A Visit to Washington: From Nathan’s View

By Nathan Bauer, Self-Advocate for The Arc and Hammer

Thank you for inviting me to share a blog about my trip to Washington DC for Hammer to meet with my friend the great Senator, Al Franken. He is my friend. When I was at The Arc Minnesota town hall at Hammer to testify with Al Franken we had a chance to get to know each other. He talked with me again at Special Olympics and it was just the two of us. We laughed and told jokes. After that Al Franken came to my house for a visit. I showed him around. He asked me to come to Washington to help him advocate for disability rights.

Rena came to my house that day for a Hammer story and she interviewed us for the news on KARE 11. [A quote from Nathan in the interview about the possible budget cuts: "And we going to talk to national leaders at The Capitol and we going to talk about the budget, the money and we don't need no more cuts."]

My Mom, Dad, Tim and Lynne from Hammer, and Adrian our cameraman – we all flew to Washington to see Senator Franken and film. That is when I got to visit The Arc’s national office. Thank you to The Arc for showing us how to get to the press conference for the ABLE act and being so nice to my friends and me. Thank you – Peter, Kristen, Sarah, Marty, Maureen, Pat and William.

Hammer Travel and Becky Meet The Big Apple

The Arc and Hammer Travel have had a long standing friendship and partnership working for a common cause. For the last few years Hammer Travel has even been the exclusive travel sponsor for The Arc’s national convention.

Through this partnership, The Arc and Hammer have helped a number of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities travel and pursue dreams that otherwise would have seemed unattainable. A particularly moving story is Becky Wilkinson’s journey to New York.

Group shot at Central Park with Becky and Hammer Travel

Group shot at Central Park with Becky and Hammer Travel.

Becky, 27, always dreamed of traveling to New York City. Unfortunately, living with Cerebral Palsy and Arthrogryposis makes traveling a challenge both physically and financially for Becky and her family. Luckily, Susan Wilkinson, Becky’s mom, was forwarded an email from The Arc of The United States highlighting Troy, an individual with an electric wheelchair, who had recently gone on a trip with Hammer Travel.

After contacting Hammer Travel to learn more about ways to make travel accessible for individuals like her Becky, Susan had new hope. She soon started a fundraiser to get the $2,220 needed for the trip. Susan even emailed an array of celebrities in hopes of finding someone interested in helping Becky.  Finally, her work paid off when Rory Albanese, a comedian and executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, offered to donate the outstanding balance needed for the trip. In an even more generous gesture, Rory asked for Becky’s itinerary and offered a personal tour of The Daily show studio.

Jon Stewart with Hammer Traveler’s Becky and Michael

Jon Stewart with Hammer Traveler’s Becky and Michael.

This past October, Becky’s dream came true as she joined five other individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities on a trip to New York City with Hammer Travel. While in New York, Becky and the group viewed a taping of the Today Show, met the hosts, visited the Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock and Rockefeller Center, Central Park and the Guggenheim Museum. One of the most exciting parts of the trip was a VIP taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where Becky was able to meet Rory Albanese and thank him for funding her trip to New York. The entire group was able to meet John Stewart after the taping as well.

Becky and Rory

Becky and Rory on the Daily Show set.

More photos available in a Facebook album.

Video available above with an extended version on Hammer Travel’s YouTube channel.

Becky’s story is a reminder that dreams can come true. We thank Hammer Travel for their work to make this dream a reality and welcome your stories as well!