Reflections on The THRIVE Network's People Who THRIVE Cocktail Fundraiser
By Kieran O'Brien Kern
Diversability was honored to attend The THRIVE Network's People Who THRIVE Cocktail Fundraiser last month in celebration of their 20 years of service, which recognized some of New York’s exemplary leaders and humanitarians for their outstanding work with various charities within the community:
- Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat Center & Brand Ambassador, NASSAN'S PLACE
- Mindy Scheier, Founder, Runway of Dreams
- Glenn E. Martin, Founder & President, JustLeadershipUSA
- Howard Cross, New York Giants Super Bowl Champion
- Tony Richardson, 3X Pro Bowler & 2X Second-Team All-Pro
Thank you Kieran for your reflections on the event below.
Independence and inclusion are prime directives within the disability community; rarely are these subjects discussed in able-bodied communities as they are often overlooked and/or underserved. For able-bodied people to fully understand the hard work, persistence and guts required for us to live independently, they need to know that having a disability is one of the richest classrooms a human can experience. And at the end of the day, people with disabilities are first and foremost, PEOPLE! Like all individuals, people with disabilities have interests and needs seeking to live ordinary lives.
Inclusion is at the heart of the programs, services and support available through The THRIVE Network, where they create opportunities and empower the abilities of individuals who may feel marginalized, disadvantaged and/ or disenfranchised by society. The organization’s focus: to help their consumers become a vital contributor to the community at large. On Tuesday October 18th, The People Who THRIVE Cocktail Fundraiser honored change makers who support, empower and uplift those in need.
The party started like most do with clinked glasses and decadent passed hors d'oeuvres at the Ainsworth. Cameras flashed and videos were taken as stars from fashion to football mingled together. Everyone who spoke had a story of how disability or exclusion had touched their lives. Emcee and WPIX sports anchor and reporter, Dyrol Joyner, shared how his cousin had a developmental disability and how his family worked together to help him have a life of his own. Charles A. Archer, CEO & Founder, The THRIVE Network, spoke of his commitment to inclusion. "I have spent my entire life in civic service, attempting to find a place where all individuals feel a part of society and as included members of our community. We all desire to live with dignity, respect and independence, including those with disabilities,” he explained.
Honoree Mindy Scheier’s commitment to adaptive clothing was inspired by her son’s desire to wear jeans to school like the other kids. As a child with Muscular Dystrophy and the inability to dress himself, he wore sweatpants to accommodate his care. With a background in design, Scheier took a year to research the best way to adapt mainstream clothes to fit the needs of her son and every kid encountering the same difficulties. Three years later, her organization Runway of Dreams, partnered with Tommy Hilfiger on a children’s line with an adult line coming out in the spring. JustLeadershipUSA, Founder and President Glenn E. Martin’s experience with exclusion came when he was incarcerated for six years. Instead of falling through the cracks of a system in desperate need of repair, he found himself and the fortitude to make the world a better place. Martin’s aim was to elevate the voice of Americans impacted by crime and incarceration and position them as reformed partners.
From football heroes to the families of NBA stars, everyone has been touched by the injustices of exclusion. Despite of this, they continued on and fought for the people they love. Two individuals I met at the evening’s events stood out to me in particular as people who see the power and effect that inclusion can positively impact their community. Working with JustLeadershipUSA, Lamont had come to the event to support Glenn E. Martin. As a Program Coordinator, he saw how working and volunteering in the community helped people who are in the justice system have a voice. We bonded over these shared experiences from the community when they encounter someone who is either incarcerated or disabled participating in community life. “I didn’t know they could do that!” Inclusion means that the notion of ‘they’ will cede to the notion of ‘we’.
I don’t even know the name of the woman who impressed me at the Ainsworth. In line for the accessible restroom, I met a woman who worked for THRIVE. She was waiting for her client who was indisposed. We talked about the power of inclusion, and building and maintaining relationships. “Working with them isn’t just a job; they aren’t just clients, they’re my friends and family.” When she helped her client out of the bathroom, you could see in their body language and the looks on their faces, they weren’t just a helper but were a team.
Those two ladies represented what the whole evening was about--- supporting and respecting each other, while shining a spotlight to those who make a difference in their communities. The funds raised went to support the THRIVE Network’s Sunday Respite Program, which creates memorable and life-changing opportunities for consumers with developmental disabilities, while giving their primary caretakers some much needed relief.