by Anya Weber
On February 26, Institute for Community Inclusion staff were honored at the Buddy Walk on Washington Champion of Change Awards dinner of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). The Think College team received the honor of “Organization of the Year” from NDSS.
“The event was inspiring,” says Cate Weir, a project coordinator at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) and a member of the Think College team. “We were honored to be included in such a strong and effective group of advocates.”
According to NDSS, the Buddy Walk on Washington “brought over 320 people from more than 35 states across the country together to storm Capitol Hill advocating for legislative priorities that positively impact the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families.”
Running the awards dinner were Chip Gerhardt, the board president of NDSS, and Sara Wolff, a self-advocate with Down syndrome. Wolff wrote an online petition that has garnered over 230,000 signatures in support of the ABLE Act. This legislation aims to increase financial independence and decrease economic strain for citizens with disabilities.
The awards dinner was held in advance of a Buddy Walk to Capital Hill, where hundreds of advocates for Down syndrome met with their representatives to encourage passage of the ABLE Act. During the evening award recipients shared messages of hope, perseverance, and belief in a better future for people with Down syndrome.
Meg Grigal and her ICI colleagues Debra Hart and Cate Weir accepted the award on behalf of all who work for Think College at ICI as well as partners at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. “We were all really struck by the commitment and energy of all who received awards,” says Grigal, a senior research fellow at the ICI. “Most of them are parents and self-advocates who work on their own time to advance causes important to the Down syndrome community.”
In accepting the award, Grigal said, “Being acknowledged by such a strong advocacy organization is very affirming of our mission. Think College helps individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families build toward their dreams of college. We teach colleges and universities how to benefit from including students with intellectual disabilities into their campus communities. To make this happen, we depend on staff and partners throughout the country. This award honors the commitments of each of these team members.”
Learn more about the award winners on the NDSS Facebook page.
Meg Grigal, Deb Hart, and Cate Weir were honored to accept the 2014 Champion of Change Organization of the Year Award on behalf of everyone involved with Think College.