Editor's Column - October 2007

The Charlie Smith Community Award annually recognizes individuals who demonstrate an exceptional degree of commitment to the disability community. This year, the award banquet will be held on Friday, November 2, and the award will be bestowed on Jim and Claudia Carlisle, founders of People Enhancing People (PEP), a PCA Choice provider organization. The Carlisles believe that all recipients of PCA services should be able to find the help needed to stay in the community in which they live. The Carlisles are both people with disabilities who know personally that the struggle to find quality PCAs is one of the key barriers to maintaining a high quality of life. In 2003, the New Freedom Initiative Act and Minnesota Department of Human Services awarded PEP the funding to put its business plan into motion and provide an alternative to traditional provider organizations. Since then they have led the way in meeting the difficulties involved in hiring and retaining high quality PCAs, and maintaining excellence as a provider organization.

I hope you will join us for this fifth annual award celebration. One of the great things about the event, I think, is that when we come together to celebrate outstanding achievements by someone in our community, it also brings to light all the wonderful people—right around us in the room—who have given so much of themselves to the disability community.

The best part for me is that the banquet gives me an opportunity to thank Access Press readers for their support, and to thank as well all the volunteers, the board, and the staff for their dedication to maintaining this valued communication link in our community.

The banquet also gives me a chance to reflect on my own good fortune in knowing and working with Charlie Smith. I never stop running into folks who knew and respected Charlie and his work. His commitment to the community made a difference that we all still benefit from.

As much as we discourage people from stereotyping individuals with disabilities as courageous saints with superhuman qualities of resilience, there are some pretty amazing people who are part of our community. We have some incredibly broad shoulders to stand on. Thinking about Charlie and our past and present award recipients leads me to other “big names” like Roosevelt, Dart and Roberts. But there are many others who by their advocacy—or through their victimization—have helped pave the way for a better community.

Chuck Campbell, gives us a glimpse into the emerging sport of quad rugby. I’m not a big sports fan and really not much on competitive team sports, but quad rugby has fascinated me since I saw the movie “Murderball.” What a release of energy and frustrations, and all without too much risk of injuring yourself or anyone else (the key words are “too much risk”). When I’m watching it played, my heart drops at every other collision. It really does look brutal, and if you ask the players they will tell you it is great fun even though occasionally you will get your teeth rattled. For me, knowing how wheelchairs react, and how shocking it feels when you’re stopped dead in your tracks, I think that’s what holds my interest: how do they handle that impact? More than that, I guess, I wonder how they handle the uncontrolled momentum, when control is such a necessity in our everyday wheeling lives.

Last month I said I would give you some winter weather tips. What was I thinking? The best winter weather tip I have is, “Stay out of the cold!”

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