Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois (CCDI) Annual Awards Recipients

as shared by Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities.

The Bank Long Jr. Markeeta Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown strong leadership skills and advocacy. For their advancement and progress as a youth in pursuit of social justice. 

Kellsey McGuire is 9 years of age and a 3rd grader as Jordan Catholic School in Rock Island.  In January of 2014 Kellsey received service dog, Jasper, to alert her parents and others of impending seizures.

Kellsey McGuire & Family with Board Member Liz SherwinWithin a month of receiving Jasper, the family was told by the Sherrard School District that Jasper could no longer attend school with Kellsey, in direct violation of the ADA. After several instances of discrimination against Kellsey and Jasper the McGuires made the decision to withdraw Kellsey from Sherrard and enrolled her at Jordan Catholic School. At Jordan, Kellsey and Jasper were both welcomed with open arms and hearts.  Jasper is even included in the 3rd grade school picture.

The family filed a discrimination complaint against the school district with IDA and the judge ruled in their favor under (2) areas: Hostile Environment and Denial of a Free and Appropriate Education.  The Sherrard School District appealed the decision and it is pending.

Friends of the McGuire’s started Justice for Jasper to raise awareness about the blatant discrimination on the part of the Sherrard School District and its board. This issue has been publicized locally and nationally.

She and her family have done a tremendous amount of work over the last several years to promote Epilepsy awareness. They, along with many friends, started ribbonsforkellsey.

The Senator Penny Severns Memorial Award (formerly Legislator of the Year). This award honors a legislator from Illinois who has shown outstanding support of issues that are important to people with disabilities. 

This year’s recipient was a Senator that has done so many things to help people with disabilities. He has sponsored many bills that help the causes of people with disabilities including SR 342 which oposes the raising of the DON score. He is a board member for the Epilepsy Foundation and recently advocated to restore funding to autism, epilepsy and early intervention.  This year’s recipient of the Senator Penny Severns Memorial Award (formerly Legislator of the Year) isSenator Dan Kotowski.

The Doctor Judy Smithson Advocacy Award. This award is presented annually to an  individual who has displayed strong leadership and advocacy skills.

This year’s recipient has shown commitment to advocacy activities supporting the human and constitutional rights of citizens with disabilities. This year’s winner is the disability rights advocate for Life Center for Independent Living in Bloomington. She is tireless in this role while advocating in the areas of housing, transportation, health care, Human Services/CIL Funding as well as attitudinal & physical barriers.  She participated in the Not Dead Yet Action in Chicago last summer. 

She teaches legislative and community advocacy skills and co-taught theAdvocacy 101 class in 2014 and by herself again this year.  She serves on the SILC/INCIL Advocacy Strategy group. She recently completed the grueling, prestigious Multi-Cultural Leadership program in McLean County.  We are thrilled that this year's recipient of the Doctor Judy Smithson Advocacy Award is Rickielee Benecke.

The Barbara Pritchard Award.  This award is given annually to an individual who has done outstanding work as an advocate behind the scenes.  This individual rarely seeks the spotlight for themselves, but instead spends a great deal of time helping others to succeed and meet their goals.

The winner of this year’s Award has been a tireless advocate for people of all disabilities, but especially those that are deaf or hard of hearing. She use to be the Deaf Services ILS at LIFE CIL. She works closely with the IL Deaf & Hard of Hearing Commission.  She is a board member for the SILC,which also presents itself with other duties, as she is on the executive committee and is a member of of the SILC’s advocacy committees.  She has been described by others she has worked with as a very hard working advocate for persons who are deaf.  She has great vision and ideas.  The winner of this year’s Barbara Pritchard Award is Dana Craig.Award recipient Dana Craig

The Justin Dart Distinguished Citizen Award is the most prestigious honor the Coalition presents.  Past recipients include Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, Former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan and of course Justin Dart, Jr. himself.  This award is presented to an individual who has shown an outstanding commitment to the rights of persons with disabilities.

The nominee has been an ongoing advocate for the broadest range of disability issues since…forever.  He has defended our rights at the Federal, State, and local level.  He conducts legislative training classes for those whose interest in disability rights and the political system is just awakening. 

His work with Chicago ADAPT and ADAPT clearly demonstrates his ability to motivate, organize, and successfully involve the widest elements of our community.  Known and respected throughout Illinois, other states, and Washington, DC., he has the ability to make politicians listen to our issues, acknowledge need for change, and work, often even sponsor, important legislation. 

Larry Biondi and<br />CCDI Board Member Patty Martin

Adamantly, never a disability poster child, his demeanor is that of an accomplished, educated, thoughtful and humble person (with disabilities).  He has and knows how to use his wicked sense of humor, especially double entendre - to make everyone gasp with laughter.  Most importantly, by his actions this nominee helps make everyone he contacts feel important for their abilities. 

In these and in so many other ways, Larry Biondi is the epitome of disability diplomat worthy of the Justin Dart Award. We congratulate Larry as the 2015 Justin Dart Distinguished Citizen Award recipient!

(GO LARRY, and congratulations)

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