Washington, DC – On October 25, Don and Laurie Istook will receive The Arc’s Image and Inclusion Award during the National Convention and International Forum. This award recognizes a person or group who has had an impact on accurate and positive portrayals of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). In 2012, The Arc launched The Arc Audi Racing Program, a new partnership between The Arc and Istook’s Motorsports. The program provides a unique opportunity for people with I/DD to get a taste of what it is like to be part of a fast-paced professional race crew at select races in the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge race series across the country, and serve as “Honorary Crew Members” with Don’s team.
“There is still a lingering misperception that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can’t have meaningful jobs in the community. Don and Laurie Istook know better than that and have helped open the eyes of the racing community and many others through their work running The Arc Audi Racing Program. We admire the Istooks for bringing this innovative idea to The Arc earlier this year, but most of all we admire their work to promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the community, the workforce, and now on racetracks across the country,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Long time racer and team owner Don Istook and his wife Laurie have a personal connection to the I/DD community. Two of Laurie’s brothers, Mark and Tyson, have Fragile X, but this does not stop them from being an active part of Don’s professional race team pit crew. Inspired by their success, Don and Laurie contacted the national office of The Arc to propose a program to give select chapters of The Arc across the country the opportunity to be an integral part of five races in 2012. Participants in The Arc Audi Racing Program have been able to see the cars, talk to the crew and play a hands-on role in preparing the cars for the race. Chapters of The Arc have attended Pirelli World Challenge races in Long Beach, CA; Monterey, CA; Detroit, MI; Lexington, OH; and Sonoma, CA. With this experience in hand from 2012, the team is preparing for an even greater 2013 season, which will feature an additional Audi TT RS to make a two car team.
Speaking about her brother, Mark, Laurie Istook said: “Mark loves being able to say ‘I work for a race team.’ It just gives him a meaning and a purpose for his life. It gives him something to look forward to – that’s what we all want.”
She added: “I remember after the first race this year, Don came over and just hugged me for the longest time. And he said ‘I don’t ever remember feeling this great after a race.’”
Previous recipients of The Arc’s Image and Inclusion award include Lauren Potter and Robin Trocki from the hit TV show Glee and Dr. Temple Grandin, world renowned scientist.