new picture History of A Touch of Understanding


Father-daughter team, Edward Ennis and Leslie DeDora, founded A Touch of Understanding in the early 1990s. Leslie began ATOU based on experiences with a disabled family member and many friends with disabilities. Leslie has many years of experience working with children with learning and physical disabilities as a tutor and in the public schools. This experience was the impetus for the vision of A Touch of Understanding.

Ed joined in following his retirement from a long and successful career in marketing management in both the public and private sectors. Ed and Leslie initially piloted the program under the name “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”. After sixty successful presentations, they incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1996. Since the beginning, the message of A Touch of Understanding has been one of acceptance and respect for ALL individuals, with an emphasis on those with disabilities. Their dedication and leadership have attracted many accomplished volunteers, many of whom have disabilities themselves. Many others are retired from careers in education. Our volunteers range in age and experience from school students to retired individuals. All of our volunteers enjoy spending time with children.

ATOU has, to date, spoken to over 84,000 students in the Greater Sacramento Area. With an average of over 10,000 students each year enjoying the opportunity to experience the activity portion as well as the speaker portion of the program, ATOU will continue to grow and impact this area with it’s positive message.


Leslie DeDora and the ATOU team have been honored with the following awards:

  • 1998, Heroes in Healthcare Community Service Award by the Coalition for Excellence in Healthcare for “crusading against insensitivity in others” and “opening up a world of understanding and opportunities”. With this honor came a proclamation from Sacramento, California, Mayor Joe Serna and a letter from California Governor Pete Wilson.
  • 1998, Certificate of Recognition from the California State Assembly
  • 2001, Proclamation from Acting Governor, Cruz Bustamante, for “demonstrating a keen interest in the well-being of the disabled youth of California”.
  • 2006 Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Local Hero Award
  • 2008 Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award
  • 2009 SEPAC Make A Difference Award Recipient
  • 2013 USA Network Characters Unite Award
  • 2013 Kids First Award

Mr. Ed Ennis is the 2009 recipient of the SEPAC Exemplary Service Award:

“Ed Ennis, 89 years young, is the co-founder of A Touch of Understanding.  In 1992, upon his retirement from state service, he began volunteering to create A Touch of Understanding.  To date, he has been involved in disability-awareness presentations that have addressed more than 84,000 school children in the Greater Sacramento area.  Ed has used his expertise in program development, volunteer recruitment, grant-writing, human resources, marketing, public relations and management.  Through his efforts, A Touch of Understanding has become a sustainable agency serving children in Roseville and throughout the Greater Sacramento area.”