[photo: Steve Germani, marketing and development manager at ADEC Inc., shows Destinee Stoll, 19, how to fold pledge forms for an ADEC event. Destinee wants a job, but until she gets one, she keeps busy practicing her office skills.]
THE GOSHEN NEWS
BRISTOL, IND — It’s cliché, but true, to say life is a marathon, not a sprint. For children and adults with disabilities, life is a marathon with hurdles to jump, detours to navigate and obstacles to avoid.
On Oct. 13, Steve Germani of Goshen will give the metaphor legs by running the Chicago Marathon to raise awareness and jobs for men and women with disabilities. Germani, marketing and development manager for ADEC Inc., a non-profit organization providing supports and services to individuals living with the challenges of disabilities, knows he’s set a grueling goal for himself.
“I will be running 26 miles in an effort to place 26 ADEC clients in jobs throughout the Michiana area this calendar year,” he explains in his first blog entry at www.adecstandsout.wordpress.com. “I’m challenging local businesses to sponsor each mile I run by hiring an ADEC client seeking community employment.”
ADEC’s Employment Services division, which provides job development assistance to employers and job coaching for clients with disabilities, serves more than 350 adults in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties. Some already have jobs, but most are still looking.
“Getting a job is the one thing that has the most impact on your life,” Germani said. “With a job comes independence and purpose. Without a job, what do you do?”
According to statistics from the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, the employment rate for people with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 18 to 64 in Indiana is only 22.3 percent. That percentage includes part-time jobs. “In other words, more than three out of four adults with a cognitive disability in the state of Indiana, who are of working age, are currently unemployed,” Germani said.
He hopes by running the marathon, he will get the attention of prospective employers.
“I’m nervous about establishing this challenge for myself. Yet, at the same time, I’m excited about using this effort as a means for telling a much more important story, the story of how there are dozens of adults with disabilities in our communities who are seeking paid employment despite the (mis)perception that they do not possess the abilities, skills or talents to work,” he said.
Germani, 36, begins daily training in May. To work up to it, he runs three days a week and plays basketball on his “off” mornings. He has not run a full marathon before, although he did complete a half-marathon in 2005. “I don’t consider myself a runner,” he said. “I’ve always attempted to stay in decent physical condition, but I’ve rarely pushed myself beyond my comfort zone since I was in high school athletics.” He looks to the men and women ADEC serves to find the motivation he needs to complete his training and reach the finish line.
“Running a marathon is hard, but so is living with the challenges of disabilities,” he points out. “They can’t quit. No matter how hard it gets or how much they want to quit, they and their families keep pushing forward, every day. They are my inspiration. They are why I am doing this.”
Follow Germani on his marathon challenge on Twitter, @ADEC1952.
To learn more about ADEC and the services it provides, visit www.adecinc.com.