Celebrating Individual Rights at The Arc Rockland

coat driveThere was an indoor parade at The Arc Rockland headquarters recently. Its purpose was to celebrate receiving the Self Advocacy NY (SANYS) award, given to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have learned to stand up for themselves and others.

It was fitting that the parade was organized and executed by the Self-Advocates. As they marched, they distributed inspirational messages to their peers, encouraging others to join them in learning Self-Advocacy skills, making more choices and decisions about what they want and need and becoming contributing members of the community-at-large.

“Winning that award was very exciting for the Self-Advocates and for the agency as a whole,” said Bonnie Patrikis, Director of Guardianship and Self-Advocacy at The Arc Rockland. “It gave us a big boost.”

Some of those in the parade remember the days when individuals with disabilities were institutionalized and had virtually no say in the way they lived and were treated. Now they meet with local, regional and statewide Self-Advocacy groups to insure that never happens again. With some help, they are learning to manage their own finances and medical care, find satisfying employment, attend classes and engage with the community. They live with friends or family in houses or apartments of their own choosing throughout the County.

As much as it concerns oneself, advocacy also “means helping other people,” says Courtney Raible, 33. In November, Ms. Raible and other members of The Arc’s Self-Advocacy group organized a coat drive, collecting, sorting and bagging well over 100 coats to donate to TOUCH, an organization providing compassionate services to people with chronic illnesses.

In August of 2018, Ms. Raible was among those to present a check for more than $200 plus special treats to the Hi-Tor Animal Shelter in Pomona, the result of fundraising efforts on the part of the Self-Advocates. This year, the advocates participated in a Ronald McDonald House fundraising project by collecting pull-tabs from aluminum cans. Funds raised through some projects are used to provide scholarships for attendees at the annual Self-Advocacy NY convention in Albany each year.

“All of these projects come from ideas generated by the Self-Advocates themselves, who also organize and carry out the projects,” explains Ms. Patrikas.

Once a month, Self-Advocates from The Arc Rockland meet with representatives of other area Self-Advocacy groups at the Palisades Center. Others attend similar meetings in Westchester. At one of those meetings, participants learned to use a voting booth. They also discussed the possibility of attending meetings of the State Legislature in order to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.

Ms. Raible is proof positive that Self-Advocacy makes a difference. She lives in one of The Arc homes with friends of her choice where she requested and received a single room. She is happily employed at Wendy’s, having voiced her desire to work in a satisfying job.

During the holidays, a tree at The Arc headquarters was decorated with Self-Advocates messages of inspiration. “Believe in Yourself,” read one statement. “Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up for Yourself,” said another. “Follow Your Dreams!”

Pictured: Courtney Raible


Thank You to The Arc Rockland’s 2020 Corporate Sponsors: