Annual Meeting

In October 2016, LIFE CIL celebrated our 31st Anniversary with a dinner, annual meeting and awards ceremony at Heartland Community College, Community Commons Building.  This year we decided to spotlight great things that area voluntary groups are doing for veterans and others with disabilities in our community.   Our guest speakers were members of HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes, Normal Community High School Tech Club, and Max’s Miles Foundation.

HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes was started to give back to our soldiers who have given so much.  We’re able to share our passion for hunting and fishing.  The outdoors are the perfect place to heal mentally and physically and enables our soldiers to experience the outdoors in ways they did not know was still possible.  This program enables soldiers to network with other soldiers and civilians, a unique opportunity. To learn more about HOOAH, please visit their Facebook page at HOOAH Deer Hunt For Heroes.

Normal Community High School’s Tech Club collaborates with Max’s Miles Foundation to help children with physical and mental disabilities gain mobility and explore their world with ease, using modified power-wheel ride-on vehicles.  The students engineer, design and customize specific modifications based on each child’s unique needs and goals.  This collaboration, and the hard work and ingenuity of the Tech Club members, benefits the children and their families while also giving the students an opportunity to learn more about individuals with disabilities and career opportunities in rehabilitation engineering.  To learn more about NCHS’ Tech Club, contact Don Whitman at email hidden; JavaScript is required.  For more information on Max’s Miles Foundation, please visit their website at Max’s Miles Foundation.

Awards Presented:

2016 Building Independence Awards

When we read about the motorized car project in The Pantagraph on January 30, we knew we wanted the groups involved to be recognized for the important work they are doing.

 The Normal Community High School Tech Club collaborates with Max’s Miles Foundation to help children with physical and mental disabilities gain mobility and explore their world with ease, using modified power-wheel ride-on vehicles.  The students engineer, design and customize specific modifications based on each child’s unique needs and goals.  They also designed shirts and created a website for Max’s Miles Foundation. This collaboration, and the hard work and ingenuity of the Tech Club members, benefits the children and their families while also giving the students an opportunity to learn more about individuals with disabilities and career opportunities in rehabilitation engineering.

Thank you and congratulations to the Normal Community High School Tech Club, 2016 Building Independence Award recipient. Don Whitman, technology and engineering teacher at Normal Community High School, and two of the Tech Club members, Luke Jackson and Kate Zaroogian, will accept the award.

Max’s Miles Foundation, founded by Corin and Todd Chapman, has collaborated with the NCHS Tech Club to provide mobility for children with disabilities. The group is accepting donations of battery-powered children’s ride-on cars, batteries, parts, wheels, and money in order to promote their mission: [Empowering children to explore their environment through adaptive mobility to have enhanced experiences and peer relations.]

2016 Do the Right Thing Award

 This year we could not narrow our choice to one “Do the Right Thing Award,” so there are actually three groups of individuals who will be receiving the 2016 Do the Right Thing Award.

HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes was started to give back to our soldiers who have given so much. They share their passion for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The outdoors are the perfect place to heal mentally, physically, and spiritually, and enables our soldiers to experience the outdoors in ways they did not know was still possible. This program enables soldiers to network with other soldiers and civilians, a network the soldiers can call on when needed.

HOOAH covers transportation, lodging, license, tags, food and equipment for all events. No hunting or fishing experience is necessary as soldiers are paired with a guide on every trip. They go hunting, fishing, camping, recreational boating, hiking and more. They also sponsor couples and family activities for wounded soldiers.

Bloomington Fire Station #4 and LeRoy Ambulance Services have been working together to not only provide transportation to and from things such as medical appointments for people who have no other way of getting from point A to point B, but they also band together to go above and beyond. A great example of this is when they took Norman Wilson to Chicago to fulfill his lifelong dream. They enabled a die-hard Cubs fan to attend a game during their run-up to the pennant! Many people were involved in planning this trip, but Chris Dunning, Michael Lehnen, and Kyle Moulten from LeRoy Ambulance Services and Stuart Blade, Wesley Dewitt, Greg Fisher, Mike Fry, and Josh Plese from Bloomington Fire Department made it happen!

2016 Advancing Community Access Award

Earlier this year, the Westminster Village Foundation had a “loop” assistive listening system installed in both the social center and the multi-purpose room at Westminster Village. For persons with hearing loss, the “loop system” can be activated by persons turning on the “T” or telephone setting on their hearing aid(s).  When this setting is activated, it is like the speaker’s voice is speaking clearly into the wearer’s ear.  Residents, their family and friends, and other members of the community with hearing loss can now feel fully included in Westminster Village’s activities, thanks to their loop system. This system has enabled more social interaction for persons using hearing aids and has advanced communications access at Westminster Village.

