An #EyeOpener for Us All – The First-Ever I AM Awards

Being disabled is challenging. Overcoming stereotypes based on ignorance and fear can make life even harder. It’s happened to me many times in my life.

But when it comes to developmentally disabled people, the obstacles are even more intimidating, because society’s expectations are very low.  Surely, these people can’t be productive, active members of their communities. They must be cared for in protected environments. They must be invisible.

Well, I had my eyes opened, big-time over the past few weeks. And I’m so happy and grateful that I did.

And it’s all due to my involvement with the Developmental Disabilities Association’s very first I AM Awards,

The I AM Awards were created to celebrate individuals who have made an inspiring contribution and have effected positive change in their communities. Those words don’t even begin to capture the energy, spirit and humanity of the people who were nominated for this award. I know. I was honoured to be one of the judges for this inaugural event, and got the unique opportunity to meet 30 amazing individuals through the nominations that were submitted. I was captivated and moved by their life stories – and humbled by their determination to live their lives fully. I had no idea how much they could accomplish – and I felt ashamed that I was surprised by this.

It was a long, hard process to choose just one recipient, but after a four-hour marathon, we did it!

Meet Dorothy Frew – the very first I AM Award winner. In her own words, she is a fighter, and a survivor. According to DDA’s blog, Dorothy is an advocate, widow, volunteer, and employee who receives support services from the Developmental Disabilities Association. Frew was nominated for her perseverance in overcoming obstacles in her efforts to live.

“Living with a life threatening disease, she demonstrates courage and optimism even when odds were against her. Through her fight to survive, Frew fought the healthcare system to receive the necessary care she deserved. As a result, she was able to receive dialysis and on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. Having been declared dead from a cardiac arrest, peers and patients at the hospital call Frew their role model for her wilful determination to live.”

Despite her physical ailments, Dorothy was excited and very happy to receive her award. I was fortunate to capture her joy and exuberance at the award presentation.

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The tagline under the DDA logo says it all.

“Overcoming Obstacles, Encouraging Abilities.” Dorothy and all the nominees are proof that so much is possible.

I will never forget how much I took for granted until I was given the chance to discover how these awesome people live their lives.

A true #EyeOpener.

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