At Wednesday’s 27th annual Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities Awards ceremony, an enthusiastic crowd helped to recognize the achievements of eleven individuals, employers, advocates and organizations for their outstanding achievements and contributions.
The Commission on Disabilities provides support and advocacy for County residents with disabilities and works to ensure that County programs, buildings and services are open equally to all persons, regardless of their disabilities. In addition, the Commission provides resources and referrals on obtaining services not only from the County but through programs offered by the state and federal government.
“Healthy communities thrive because they have people who care, who get involved and who look out for the needs of their neighbors,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “We are pleased to recognize the efforts of some remarkable people living with disabilities in our communities and the people who help them in their journey.”
This year’s honorees include:
- Jessica Solomon of Goucher College, winner of the Education Advocate of the Year Award;
- Kayla Burroughs of Rosedale, winner of the Student of the Year Award;
- Patricia Lane-Forster of Essex, winner of the Teacher of the Year Award;
- Amy Smolenski on behalf of PDP Group of Hunt Valley, winner of the Employer of the Year Award;
- Crystal Brockington of Towson, winner of the Employee of the Year Award;
- Biliana Borimetchkova of Timonium, winner of the Art Accessibility Award;
- Mat Rice of Towson, winner of the Statewide Advocate for Change Award;
- Jennifer Hobbs, Pathfinders for Autism, winner of the Media-Public Awareness Award;
- George Bollock of Fallston, winner of the Volunteer Award;
- Richard Gnibus of Middle River, winner of the Disability Advocate Award;
- Wanda Brown of Dulaney High School, winner of the Chairperson’s Special Award.
A few interesting stories…
Patricia Lane-Forster is an art teacher at Ridge Ruxton High School who serves students who are severely disabled, both intellectually and physically. She finds ways to adapt art projects so that students can complete the work independently, regardless of their ability. For example, she has developed methods through which nonverbal students can communicate color, texture and style preferences. For students with limited mobility, she incorporates robotics into the art class so that every student can make a mark on paper or canvas with the touch of a button.
Mat Rice, an individual with disabilities, has been at the forefront of self-advocacy in the legislature and in teaching other individuals with disabilities about how to advocate for themselves. Rice graduated from the Maryland School for the Blind and Parkville High School and went on to work as the Public Policy Specialist for People on the Go of Maryland. He has been instrumental in advising legislators on issues that affect the quality of life for people with disabilities in Maryland.
George Bollock has been a volunteer with the Oriole Advocates since 1991. He became a chairperson and “cheerleader” for a program known as the Challenger Baseball League, in 2010. The Challenger Baseball Program offers a variety of adapted baseball opportunities for athletes with disabilities. Bullock has provided more than 800 tickets each year for the athletes and their families to enjoy a game at Camden Yards during “Challenger Night.”
Wanda Brown, who teaches an engineering class at Dulaney High School, has led her engineering students through a standard engineering design process to create what is known as “chariot” for a young boy named Chandler who has Cerebral Palsy. The “chariot” is essentially a wheelchair bicycle hybrid that helps him exercise his limbs while being pushed outside in the neighborhood by his parents. This is just the most recent of eight projects for children with disabilities that Dulaney High’s engineering class has completed under Brown’s leadership.