March was Developmental Disability Advocacy and Awareness Month and it was BUSY!
On March 8th I emceed Ohio DD Advocacy and Awareness Day at the statehouse in Columbus. The event focused on empowerment, and was full of talent and surprises.
Director John Martin of the Department of Developmental Disabilities started the program by sharing information and updates on state disability services. Assistive Technology Ohio Director Bill Darling, Ph.D., shared how assistive technology assists people with disabilities to live independently. Advocate Stephanie Barber-Maynard stirred the crowd with her story of employment and Gwendolyn Harshaw gave an interesting and inspiring parental perspective about what makes her son Zayne extraordinary. Last, but certainly not least, Zayne Harshaw, advocate and self-taught guitarist, pumped the crowd with his moving rendition of Adele’s “Hello” and Prince’s “Purple Rain”. His performance was incredible!
As if this wasn’t exciting enough, the crowd was surprised by a guest appearance from Governor John Kasich. Governor Kasich graced the crowd with an impromptu speech on life’s purpose and how he vows to keep disability services as a top priority of his agenda.
Check out the video of this great event;
On March 21st I returned to the statehouse to speak before legislators and visitors for Ohio Easter Seals Advocacy Day. Ohio Easter Seals is comprised of four agencies; Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley, Easter Seals of Mahoning Trumbull and Columbiana Counties, Easter Seals Central and Southeast Ohio and Easter Seals Serving Greater Cincinnati.
Currently, I’m employed at Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley (GESMV) as a Public Relations Assistant. I was honored to be asked to serve as keynote speaker, sharing my story of employment with GESMV which has helped shape me into the strong advocate I am today.
During the program, I also became more aware of how Edgar Allen, Founder of Easter Seals, was led to assist people with disabilities when visiting Elyria Memorial Hospital in Ohio. From there, Easter Seals was born with the assistance of Allen and a few of his Rotarian friends in 1919. Easter Seals was originally named the Society for Crippled Children.
The program continued with the Easter Seal’s Ray of Hope award presentation. Senator Peggy Lehner representing the 6th District and Representor Dorothy Pelanda of the 86th District were the two recipients. Both legislators were given awards for supporting people with disabilities throughout Ohio.
March was a great month and both advocacy awareness events were amazing! It’s my hope that although the month to shine awareness on people with disabilities has come and gone, you’ll keep the awareness and knowledge of those with you, now and always.