Achieve with us and Win a Trip to Washington, D.C.

Win a Free Trip to Washington, D.C. by Sharing Your Inspirational StoryThe Arc works on a daily basis to empower people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve full and satisfying lives. But its individuals like you who actually do all of the achieving! So, to put the spotlight on you and celebrate your achievements, we launched a contest to identify the amazing achievements of people with I/DD across the county. Enter The Arc’s Achieve with us contest between now and July 14 for a chance to win a trip to Washington D.C. to visit your representatives in Congress and The Arc’s national office on a 2-day, expenses paid trip simply for sharing your story of achievement with The Arc. So if you, or someone you know who has an intellectual or developmental disability has a story to share, enter now. Then be sure to encourage everyone you know to vote for your story between July 15 and August 15 for your chance to win!

Here’s how to Achieve with us!

  • Write a short (500 words or less) narrative/essay telling us your story of achievement and submit it along with a photo at www.facebook.com/thearcus between June 14-July 14. (Photo not required by encouraged). Entries can come from individuals with I/DD who are 18 or older, their parents, guardians, caregivers or friends or from the parents or guardians of children under 18 who have I/DD.
  • Spread the word and encourage everyone you know to view your entry and “vote” for you between July 15-August 15.
  • If you win, you’ll hear from us after August 15 to make arrangements for you and a guest or caregiver to come to Washington, D.C. before December 20 and share your story with The Arc and elected officials on Capitol Hill. Check out complete contest details at www.facebook.com/thearcus.

Send in your story and tell us about your achievements on Facebook today. Then be sure to get out the vote starting July 15 and you could win!

Are You Coming to Denver for The Arc’s National Convention?

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin

Registration is now open for The Arc’s 2011 National Convention in Denver, CO, September 16-19. You should join us this year. It’s simply the biggest and best opportunity to connect with others in the intellectual and developmental disability community such as members of The Arc, chapter staff and volunteers, professionals and experts in the field plus individuals with I/DD and their families.

This year, we’ll be Achieving New Heights with special appearances from Dr. David Braddock, the force behind the “State of the States in Developmental Disabilities” assessment of state performance on issues important to the I/DD community and Dr. Temple Grandin, the noted scientist and subject of the award-winning biopic Temple Grandin, a film about her accomplishments and living with autism.

We have a special treat for those of you who attended last year’s Convention. Actress Lauren Potter from Glee, who stole the show along with her co-star Robin Trocki in Orlando, returns this year. Lauren, who has Down syndrome, was a delight at last year’s event, meeting and greeting fans for hours.

In addition to the roundup of informative and enlightening sessions covering topics such as advocacy, leadership, innovation, and public policy, we’re bringing back the popular Exchange – a roundtable discussion group. And, we’re turning the Exhibit Hall into a dynamic Marketplace where you can find out more about programs, services and products designed especially for you. Look for Entrepreneur Alley, where budding businesspeople with I/DD can showcase their entrepreneurial spirit.

Register now before August 5 for discounted registration and room rates at the Sheraton Denver Downtown. Check out the full Convention Schedule and find out more about our beautiful host city at www.thearc.org.

Sad Night for Glee Fans Makes The Arc Smile

Warning: this post contains plot spoilers from last night’s episode.

Robin Trocki speaking at The Arc's 2010 National ConventionFans of the hit Fox TV show Glee were given an emotional episode last night as Jane Lynch’s character, Sue Sylvester, dealt with the shocking death of her sister Jean, played by Robin Trocki. Jane talked to EW.com about how tough it was to film the funeral scenes since she knew it meant the end of an enjoyable working relationship with Robin. Those of you who attended The Arc’s National Convention in Orlando last year may have had the opportunity to meet Robin, who has Down syndrome, along with her Glee co-star Lauren Potter as they accepted The Arc’s inaugural Image and Inclusion Award for positive and accurate portrayals of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the media. If you did, we’re sure you share Jane’s sentiment as it was clear that Robin was just as friendly and kind in real life as the character she portrays.

In her interview about the episode, Jane Lynch noted that people with Down syndrome can have shorter life expectancies than the average American due to health issues associated with their disability. However, with advances in medical care, some of those issues are not as life-threatening as they once were. Jane also spoke to the unique sibling relationship between the characters that many people who have a brother or sister with I/DD will instantly recognize. The Arc applauds the creators and producers of Glee for creating the characters of Jean and Becky (Lauren Potter) and giving them such rich lives complete with challenges and achievements, friends and family, joy and sorrow…included, participating and contributing just like everyone else. That makes us smile.

To Jean – goodbye, we’ll miss you. And to Robin – thanks!

Hot Read! “The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon

May marks the official release a new book from Rachel Simon, “The Story of Beautiful Girl.” (Available now on www.amazon.com) Ms. Simon is a frequent speaker at events hosted by Chapters of The Arc, including The Arc of Kentucky’s recent state conference thanks to the popularity of her 2002 memoir, “Riding the Bus with My Sister (2002), which focused on her sister Beth, who has a developmental disability. That book was later turned into a TV movie starring Rosie O’Donnell and Andie McDowell. Some details were changed and fictionalized, but the core messages of Beth’s right to self-determination and the challenges and rewards of the sibling bond were left intact.

In “The Story of Beautiful Girl,” Ms. Simon describes two characters with disabilities, Lynnie and Homan, living in an institution in 1968 who fall in love, escape and have a child that they hide away when the authorities catch up to them and Lynnie is forced back to the institution. The book’s publisher, Grand Central Publishing, is predicting a New York Times Bestseller List level of success for this dramatic tale. It will be interesting to see how readers react to a story that touches on issues of intellectual and developmental disability, institutionalization, abuse, race, love, parenting and communication. Find out more about the author at www.rachelsimon.com.