2016 Leader of Tomorrow Award

 This year we had two young people who really stood out as rising stars and will continue to fight for persons with disabilities, they both understand and embody the IL philosophy. They are being presented with the 2016 Leader of Tomorrow Award.

Allison “Ally” Davis is a junior at Olympia High School and a ball of energy! Ally participated in the Youth Community Advocacy Training (CAT) spring 2016 class and went to Springfield with the entire CAT class to see our State Legislators in action. Turns out she knows one of them quite well and earned our group an acknowledgement from the House floor! Some of Ally’s numerous involvements include the Penguin Project, S.O.A.R., and Special Olympics where she was nominated this summer for Female Athlete of the Year! In her spare time, she also blogs about disability related matters, helping to make others aware that people with disabilities are people first.

Rebecca “Becca” Major is a student at Illinois State University and a force to be reckoned with! Becca came to LIFE CIL to learn about self-advocacy skills and the disability rights laws in order to pursue an advocacy issue on campus. Becca learned how to file an appeal, wrote an exemplary advocacy letter to the appeals committee, and successfully overturned a decision that had barred her from being allowed to have a service animal in class and in campus housing. Becca educated herself on the proper steps of advocacy and implemented those steps not just for herself, but for everyone else that has a disability and needs their rights enforced in able to live independently.

2016 Advocate of the Year

The 2016 Advocate of the Year is Dolores “Dodie” Hirst. Dodie is a graduate of the Community Advocacy Training (CAT) spring 2016 class and led the class in many spirited discussions. Drawing on her experience in teaching, she not only helped to energize the class, she learned that she has her own voice to use in disability-related advocacy efforts, and use that voice she did! Dodie not only agreed to be interviewed by The Pantagraph for a story on the low vision services at LIFE CIL but also attended the press conference about the state budget impasse and was interviewed by all three TV crews in attendance! Dodie spoke out passionately about the need for human services and the effect of the budget impasse on those services. She also participated in the CAT class project of making a video called “pass the buck,” where the class creatively advocated for the need for a state budget. Dodie fearlessly stood up and advocated for people with disabilities and helped to educate our Legislators and the general public about the need for our services. As you can see, Dodie has the heart of an advocate.

2016 Star PA Award

 A Star PA is a Personal Assistant who does all the tasks required of them and maybe a bit more, with reliability, respect and a positive attitude. Our Star PA this year holds those qualities. Not only has she received excellent feedback from consumers she has and is working for, but she has been the first to respond each year when we seek PAs to assist at our Annual Meeting. Regina Johnson has assisted each year since she entered the program, with a smile on her face. Always busy and always helping others, it is time for us to recognize her as the star she is!

2016 Terry Willet Volunteer of the Year Award

Any time LIFE CIL’s staff needs some additional assistance or an extra set of hands, we just have to pick up the phone and call Wes Cowden. Wes has volunteered at LIFE CIL for the last few years. He is always eager to help and does a great job. He has helped prepare for special events, assisted in assembling packets for our equipment loan program, brailling our business cards, and much more. We appreciate the time and effort he puts in to each project he helps us with and we want him to recognized for volunteering for us when asked. Thank you for taking time out of your day to make our day easier!

2016 Distinguished Leadership Award

 LIFE Center for Independent Living would like to present the 2016 Distinguished Leadership Award to Kristine Smith. Kris is the current Director of the Department of Human Services – Division of Rehabilitation Services. She also briefly served as the Acting Director of the Department on Aging. Kris has been a devoted civil servant of the state of Illinois for the past 30 years. She has previously served as the Interim Director and the Associate Director of DRS, as well as DRS’ administrator of the Community Reintegration Program and of the Vocational Rehabilitation Support Unit.

Kris is a graduate of Illinois State University with a Bachelors in Special Education, specializing in Deafness/Hard of Hearing. She was selected by the Illinois Vocational Rehabilitation Administration as one of two individuals to participate in a two-year academy for Executive leadership. Kris was named 2015 Advocate of the Year by the State Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities (ICED). No matter which hat she was wearing, she has always shown a passion for advancing the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. Kris has always been a true friend to Centers for Independent Living and we cannot think of anyone who deserves this honor more! While we will all be sad to see you go at year’s end, we wish you the very best in your retirement.

To Our Awardees…

It is because of each of you, the work you do, and the voice you make heard that the fight continues for the rights of people with disabilities. We appreciate your time, your determination, and your dedication to advancing independence for persons with disabilities.

You have all set wonderful examples in our community and we hope others will follow. Thank you for what you have one to receive this honor. We look forward to what the next year brings!

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