Success Stories from the Past Year
In 1997, Wayne and Elaine Hotelling created Laurel Run in tribute to their oldest daughter, who has Down syndrome. While Laurel Run has been a tremendous fund-raiser over the years – generating more than $250,000 in net proceeds – at essence, Laurel Run’s purpose is to celebrate the achievements of individuals with disabilities. Here are some of the accomplishments that people with disabilities at The Resource Center have made during the past year:
* Chuck Hartson. Chuck, who uses a wheelchair to get around, was frustrated that the James Prendergast Library in Jamestown didn’t have automatic doors. So he took an online course on self-advocacy, then contacted the library about the issue. Library officials worked with the City of Jamestown and identified grant funding for electronic doors. The doors were installed last summer, making the library easier to access for everyone — people with disabilities, parents pushing children in strollers, or students loaded down with homework. For his efforts, Chuck was named the 2012 “Self-Advocate of the Year” by the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State.
* Jennifer Yost. Jenn enjoyed an opportunity few can only dream about – she got to give testimony at a United Nations hearing in New York City on the important role that employment plays in enhancing social interaction of individuals with disabilities. The following month, Jenn won the Special Olympics putting contest at the annual TRC Golf Classic.
* Miguel Gonzalez. Miguel minds his own business and doesn’t go looking for trouble. But he has a disability that causes him to make pronounced physical gestures, and this attracts unwanted attention. Miguel has been subjected to taunting and harassment over the years, and this culminated last fall in a situation in which two people chased him in a car while Miguel was riding his bicycle around his Dunkirk neighborhood. The two cornered Miguel, videotaped his gestures – which included Miguel harming himself – and posted the video onto YouTube. Public reaction to this incident was swift – the two were arrested and charged with stalking; schools undertook anti-bullying initiatives; and Miguel was celebrated for putting a local face to the issue of bullying.
* Amanda Bolinger. After almost two years of planning, Amanda recently moved into her own apartment.
* Michael Burkey. Mike, who has worked at the KFC/Taco Bell in Lakewood for nine years, was honored under New York State’s “Works for Me” program, which recognizes the workplace contributions made by people with developmental disabilities.
* Dennis Parkhurst and Charles Wofford. Charles and Dennis traveled to Albany to rally with hundreds of others with behavioral health challenges. The group’s main goal was to advocate against cutting funding for mental health services.
* Jeffrey Agnello, Peter Joy, Don Parker, Beatrice Salisbury, Jamie Valentine. They were recognized by Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels for five years of volunteer service. People with disabilities volunteer at dozens of local organizations.
* Michael Johnson. On a regular basis, Michael donates money to the Falconer Public Library, which uses the money to buy new books.
Perhaps the greatest achievement by people with disabilities during the past year occurred when they used their collective voice to successfully oppose the governor’s plan to cut $240 million in Medicaid funding for disability services from the current year’s budget.
The Laurel Run planning committee hopes you will attend Laurel Run on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20, for the 17th annual Laurel Run, where people with disabilities will realize other achievements — some will take on the 5-kilometer walk; some will take part in our signature event, “Laurel’s Lap”; some will volunteer, handing out water to thirsty competitors or placing medals around the neck of winners.
Money raised through Laurel Run goes to Filling the Gap, Inc., which works with The Resource Center to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The examples listed above are just a glimpse of some of the success stories that take place at The Resource Center every day. And they are proof that, with a little bit of support, people with disabilities can accomplish a lot of things.
Now, some of you undoubtedly are thinking, “What about Laurel?” Well, after a few health scares during the past year, Laurel received a pacemaker last month. She is on the mend and looks forward to fulfilling her role as the “Grand Marshal” at Laurel Run!
If you can’t join us for Laurel Run, you may make a donation to support this great cause. You can make a secure contribution through the web site – www.laurel-run.com. You also can make a donation by mailing a check (made payable to “FTG/Laurel Run”) to Filling the Gap, Inc., 92 Fairmount Avenue, Jamestown, NY, 14701.
On behalf of Laurel, her parents and everyone at The Resource Center and Filling the Gap, THANK YOU!