An Advocate’s Journey

As we celebrate Developmental Disabilities Month, I love hearing stories from advocates and how they’ve thrived to succeed in life. People with disabilities make up a large part of the world today and although often underestimated, the positive energy we’re putting in the universe is, undeniable. Self-advocate, Richard Nunamaker is a man who has never let his disability stop him and he doesn’t mind telling anyone he meets that! It’s my pleasure to have him serve as guest-blogger today. May his story enlighten you and bring you strength to never, quit!


In the fall of 1986, I was a freshman in high school, and up till then I was in mainstream classes, but in high school it all changed.  Why is that a big deal?  Because I have a disability and it was important to me to still be able to go to a “regular” class.  This changed when I went to High School.  No one with a disability was allowed in regular classes, but I wanted to be in classes with all the other students. The assistant principal of our junior high was transferred to the high school, so he told the head principal about me.  I was then called to the office on my first day. He informed me that I would not be allowed in mainstream classes. I told him I wanted a chance to be with the other students.

I negotiated with the principal to give me the opportunity to prove myself. The deal was that I get two quarters to achieve a “C” average. If I was unable to achieve this goal, then I would join the handicap class. ” You will come crawling back begging me to put you back in the handicap class. I stated, “I won’t! If I am successful in mainstream classes, would you let me try out for the baseball team?” He agreed to the deal. Then, not only did I make a “C” average, I made the honor roll!  I then tried out.

Our baseball team had the opportunity to go to spring training in Florida. We had to raise the funds to be able to go.  So, we did a fundraiser to help with the cost.  I raised the most money out of the entire potential baseball team.  The Coach said, “You are not able to go.” That evening, I called to talk to my Uncle Joe Nuxall; my teammates didn’t believe that I knew Joe Nuxhall.  He asked, “Can I meet you at the airport?” I then informed Uncle Joe that the coach told me I wasn’t going. Uncle Joe said, “Don’t go anywhere because I am going to call you right back!” Then a few minutes later the phone rang, it was Uncle Joe saying he had cancelled the whole trip for the team.  Uncle Joe then said he was coming to visit. ” See you tomorrow!” he said, I told him the coach said, “Don’t show up for try outs because you won’t make the team.” Uncle Joe told me to go anyways.

So, the next day I went to practice before tryouts. Then Uncle Joe pulls up at Middletown High School with several Reds players. I was busy raking the field and didn’t notice. This was a task that the coach demanded I do instead of practicing with the team. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I didn’t turn around because I thought it was just a teammate bugging me.  Then Uncle Joe began to tap harder and said, “Don’t make me bend you over my knee!” That is when I turned around and saw my entire team with their mouths opened in shock looking at the Red’s players and my Uncle Joe.

See, the coach really didn’t want me on the team. That day though Barry Larkin told my coach, “Give me two weeks and I will make him one of your best shortstops!” Then Barry worked with me one on one for about a week and a half. The tryouts then started, I made short stop. I beat out the coach’s son for that position! The coach was a former Texas Rangers minor league player; he couldn’t deny my ability in that position now. This was only the beginning of my story of a successful 4 years of playing high school baseball.

This is the same perseverance that has led me to be involved with Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley where I currently attend the Job Com program. I am looking forward to furthering my personal development by becoming an employee at the Lebanon Goodwill Store location. It is my desire to use the perseverance I learned in life to help learn about the retail store and eventually become a manager. I overcame so many challenges to even get the chance to be viewed like everyone else. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I am not able to do things like everyone else. It really is all about the mind set and the limits are endless. It just means I must approach things in a different way!

8 comments on “An Advocate’s Journey

  1. Tracy Marshall on

    This is so inspiring! I am crying tears of being touched by the power of the human spirit and the choice to be where God has intended even when people don’t. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Heather Holt on

    Truly an amazing person! To know Rick is an absolute blessing. His personality is contagious and it brightens my day when he is around! Thank you for sharing you trials and tribulations!


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