From the Executive Director: Celebrating Community Inclusion!
I was privileged to speak at the Braintree SEPAC’s sixth annual Community Inclusion Awards about the importance of inclusion. The Braintree Community Inclusion Awards for 2014 were presented to Mary Ford-Clark, the program director of Super Saturdays, a recreation program for all students, Amy Valle dance instructor and owner of Amy’s Dynamic Dance, and Principal Stacey Soto of the Flaherty Elementary School representing the entire 5th grade. Each student was individually recognized and awarded an “inclusion medal” because of how they accept each other and make sure that everyone is a part of the class.
SEPAC co-chariperson and event organizer, Kristen Zechello said the purpose of these awards is to recognize members of the community who support community inclusion in their town and provide opportunities for all children to fully participate in town activities and develop meaningful relationships outside of their families. Mayor Joseph Sullivan, who hosted the ceremony, stated “Everyone is remarkable. Everyone has a gift. Everyone can contribute to our community and we see inclusion in Braintree every day. Inclusion is a priority of our town.”
Several years ago, the Braintree SEPAC attended the Federation’s APPLE Institute where their Team committed to re-energizing their SEPAC and began thinking about how to celebrate the inclusion of all children within their community. Their first event, held in 2009, was quite modest compared to now. As one of the leaders told me, “I remember we were looking around the school kitchen to find extra coffee creamers for our coffee.” This year’s event was sponsored by several community groups with donated catering, an honorary committee of state, town and school officials and an audience of several hundred that overfilled the room.
All of our APPLE participants are asked to imagine at least two years into the future and describe their vision when it is “wildly successful”. Frequently the participating Teams will describe a vision of the inclusion and acceptance of their children with disabilities that seems only an idealistic dream. One wonders if such a dream could ever come true. The Braintree SEPAC has demonstrated that the wildest dream can come true. Celebrate Inclusion wherever you are, and make a dream come true!