STORIES

Essay Contest Blog Series-Blog #1

In preparing for this year’s Gifts of the Heart Gala, I was looking for an opportunity to highlight the voices of those who identify as having a disability. After all, our organization is about inclusion and the most important voice for disability inclusion efforts is (or should be) those who have disabilities themselves. Thus, in addition to our keynote speaker, Lisa Olson, who spoke eloquently about acceptance at the gala, the first Gifts of the Heart Essay Contest was born. 
I really had no idea whether or not anyone would submit an essay but we had a few things going for us. Number one, our good friend and sponsor, John Koehler of Koehler Publishing  offered up the $100 winning prize. Two, I had a vision that our winner and many of the participants would be recognized at our gala on March 11.  
In the end, we had six people enter the contest …

The Parking Lot

I was excited when Virginia Pilot journalist Denise Watson replied to my email about doing a story on Faith Inclusion Network and our upcoming Gifts of the Heart Gala.  I always love to share about FIN and the work we do. After Denise and I talked on the phone, we decided to meet up at my church, Blessed Sacrament Catholic in Norfolk, VA one weekend before Mass to have a picture taken of my daughter Samantha participating at church, a shining example of inclusion as a person severely affected by autism but very much part of our church family.
I knew our Pastor, Fr. Joe Metzger would be fine with the plan, he has always been supportive of our efforts to include Samantha and the various cameras and reporters in the past coming in to film or take photos.  I should have known it would not be that easy this time …

My New Ramp

For the last ten years I have been a public advocate in the disability community, learning about inclusion and sharing that information with faith communities, hopefully raising awareness about the need to be more welcoming to individuals and families affected by disability. During the course of this work, I have made many friends, some of them very close friends now, who use wheelchairs.  For the last few years, I have made sure that I borrowed or rented a ramp in December so that I could invite my friends who use wheelchairs to a Christmas open-house party in my home.
A few weeks ago, faced with preparations for this year’s open house, I made a decision.  I just went ahead and purchased a ramp. It is not a huge one, as you can see in the photo, but it serves its purpose. I was so excited about my new ramp, that I …

Happy Birthday to the Happy Hour Class

Today I had the privilege of attending worship service at Wesley Grace United Methodist Church, http://www.wmumcnor.org/ a small congregation in the Wards Corner area of Norfolk, VA that is known locally for a lot of community outreach, impacting the local area in many positive ways.
I was invited by my friend, Gray Puryear, who is not only a longstanding member of the congregation but also serves as a lay speaker among the many responsibilities he holds at Wesley Grace.
Gray, who I have known for 10 years as he is a founding board member of Faith Inclusion Network, invited me to this service because they were planning to celebrate an exciting milestone, the 50th anniversary of a ministry for adults with intellectual disabilities they call “Happy Hour Class”.
An excerpt from a description in the bulletin about the ministry reads, “In 1967, several parents attending a church t Wards Corner in Norfolk asked the …

What does it take to be a welcoming faith community?

This morning, my daughter Samantha and I attended Second Presbyterian Church, http://www.spcnorfolk.org/ , a small congregation near the Naval Base in Norfolk. I am well acquainted with the church as they generously house Faith Inclusion Network’s office and I count both Pastor Craig Wansink and Assoc. Pastor Catherine Monroe as personal friends. 
This was only the second time I have worshipped with the Second Presbyterian congregation and the first time I have taken Samantha along with me. I was invited to not only share the song “Let’s Share a Journey”,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-OmcOXxO_s&t=42s but also had the opportunity to sing and play flute along with their small praise band.
I was excited about participating in the worship Sunday morning but also a bit apprehensive. When I woke up Samantha, who has autism and is quite echolalic at times, I said “It’s time to get ready for church.” She spent the next few minutes repeating, “time for …

Beauty Perseveres

As we come to the end of Autism Awareness month 2017, I would like to thank the contributors to our Autism Moms and Dads Blog Interview Series for sharing a bit about their lives in the world of Autism.  It has been particularly interesting to get the Dad’s perspective this year in addition to the Moms. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to re-connect with both local and national friends and make some new FIN friends along the way. Many thanks to those that interviewed: David Rizzo, dad to Danielle from New Jersey, Ruth and Rick Robins, parents of Tripp in Virginia, Tim Craig, dad to Clinton, from New Jersey, Janet Shouse, mom to Evan Shouse from Tennessee and Michael Hoggatt, dad to Summer from California. You are all an inspiration to me and it was a pleasure to “meet” you and your children through these interviews. 
Blessings to all those …