Friday, September 24, 2010

The Arc, Susquehanna Valley Legislative Breakfast 9/24/10

I attended an inspiring and informative breakfast forum today hosted by The Arc, Susquehanna Valley. The Arc advocates for intellectually and developmentally disabled people and their families, and they gave me and the other candidates quite an education. They pointed out to us inequities in education funding, insufficient resources (or political will) resulting in long waiting lists for community-based services, difficulty with handicap-accessible transportation, special needs for dentistry that weren’t being met and other governmental slights, omissions and indignities. They showed us how the state is adding to their daily difficulties instead of helping to relieve them. Executive director Gail Leightley was the morning’s MC, or perhaps I should say headmistress. With a light touch but a firm tone, she corrected us when we went astray and kept the forum on schedule. At the end of the morning, Deb Brubaker, president of the Board of Directors, REALLY took us to school, pointing out that none of the candidates had any mention of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on our websites. She then named each of us in turn, reading back to us words we had written on our websites that might positively impact her daughter and the other beneficiaries of the Arc’s advocacy, and sternly letting us know that she hoped we would keep those promises once we were in office. When I told my wife, Amy, about this portion of the event she said, “Good for her! Oooh – I just got chills up my spine!” And I can tell you that I had chills up my spine, too, being the focus of her gaze after hearing the stories that were told and meeting some of the attendees. I would like to recommend to anyone reading this the Arc’s Respite program, which is in need of volunteers. The Respite program is aimed at giving a little relief to families caring for intellectually or developmentally disabled people, or even to disabled people who provide their own care. Being able to turn to a trusted volunteer to make dinner for a night, provide some free time to run errands alone or just provide a change of scenery can make a big difference to the differently abled and their families. I am going to talk to my family about volunteering, and I encourage you to do the same. The Arc can be reached at, or the national branch can be reached at (800) 433-5255.

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