People with disabilities making medals for Laurel Run/Walk
By Mark Stevens
What started as a one-time idea to recognize those who take part in the annual Laurel Memorial Run/Walk has become an annual project about seven years in the making – literally.
The Future Strivers, a group at The Resource Center’s Day Habilitation Program at the Michael J. Raymond Center in Jamestown, are tasked with making the awards given to participants of the annual summer signature event, set to take place Friday, July 19, and Saturday July 20.
The Future Strivers are not strangers to the Laurel Run/Walk, as they have been actively participating for about 20 years. They provide a light kick-off breakfast for about 300 people the morning of the Jamestown-to-Dunkirk relay run, then gather along the relay race route bearing fun signs, bells and horns to cheer on the runners.
“The whole process is worth every minute,” said Robin Kestler, Day Habilitation Project Leader.Just like the Laurel Run/Walk itself, the process of medal making has evolved over the years. The Future Strivers initially made the awards out of clay, using what Kestler described as an old relic of a kiln and decorating with acrylics and spray paint. They’ve since evolved to a bigger kiln with good pottery paints. Most of the designs from the medals have come from simple cookie cutters. Designs have included shoes, roman coins, feet, hearts and angels. Last year, the medals were made of wood and bore a photo of Laurel.
For the people with disabilities who make the medals with support from staff, the process is fascinating. “It’s great to see the faces of those we serve when the pieces go into the kiln dull and chalky and then come out shinny with bright colors. And then we put them on lanyards,” said Kestler. “I enjoy the whole process of making the awards.”
Kestler, along with some 50 others, begin the process by March or April by rolling out about 25 blocks of clay. The whole process takes several months to complete.
The Future Strivers, as well as other people with disabilities who volunteer to make the Laurel Run/Walk successful, enjoy helping out with the event.
“The Laurel Run rocks,” said RJ, who has received supports from The Resource Center for many years.
This year’s medal features an angel with a heart-shaped cutout. Everyone who participates in the 5-kilometer walk, the 1K walk or the 8k run at the Laurel Memorial Run/Walk will receive a medal.