Mayor Louise Carter-King declares March 2020 Developmental Disibilities Awareness Month at Gillette City Council Meeting Feb. 18. H/t City of Gillette, GPA TV.
In a faded Jackalope Jump T-shirt, Phil Grabrick stood before Mayor Louise Carter-King and the Gillette City Council members at Tuesday’s meeting to request that March 2020 be recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Gillette.
The local coordinator for the Special Olympics Wyoming Gillette Master’s program began by sharing troubling statistics about the developmentally disabled.
“One in six children ages three to 17 have at least one or more developmental disability,” he said, reading from a list in his hand. “One in four teens with a developmental disability will not graduate from high school.”
Disabilities come in many forms, he noted. According to the CDC, developmental disabilities are defined as impairments in physical, learning, language or behavior areas, and include autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning or intellectual disabilities, hearing loss, vision impairment, and other developmental delays.
Grabrick went on to say he appreciated what the city has accomplished thus far in helping to bolster awareness for such a vulnerable, yet capable group.
“Gillette has been a very caring community and helped to solve (the problems of) the population of the disabled very much,” he said, thanking them. “We humbly ask the city to proclaim March of 2020 as (Developmental) Disabilities Awareness Month to help raise the public awareness of the disabled community.”
Mayor Carter-King noted the importance of declaring the city’s support and went on to read from the proclamation.
“Whereas family members, friends, and members of the community can play a central role in enhancing the lives of people with disabilities, especially when the family and community are provided with necessary support services and employers are aware of the capabilities that people with disabilities to be engaged in competitive work in inclusive settings, and whereas the most effective way to increase disability awareness is through everyone’s active participation in community activities and the openness of all of us to learn and acknowledge each individuals’ contributions,” she read, “I hereby proclaim the month of March 2020 as (Developmental) Disabilities Awareness Month.”
Gillette is one of many cities throughout the country to adopt such a proclamation. Dating back to 1987, the month of March was first recognized nationally as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month by President Ronald Reagan. He issued a public proclamation that year urging the nation to provide individuals with developmental disabilities “the encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”
While significant and positive changes have been made in the decades since, Grabrick noted, many challenges remain for people with developmental disabilities including stereotypes, heightened risk for abuse or neglect, and disproportionately high unemployment rates.
Locally, advocates for individuals living with emotional, behavioral, and cognitive differences have been working alongside Grabrick to raise awareness for the developmentally disabled population in Campbell County since before 2011, when the Gillette Jackalope Jump event began.
Jump participants make a minimum $100 pledge to plunge into a pool of frigid water, many wearing costumes, to raise money for the Special Olympics Wyoming programs. Teams of two or more can pledge $50 or more per teammate with many individuals, businesses, and community groups taking part. Every year, about 20 to 30 jumpers take the frosty leap, typically bringing in around $4,000.
Grabrick encouraged the council to participate in this year’s event, which takes place Saturday, March 28, from noon to 2 p.m. in the west parking lot of the Recreation Center.
To volunteer at the Jackalope Jump, Special Olympics Area Games in Gillette on April 16 – 17, or the State Games April 30 – May 2, visit specialolympicswy.org or call (307) 235-3062.