Cheyenne, Wyo. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Cheyenne Mayor Rick Kaysen were featured speakers at the People First of Wyoming March Disability Awareness Month Dinner Celebration Thursday, held at the Holiday Inn.
As a self-advocate myself who is associated with People First, I will make the disclaimer that even though I covered this event as a journalist, my account of this event wasn’t vetted by People First.
Mead highlighted the difference disabled workers are making at Walgreens
In remarks by the governor, Mead stressed to those in attendance, self-advocates from the local and surrounding disability communities as well as other supporters for disabled rights, that the state of Wyoming sees disabled people as integral in Wyoming’s communities, saying “Everyone is valued….We welcome everyone’s efforts.”
He also told the audience to “Live each day with courage,” quoting from the first tenet of The Code of the West.
During Mead’s opening address, he discussed his recent visit to Washington with other governors, and he told the account of how the morale, productivity, and profitability of Walgreens’ stores have improved since it took more steps to employ disabled workers. Mead has been going around the state this month to participate in various events celebrating March Disability Awareness Month.
Kaysen next read the city proclamation acknowledging March as Disability Awareness month, which challenged the city to look beyond the disabilities of people and look for their abilities. He stressed, “We all have disabilities.” He gave the proclamation to People First of Wyoming President Tom Oswald.
The headline act for this particular celebration, the Diana Sanchez Dance Company, traveled from Denver to perform various dance routines with their coed troupe, including salsa and bachata (which originated in the Dominican Republic). As the men and women demonstrated their dancing abilities on the stage, they were met with constant cheers from the dinner guests. The dance company has competed all over the U.S., from Miami from San Francisco. Diana Sanchez herself has performed at various high-profile events, including the 2006 Latin Grammys.
Danny Gamino, one of the dancers, expressed his pleasure in performing, saying, “Oh, it’s a great honor to be able to come out and perform for the people and to give them a special night.” The group performed two sets of dances, and were on hand after the dinner to give some dance instruction to attendees.
It was estimated that about 100 people attended this event, including Terry White of Cheyenne, who said he was attending so he could show support for two self-advocates, including People First of Cheyenne President Amy Huddleston. He commented, “I like to support her in her endeavors and support this organization.”
White’s wife, Sue, said that she came “because I believe in learning all I can learn about different aspects of the community and this [event] is important.”
Huddleston, asked why she’s involved in People First, said, “Because I believe in advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves. I think it’s very important that we have a voice and can speak up for what we believe in.” She also volunteers for two local nursing homes.
Goal was to raise $20,000 for statewide projects
Kathy MacDonald, the new coordinator for People First of Wyoming, stressed the importance of this event that had the goal of raising $20,000 for People First of Wyoming’s statewide projects, including scholarships for the annual Community Awareness Training in Casper as well as the annual People First Conference to be held this year in September at Gillette.
MacDonald discussed her goals for the organization in 2013, saying, “I would like to see better equipment placed in each Chapter for People First of Wyoming chapters to make communicating with all the chapters easier. To enlist the aid of more volunteers who can get members to and from meetings either local or in other towns for People First functions. I would like to see more public awareness take place so the others who are not disabled would not feel uncomfortable around those of us who are and develop more communications in all our communities between the “two” groups.”
MacDonald presented a special trophy to one self-advocate, David Friedberg, for his tireless work in soliciting support among local businesses on behalf of the disability advocacy organization.