Thank you to all those who nominated someone for the 2019 Appreciation Awards. From the countless nominations that were submitted, it’s clear that Summit County firmly believes in inclusive communities.
There were so many amazing submissions, that it was difficult to narrow them down. We want to take the opportunity to recognize the achievements of these advocates, volunteers, community leaders, and other community partners who are actively helping to build communities that are welcoming for people of every ability.
Dottie Schrum Culture Award: Zach Grnach and Mary Beth Siegfried
This award recognizes an outstanding employee from any organization, whose efforts or service have gone above and beyond to make a difference for those with developmental disabilities.
Zach Grnach and Mary Beth Siegfried support individuals, their families and caregivers in good and more challenging times, calm and anxious times, happy and sad times and heartwarming and heart breaking times. No matter what someone is going through, there is no doubt that Zach and Mary Beth will be the ears to listen, the shoulders to lean on, the professionals to seek innovations, take action, make phone calls and act as liaisons with doctors, hospitals and other entities that can often be intimidating. Their shared dedication to get to know those they provide services for at Individual Outcomes is paramount. This knowledge enables them to develop programs, seek out individualized innovations, equipment and services to provide every advantage to those they serve to work toward “living their best lives”.
Community Impact Award: Mike Firtha and Haylee DeSonne
This award honors a person (or group) that is making an impact in the community for people with developmental disabilities through innovative programs, volunteerism, advocacy, or awareness efforts.
Mike Firtha is the founder of Inclusioneers, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide engineered solutions for individuals with specific needs. He has built his organization with mentor engineers from local businesses, student engineers from universities and others who share in this inclusive vision. Volunteers collaborate with families and other professionals to invent ways to provide mobility and independence so individuals can access public facilities and/or participate in activities or events. Mike Firtha and the Inclusioneers continue to ensure that our community grows in diversity: creating a more welcoming place to live and a brighter future for all!
Haylee DeSonne has pushed herself and others outside their traditional “comfort zones”. Functioning as a partner and team leader, Haylee coordinates the engineering assistance provided by the nonprofit Inclusioneers with over 30 volunteer engineering students from the University of Akron and seven experienced Mentor Engineers from local businesses. Haylee has a passion to solve engineering project problems designed to improve the quality of life for people of all abilities.
Russ Pry Community Leader of the Year Award: Frank Comunale
This award recognizes a government or business leader in our community who is helping to ensure that communities are more inclusive and that citizens of all abilities have a voice in their community.
Frank Comunale during his tenure as a Summit County Council member, including a term as Vice President, consistently and continuously put the interests of the citizens of Summit County before his own. Having served on the Rules, Health and Human Services, Public Works, and Planning and Economic Development Committees over the years, Frank developed a diverse knowledge and appreciation of the value and contributions of all citizens, including those with developmental disabilities. Summit DD was invited by Frank to countless public gatherings to talk about the Board’s vision and mission of creating a community where all people are welcomed and included. He made a personal point of assuring that the needs of those with disabilities were never overlooked or taken for granted. Later in his role with Job and Family Services, Frank opened a door of opportunity for youth with disabilities to experience and be paid for summer employment. As a result, over the years hundreds of young adults with disabilities have experienced a new sense of worth, skill development and pride.
Carlene Weaver Achievement Award: Shaquan “Shaq” Mills-Lanier
This award honors individuals with developmental disabilities whose actions or self-advocacy help change perceptions or bring about positive awareness for those with developmental disabilities in their community.
Everyone loves a great comeback story, and Shaquan “Shaq” Mills-Lanier is the embodiment of that. Several years ago, Shaq was struggling in his personal life. However, over time his willingness to work with his team has brought him to a brighter place. He now thrives in his programs and recently received employment at a hotel in Cuyahoga Falls.
Congratulations to all of our award winners and nominees! Your outstanding efforts are helping to build inclusive communities for people of all abilities. These individuals and organizations will also be recognized at Summit DD’s Appreciation Breakfast and Awards Celebration on Wednesday, March 27th.
Join us in celebrating DD Awareness throughout the month of March!