of education, health, and immigration.