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Advancing rights and enhancing lives of people with disabilities







The Dragon Gargoyle Award (The David Iris Award)

This award recognizes contributions in child advocacy.

2004: Aaron Lew and Father Joe Mulcrone

2003: June Prusak, a young woman who is deaf, has deeply impacted the deaf community here in Chicago by her selfless dedication to deaf and hard of hearing young people. Many deaf adolescents believe that when they grow up they will either become hearing or dead -- because they are not exposed to successful deaf adults. June's greatest gift is serving as a positive role model -- she is an intelligent, funny, fun-loving person with a high degree of energy that she uses to serve her community. June has developed innovative programs to help these young people realize that they can be successful, motivated, well-adjusted young adults who are also deaf. The recreational activities she organizes attract young people because the activities provide new experiences and the opportunity to socialize with other deaf and hard of hearing kids. June also works with other organizations that work with deaf youth in the area by helping to coordinate activities, schedules and volunteers. Recognizing a need. June also works with their parents, who seldom are able to sign proficiently enough to communicate with their children. The meetings help parents better understand the issues confronting their children. She was nominated by Father Joe Mulcrone, Director of the Catholic Office of the Deaf.

2002: Terrie Rymer, of JCB's' Advocacy Bureau, for her excellence in Child Advocacy. Nominated by Sean V Jeffries, a father seeking help with special education issues, Terrie A Rymer, an attorney with Advocacy Services of the Jewish Children's Bureau, is highly regarded as well by her fellow advocates and attorneys. "Terrie Rymer was the only one willing to help my son; she forced them to provide his IEP with full services. Terrie Rymer gave back to my son something that the Chicago school system tried to steal -- his hope!"

2001: Robert F Kelly, of Aspire, for his many years and achievements as a parent advocate, and Rosa Marie Lopez, of the Chicago Public Schools.

2000: Anita Johnson-Jackson.

1998: Marie Medina, for her work with children with disabilities in Little Village and with the National Center for Latinos with Disabilities (formerly Fiesta Educativa).

1997: Laura Teran and National Lekotek Center. Laura Teran recieves this award for developing a support group at Christ Hospital for parents of children with brain injuries. Since being plunged into the world of parents of children with disabilities seven and a half years ago, Teran has learned and shared a great deal. The support group she initiated has been ongoing and has even been recognized as worthy of support by the medical personnel at the hospital, a rare acknowledgment by professionals, according to her nominator. Teran has mastered the art of advocating sweetly, which has opened doors for her son which have stayed open for others in the Chicago Public Schools. She used her bilingual/bicultural skills to help other families obtain information and services that are hard for speakers of Spanish to locate. In a quiet, pleasant, and self-confident way, she has learned and shared and helped parents and children who are brain injured. Her nominator, a pediatric physiatrist, says, "She deserves recognition." Laura Teran was nominated by Miriam Kalichman, a pediatric physiatrist and perennial supporter of the Awards. National Lekotek Center, brought to the United States from Sweden in 1980, the Lekotek model receives this award for promoting accessible play for children with special needs. The first Lekotek Center opened in Evanston and today there are Lekoteks in more than sixty locations around the country. Lekotek (which means play library, in Swedish) services are available to all children with special needs from birth through eight years of age. According to the nominator, Lekotek advocates for the right of a child to be a child first and to pursue this critical developmental necessity; it promotes the integration of the child into family life through a positive and supportive environment which always identifies strengths over deficits. "I believe Lekotek represents one of the most crucial models for fostering appropriate development: the need of the child to play. Even children with disabilities have this critical need, but too often it is overlooked — or parents simply don't know how to facilitate play for their disabled child." Iris says, "I strongly believe that the Lekotek program represents one of the best models of advocacy for young children and their families: it supports critical developmental needs of both parents and children, and takes a positive approach to the integration of the child into the family, the community, and the larger society. In this respect, Lekotek gives the child a special gift: the opportunity to learn in a developmentally appropriate way and to develop high self-esteem and self-awareness. " Lekotek believes that fun and educational play experiences should be a routine part of every childhood which is why their programs are dedicated to making play accessible to children with all types of disabilities and to children living in poverty — and why they lead efforts to include these children in the full range of family and community life. Lekotek Center was nominated by Madelyn (Micki) Iris, mother of David Iris and a member of our Board.

1996: David Iris: This award was established this year to honor the memory of David Joel Iris. Although David lived only fourteen years, we believe his life exemplifies the values and mission of the Council for Disability Rights. David lived his life with great gusto: he loved to be out in the world, exploring, socializing and playing. It was this desire to be a part of the mainstream of society that brought David and his parents to CDR many years ago, seeking assistance in securing accessible seating at the circus. Although David often encountered many obstacles, he always pushed on and usually was successful. While David benefited from technological aids that increased his communication as well as his mobility, we believe he benefited most from the efforts of advocates who worked to ensure the rights of all children with disabilities and special needs. We hope this award will provide recognition for those efforts, and encourage others to join us in ensuring that children, as well as adults, gain the right to live their lives to the fullest.

Council for Disability Rights

Knowing your rights is the easy part. Exercising them can be a bit trickier.

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