When President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, he said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” While there is still work to be done, great progress has been made to remove barriers to education, transportation, employment and other aspects of daily life. Take for example Nathaniel Boutelle, who has autism. With the support of Passages, Inc. in Columbia City, he is able to live to his full potential – working, volunteering and excelling as a photographer and artist. Because of the ADA, Nathaniel has the opportunity to be an asset to his community, and for him, that’s a dream come true.
The AWS Foundation recently awarded $2,822,418 in grants to 16 area non-profit organizations in northeast Indiana that benefit individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. These organizations include:
- Camp Red Cedar: $25,000 for camperships, riderships and to replace outdated therapeutic riding equipment
- CORE, Inc.: $128,449 to create a vocational retail training program for young adults
- Community Transportation Network, Inc.: $25,000 for operating support
- Douglas Road Elementary School Playground: $25,000 for an accessible playground and a $75,000 matching grant
- Easter Seals ARC: $25,000 for the Literacy Program in collaboration with Ivy Tech
- Fifth Freedom: $24,600 to conduct an accessibility survey of northeast Indiana BMV facilities
- Fort Wayne Curling Club: $25,000 to create a league, purchase safety and curling equipment and establish a U.S. Special Olympics program
- Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Inc.: $25,000 for the Dance with Disabilities program
- Fort Wayne Youtheatre: $5,000 for the Backstage Insight program
- Junior Achievement: $25,000 for operating support and to develop a financial education program for Easter Seals ARC clients
- Passages, Inc.: $35,000 to create a performing arts program
- Pathfinder Services, Inc.: $25,000 for Summer at Last day camp
- Science Central: $23,562 for automatic main entrance doors
- Turnstone: $200,000 payable over 5 years to create the Nancy Louraine Pediatric Therapy Scholarship
- Wellspring Interfaith Social Services, Inc.: $25,000 for program support for their Older Adults program
- Women’s Bureau: $25,000 for Project C.A.R.E. sexual assault and prevention program
- YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne: $1,000,000 grant and $1,000,000 matching grant for the Jackson R. Lehman Family YMCA natatorium and $80,807 for a Special Population Director.
“The BIG Show” to showcase works from the Northeast Indiana Artists with Disabilities Community
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the AWS Foundation, in partnership with Wunderkammer Company Art Gallery, will exhibit hundreds of works by members of the Northeast Indiana artists with disabilities community. This exhibition, showing from March 14th through April 12th, also coincides with National Disabilities Awareness month.
“What I really wanted to do for this show was overwhelm the community with an incredible vision of the artistic ability of individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities” said Candy Pease, curator of “The BIG Show.” “I get to see these artists work every day, and they take such pride in what they can accomplish. I’m thrilled and proud of them too and I wanted to share their work with the community in a very BIG way.”
When asked about being approached to host the show, Wunderkammer Company founder and director Dan Swartz commented, “I’ve had some experience watching artists with disabilities work on projects in the past, and I was so inspired by their stories and the effort they put into their work that I wanted to provide a place where they can exhibit what they’re so proud of, their creative ability.”
AWS Foundation executive director Lynne Gilmore adds, “This is the first show of its kind in Fort Wayne, showcasing artistic works by individuals with disabilities. One quality of artistic expression is that it can transcend the artist’s disability, so this is a show not to be missed.”
The mission of Wunderkammer Company is to revitalize communities through contemporary art.
Vicki Lee Johnson has joined as the Manager of Marketing and Public Affairs of the not-for-profit charitable foundation. In this role, Johnson will oversee advocacy efforts and funding opportunities for those with disabilities and their families as they struggle to navigate the system to receive support and services.
“Vicki is a respected professional with a wealth of experience and knowledge,” said Mike Cahill, AWS Foundation’s CEO. “With more than 25 years of experience, she will make an immediate positive impact as we work to move our mission forward and grow the community’s understanding and inclusion of those with disabilities and their families.”
“It’s an honored to be part of such a wonderful organization,” says Johnson. “I’m excited about the opportunity to help the foundation achieve its mission and turn its vision into reality.”
Ms. Johnson was the Vice President, Director of Marketing for Tower Bank prior to their acquisition in 2014. Previously, she was with PHP for more than 20 years. Throughout her career, she has been instrumental in creation of brand strategy, new product development and project management.
Fort Wayne, IN – Cheering on the TinCaps at today’s 12:05 p.m. game will be 676 individuals with disabilities and 253 personal assistants/family members who are accompanying them. The AWS Foundation is hosting this annual event, which for many, is the only opportunity they have to see a TinCaps game.
“Parkview Field is accessible to people of all abilities, making it an ideal venue for individuals with disabilities to enjoy and the TinCaps have been wonderful to work with to identify the best seating arrangements and access to services,” said Lynne Gilmore, Executive Director of the AWS Foundation.
Area service providers AWS, Easter Seals ARC, Byron Health Center, Turnstone, Passages and Pathfinders were invited to send their clients and staff. “Often individuals with disabilities lack the necessary resources to make it easy to attend events and participate in the community,” Gilmore said. “This activity supports the Foundation’s focus on supporting programs that benefit people with disabilities.”
Last year several attendees commented they had only seen baseball stadiums on television and were ecstatic to actually be at a stadium. For them, Parkview Field is their field of dreams!