Did you read it? What did you think?

What Did Obama Say About the Budget Battle?

You may have read our CEO Peter V. Berns’ reaction to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday about the budget battle being waged at the Federal level. You know that we at The Arc are unwavering in our conviction that we must preserve the social safety net for the most vulnerable Americans, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We simply can’t balance the budget on the backs of individuals and families who need our support to meet the most basic needs of medical care, housing, employment and education opportunities, much less to meet their expectations that they be fully included and able to participate in their communities and in society. Now, you might want to read the full text of the President’s speech on the matter and judge for yourself where he falls on the subject. Tell us what you think. Is the President pursing the right path? Will he succeed against the opposition he faces in Congress?

Glee Star Lauren Potter Signs on to Appear for The Arc

Lauren PotterLauren Potter of Glee and her mother Robin Sinkhorn will join The Arc on June 14 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as we reveal key findings from our FINDS study to the media. This landmark study surveyed the true circumstances and needs of more than 5,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and caregivers and the findings will point us in the right direction to make substantial improvements in the lives of people with I/DD through advocacy for changes in public policy and direct supports and services.

Lauren has graciously agreed to be at the press conference on June 14, but will also appear in 60-second PSAs which will be distributed in many television markets in May. Lauren and her Glee co-star, Robin Trocki attended The Arc’s national convention in Orlando Florida in November 2010 to receive our inaugural Image and Inclusion Award for positive and accurate portrayals of people with I/DD in the performing arts. We’re thrilled that she wants to continue a relationship with The Arc.

You may have seen or heard of Lauren recently speaking out against the bullying of children with special needs on Capitol Hill last week and appearing with her mother in www.abilitypath.org‘s  public service announcement “Disable Bullying.” Lauren is an incredible self-advocate who embodies the spirit of The Arc’s new tagline “Achieve with us.” Those of us who had the pleasure to meet her at The Arc’s 2010 convention can assure you that she is everything she seems to be – being a glamorous Hollywood actress doesn’t stop her from being a sweet, caring, genuine young lady. She has achieved much in her young life and is an inspiration to others to do the same.

The Arc Makes a Statement on Employment

Late last week, The Arc submitted a formal statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to be recorded as testimony in the record of the hearings held to draw attention to the critical issues of employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

We took this opportunity to go on record with The Arc’s position that people with I/DD have a fundamental moral, civil and Constitutional right to be fully included and actively participate in all aspects of society, including having the opportunity to be competitively employed. We pointed out the dismal statistics concerning the state of employment of working age adults with I/DD and urged specific reform in several key areas of public policy. We highlighted the work The Arc is doing to identify and promote best practices in helping people with I/DD become successfully employed through programs such as School-to-Community Transition funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation. And we advocated for forceful, coordinated efforts to build up opportunities for integrated community employment.

We were grateful for this opportunity to be heard by our Congressional leaders and we urge them to take our advice. But our voice becomes louder and stronger when joined by our supporters on the grassroots level, so we encourage you to read the full statement, find out more about the issues at hand and take every opportunity to let your elected officials and community leaders know you support full inclusion for people with I/DD, including but not limited to opportunities for competitive employment. Visit www.thearc.org for more information.

The Arc’s New Brand is Sweeping the Country

The Arc of New Jersey unveils a new lobby sign

The Arc of New Jersey unveils their new lobby sign featuring the new logo.

It’s an exciting time for The Arc’s national office as well as nearly 200 Chapters of The Arc nationwide that are rolling out our new brand identity in March. The Arc has already attracted considerable attention for the new brand through the efforts of our Chapters in their communities. The Arc of Baltimore, The Arc of Oakland County and The Arc of Anchorage are just a few Chapters who are sporting the new brand on their websites. And, those Chapters plus The Arc of Palm Beach County and The Arc of Atlantic County among others received favorable press upon announcing the new brand to the media. Many Chapters launched the brand in conjunction with the promotion of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month such as The Arc of York County and The Arc of the Mid South.

The Arc of New Jersey held an Open House attended by New Jersey State Senator Bob Smith and proudly showed off Sam Jenkins and the Adrian-Hage family who are the viral stars of The Arc’s new PSAs (check them out on our Website, www.thearc.org), and The Arc of the St. Johns kicked off a broad ad campaign in northeast Florida. Disability Scoop and Ability Magazine both covered the national announcement. And, our brand consultants, Corebrand, even attracted attention for us within the design industry with www.dexigner.com covering the work they did on our behalf.

The excitement is evident in the chatter here on the blog and our social media pages with supporters congratulating us on a bold step forward for the organization. This just goes to show what an organization can do when they rely on the strength of their collective voice. We’re proud to be able to unite hundreds of Chapters across the country and our army of supporters under the banner “Achieve with us!”

Want to get on the bandwagon? Donate, volunteer or join The Arc and help us make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Meet Sam Jenkins

Usually, you’ll find The Arc, the nation’s leading and largest organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities lending a helping hand. But in this case, it’s Sam Jenkins who lends a hand as a motivational speaker for The Arc’s New Jersey chapter leading people with disabilities like himself to become their own advocates. Watch Sam lead a group of eager self-advocates in discovering their inner strengths and speaking up for themselves.

Meet Adrian Forsythe

This is the story of Adrian Forsythe, an aspiring actor, college student and confident young man. Adrian also happens to have Down syndrome, but that won’t stop him from achieving his goals thanks to assistance from The Arc, the nation’s leading and largest organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Watch Adrian navigate campus, classes and relationships just like any typical college student.