An Empowering DD Awareness Month

What an epic and empowering DD Awareness Month! Each March, Summit DD and the community come together to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Throughout the month, self-advocates, local leaders, staff and community members created awareness to the unique talents and abilities of ALL citizens. In addition to billboards, ads and commercials throughout Summit County, we heard personal stories from self-advocates, had a spooky time with the Ghostbusters, painted the town orange for inclusion, invited children of all abilities to a Play For All, and recognized outstanding people and organizations in our great community. We also got to meet Zee, David, Darick, Audrey and Tony, all achieving their dreams and finding success with the help of their community.

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Advocacy Day: March 7

To kick off DD Awareness Month, Summit DD held a local Advocacy Day, where three self-advocates shared their stories and expressed that every voice is important. Ann Kagarise, of IDEA House, along with Chris and Darick, were our featured speakers.

“Don’t be afraid to self-advocate because that is the best gift you can give yourself,” Kagarise advised in her speech. “Ask people to show you, ask them to slow down, ask people to do it with you, ask them to tell you to how to do it until you get it. Then you will learn and can do things on your own!”

Ann, who has Autism, also gave us a peek into her life and how she adapts the world around her so she can live her life to the fullest.

Chris, who is an aspiring public speaker, with goals of working and taking classes at the University of Akron, spoke about the importance of sharing your thoughts and feelings in every aspect of your life.

“Always believe in yourself,” Chris expressed. “And make sure you have people around you who can help you. Surround yourself with people who will work toward your goals with you.”

Darick is employed by a community provider to help people with disabilities discover their passions or “choose their own adventure” as he likes to call it. He shared with the audience how he overcame some obstacles in his life and how he landed on his own adventure.

“I’m the type of person who wants to make a difference and I believe everything has a purpose,” Darick shared. “I have learned how to never give up and how to be a good leader and role model for others.”

More than 75 staff, self-advocates and community members came to the Mustard Seed Market in Montrose to hear the inspiring insight from our featured speakers.

Movie Night: March 9

Who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

Over 100 people gathered at Akron’s Linda Theatre for a spooky night of fun. The 1984 classic was a huge hit on the big screen, with people young and old singing along to the classic theme song, waiting for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to terrorize the town. Even real Ghostbusters from Northeast Ohio Ghostbusters came by before the showing to snap photos with fans!

Inclusion Day and Play For All: March 16

Summit County turned ORANGE for inclusion on the second annual Inclusion Pride Day! Child care centers, schools, businesses, organizations and even mayors throughout the county proudly wore their orange to raise awareness for inclusion and support people of ALL abilities. Dozens of people posted photos to Facebook and Twitter using the #IncludeME to share their inclusion pride with us and their community. Our staff came decked out in their orange too!

Akron Children’s Museum joined in on celebrating the abilities of ALL and partnered with Summit DD to offer a Play for All! The free event for families supported by Summit DD let kids of every age explore, play and learn at the newly-renovated museum.

Appreciation Breakfast and Awards Celebration: March 30

We brought together almost 300 community leaders, self-advocates, elected officials, businesses, partners and friends to celebrate our diverse community at our annual Appreciation Breakfast and Awards Celebration at Quaker Station in Akron. To conclude DD Awareness month and continue the celebration of all abilities throughout the year, we recognized 5 outstanding organizations and people who are making a difference.

Our five award winners were:

  • Dottie Schrum Culture Award: Peggy Peters, intervention specialist at Stow-Monroe Falls Schools for her work on the Teammates program, which allows students of all abilities to work together
  • Innovative Partner Award: Lock 3 Akron for their continuous efforts of advocacy and accessibility for citizens of all abilities
  • Russ Pry Public Leader of the Year Award: Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio of Summit County Juvenile Court for the development of the New Paths docket, which is a specialized intervention service offered to families of children with developmental disabilities
  • Community Impact Award: University of Akron Biomedical Engineering Design Team, Prosthetic Project, for their time in creating and a prosthetic foot that will grow as Audrey grows.
  • Carlene Weaver Achievement Award: Don Rettberg Jr., a self-advocate who runs his own café at Environmental Design Group in Akron.

Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro was the keynote speaker of the event and shared all the inclusive initiatives the county has implemented throughout the years and plans for the future.

“We have a fabric here of people who care, who want to make a difference in so many different ways, and I am just so proud to be supporting the efforts of all people in Summit County who are working to bring diversity, inclusion and citizenry to its highest possible potential,” Shapiro stated. “Our goal is to eliminate discrimination, encourage inclusion and ensure equality for people with disabilities throughout our community and I believe together we can do that.”

“During DD Awareness month, we saw people with disabilities experience full citizenship and perhaps, more importantly, we saw people with disabilities teach the community a thing or two about equality,” Summit DD Superintendent John Trunk shared at the breakfast. “Developmental Disability Boards are only successful when individuals live lives that are important to them and are successful. It’s really that journey of identifying what we want to do in our own lives and then finding and connecting to the supports needed to help get us there and live a fulfilled life in the community.”

National DD Awareness Month began in 1987 through a proclamation issued by President Ronald Reagan.  His intentions were to mark the month through activities and efforts directed toward increasing public awareness about the needs of Americans with developmental disabilities.  In the proclamation, Reagan urges Americans to increase awareness and support people with developmental disabilities.

We can’t wait for next year and we hope you will join us to make 2018 DD Awareness Month the biggest and best yet! In the meantime, let’s celebrate abilities all year long by visiting our events page and participating in our inclusive events year-round.  And be sure to read more inspiring stories from people right in your community!

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