Washington, DC – This week, The Arc of the United States welcomed Tyler Smothers, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Washington, DC to meet with Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-2) to share his story of achievement.
In August, The Arc announced that Tyler was the winner of the first ever “Achieve with us” social media contest. The contest invited individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to share their stories of achievement. Out of 119 contestants garnering more than 25,000 votes, Tyler was selected for his impressive achievements in his community, which had been devastated by floods in 2008.
Tyler was and remains very involved with his local chapter, The Arc of East Central Iowa. As downtown Cedar Rapids succumbed to flood waters, and the chapter’s office sustained major damage, Tyler saw the need to help his community get back on its feet. So he became the driving force behind The Arc of East Central Iowa’s annual bike riding fundraiser “Tour de Flood.” Putting aside his wheelchair and using an adaptive bike, Tyler leads the ride, and every year since, has raised an impressive amount of funds for his chapter.
As the winner of the contest, Tyler and his mother received a two day trip to Washington, DC. Tyler was in Washington, DC from November 1-3, meeting with The Arc’s National staff in addition to members of his Congressional delegation. Tyler was also joined by his father, J.J. Smothers, and his brother, Josh Smothers, who submitted Tyler’s entry on Facebook.
During his meetings, Tyler shared the challenges of living with a disability. He also told Congressman Loebsack how the services he and his friends receive allow them to remain active in the community and how that is important to him. Tyler’s mother Cindy spoke about how Medicaid is a lifeline for her family. Without Medicaid, Cindy would not be able to work and Tyler would not be able to be the active member of his community that he is.
Tyler’s meetings on Capitol Hill come at a critical juncture in budget negotiations, where programs that people with I/DD rely on could be on the table for cuts. The Arc is in the midst of an advocacy campaign, called “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline,” to protect Medicaid.
“Anyone that meets Tyler will learn that he is a young man who values his independence and loves his community. Medicaid cuts in Washington would cause great harm to Tyler, his family, and millions like him across the country because they would be left without the services and supports that allow them to live the kind of life we all want for people with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Tyler made an impression on each elected official.
“Tyler is an incredible young man – an Iowan who demonstrates why we must focus on an individual’s abilities, not their disabilities. After meeting with Tyler and his family, it is no surprise why he won The Arc’s ‘Achieve with Us’ award. His spirit and dedication to community are an inspiration to all of us,” said – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
“I appreciated getting to meet with Tyler,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said. “Tyler is literally leading the way for his neighbors as Cedar Rapids continues to recover from flooding. He’s an inspiration and deserving of this recognition. I encouraged him to keep up the good work, but it was clear to me he was already planning on that.”
“It was an honor to meet Tyler and his family while they were in Washington. His work to raise money for The Arc of East Central Iowa should serve as inspiration for us all,” said said Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-2). “I applaud The Arc for their work to provide assistance to people with disabilities and I will continue to work to ensure that families like the Smothers have access to the programs and services they need. It is vitally important that people with disabilities have every possible chance to participate in their communities and that their families have the support they need to care for their loved ones.”