Summit DD honored several community members and disability advocates at its annual Appreciation Breakfast and Awards Celebration on March 27 in Akron. More than 250 elected officials, community leaders and disability service providers gathered at Quaker Square to honor the award recipients.
“We want to take the opportunity to recognize the achievements of advocates, volunteers, community leaders, supporters and other community partners who are actively helping to build communities that are welcoming for people of every ability,” said Summit DD Superintendent John Trunk of the awards.
“Because of the efforts of this year’s winners and nominees, Summit County continues to move forward and empower people with disabilities,” Trunk continued. “And in turn they make this community a better place for citizens of all abilities.”
In addition, several families who were instrumental in starting Summit County’s developmental disability system with the passage of House Bill 169 in 1967 were also present, as the Agency commemorated its 50-year anniversary.
“What started as a segregated school and workshop, with families sharing rides with station wagons, has turned into more inclusive school and workplaces,” said Trunk. “That would not be possible with parents and advocates pushing for community living for those with developmental disabilities.
The following people were recognized.
Dottie Schrum Culture Award: Megan Zimmerman
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.
Megan Zimmerman runs the ASPIRE Transition Youth Program at Woodridge High School. The program supports students with developmental disabilities who are exploring training and opportunities for future community employment. Megan works closely with Summit DD and providers like Koinonia to support her students’ journey into adulthood and the workforce. She regularly sets up schedules to accommodate her students’ needs and ensure that they receive the required curriculum, while giving them access to training opportunities in their communities through these partner providers. Her dedication to her students takes her well past typical school-day hours and her open communication with her students (and their teams) helps give her students the best chance for success in the future.
Community Impact Award: John Ballard
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.
Beginning at age 18, John started volunteering at what once was Apple Creek institution. After seeing the inner workings of institutions, he committed himself to helping create more life choice opportunities for people with disabilities and closing down institutions. John even purchased a home in the 70s and moved two people out of Apple Creek to live with him. John started a number of non-profits, helping to change the way residential services operate and advanced deinstitutionalization. He has previously served on the Summit DD Board and currently serves on the Ardmore Foundation Board. He uses his passion and business connections to further community employment opportunities for those with disabilities and currently serves as Executive Director for Tri-County Independent Living Center. John has spent his life championing disability rights and working to ensure that people who were once institutionalized can now have the opportunity to live and work in their own communities.
Russ Pry Community Leader of the Year Award: Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer
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.
As Judge of Summit County Probate Court, Elinore Marsh Stormer serves as the “superior guardian” for over 2,100 individuals under guardianship, many of whom have developmental disabilities. Judge Stormer has worked to increase collaboration with care providers, such as Summit DD, with the priority of streamlining problem solving. She created the Volunteer Guardian Program, which trains court-appointed individuals to become guardians and ensures the well-being of individuals in need of services, resources, and making life decisions. She has also created a number of educational materials and videos to support the program and further its reach. Judge Stormer is also a strong proponent of supporting artists with developmental disabilities. She spearheaded the 2017 Art Show Look Beyond at the Akron Museum. After the show, artists had the opportunity to exhibit and sell their art at the courthouse. Judge Stormer has proven to be a loyal and faithful community servant working on behalf of her community and for those with developmental disabilities.
Carlene Weaver Achievement Award: Travis Howdyshell and Uzziah Kimbrough
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.
At just 2 ½ weeks old, Travis Howdyshell developed pneumonia, bronchiolitis and heart failure. While his condition was precarious, Travis pulled through. Since then, he and his family have been “giving back” to Children’s Hospital (ACH). For the past 19+ years, you can find Travis volunteering at ACH each Monday. He has provided more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service and even received honors from the hospital. When he is not volunteering, Travis works at the Summit County fairgrounds through the vocational program Bridges to Rehab. Travis is active in his community and enjoys going to Akron RubberDucks games in the summer. Through hard work, effort and the support of those around him, Travis lives an independent life, full of friends and community experiences that proves it.
Uzziah “Zee” Kimbrough Uzziah, better known as Zee to those around him, is a friendly young man and a fierce self-advocate. After graduating high school, Zee got involved in Summit DD’s summer youth job program, known as TANF (Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Because of Zee’s developmental disability, he received transportation services and job coaching during his summer internship to help him with new tasks on the job. The program honed his team work and coping skills, which eventually propelled him into his current job at the Target in Fairlawn. At work, Zee has created a network of natural supports. He is respected by colleagues, managers and customers alike. However, community employment is just the first step in his long-term plans. Zee’s future goals include moving into his own apartment, learning to drive and pursing a college degree in computer technology.
The Appreciation Breakfast is the final event of a month-long series of events celebrating National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. DD Awareness Month is celebrated each March by local and national disability organizations.