The Story of Project Commotion


Susan Osterhoff and Chagua Camacho-Olguín were doing what they loved to do—teaching movement classes to children. Both students of capoeira, a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, sports, and music, they shared a deep appreciation for the role of physical movement in the development of children.

Over time, they began to notice a pattern at the center where they taught—there were several kids who were deemed trouble makers, and Chagua became the go-to person for “dealing” with those students. They soon discovered that most of those children were on the Autism spectrum, but their parents were not forthcoming about this information because they wanted their children to be integrated into their classes.

“Chagua was just really, really good at working with kids who were having issues,” said Susan. She remembers one child in particular, with whom none of the other instructors were able to build a relationship. “But when Chagua met him for the first time, there was an instant connection. It was so intense.”

Susan and Chagua were fascinated by child development, and they enrolled at the City College of San Francisco to learn more about this field. They focused on sensory integration, which looks at the way we experience the world through our senses and develop our vestibular system. The more they learned about the effects environmental factors such as sound and light have on sensory responses, the more convinced they became that the existing programs with which they were familiar were overstimulating children.

“We knew if we had our own space, we would be able to create a program that would meet our philosophy,” Susan shared. They developed their own vision of the ideal space for children: a space where Susan and Chagua could play and interact with children in a way that supports their growth, development, and their true understanding of themselves. They wanted to provide children with an environment where they could run, jump, spin, roll, hang, and literally bounce off the walls. It was also important to them that they reach underserved children who are in danger of falling through the cracks by being labeled as behaviorally-troubled.

Thus, Project Commotion was born. However, Susan and Chagua needed help to get their vision off the ground.

Enter ICRI. Through a series of references, Susan and Chagua contacted ICRI and began meeting with ICRI staff about program development and fund development. They were delighted when ICRI’s Board of Directors voted to become the fiscal sponsor of Project Commotion.

ICRI has often served as a fiscal sponsor to smaller organizations and projects. In this way we are able to leverage our infrastructure and experience from 30 years of operating programs for children and families to grow emerging initiatives and make an even greater impact. Fiscal sponsorship exemplifies ICRI’s entrepreneurial spirit. We provide our fiscally-sponsored projects with programming advice, administrative support, and fiscal management so they can focus all their efforts on serving children. Fiscally-sponsored organizations also share in our tax-exempt status and fiduciary oversight.

In the case of Project Commotion, ICRI was also able to provide significant start-up funding and cover the initial costs of creating Susan and Chagua’s dream environment for children. Project Commotion has actively fundraised over the past three years to pay off these start-up costs, and has continued to expand its programming to reach more families. We are now working with Susan and Chagua to help Project Commotion grow to the next stage of organizational development and obtain independent legal status as a non-profit. “Our goal is to become independent, but ICRI has been very supportive and allowed us to have the autonomy to make decisions and have our program be what we envisioned it to be,” said Susan.

Project Commotion is just one of many projects that have been able to provide needed services to children and families due to ICRI’s fiscal and program sponsorship. We are proud to have supported Susan and Chagua’s innovative methods for engaging children through movement and sensory integration. The success of Project Commotion is a testament to Susan and Chagua’s vision and perseverance-- and to the entrepreneurial approach championed by ICRI.