MILWAUKEE – March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and throughout the month Bethesda, one of the nation’s leading providers of services supporting people with developmental disabilities, will make a compelling case for including people of all abilities. Bethesda, with headquarters in Watertown, is implementing a nationwide awareness campaign that includes a new symbol, high-profile events and opportunities for everyone to get involved.
“During March and all year, we honor the more than 6 million people in the U.S. who have a developmental disability,” said Mike Thirtle, president and CEO of Bethesda. “We also recognize that while progress has been made in recent years, there is so much left for all of us to do. We can make the world a better place by including people of all abilities. That’s why we’re committed to making the biggest impact we possibly can this month.”
Bethesda is a national nonprofit organization providing homes, employment services and faith supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and celebrated its 115th anniversary in 2019.
Bethesda’s campaign kickoff included a presence at the NASCAR Cup Series – Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif., March 1, in partnership with Motor Racing Outreach.
Bethesda will also promote the importance of including all abilities at several events across the country, including:
Winter Jam Christian music concerts in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Hoffman Estates, Ill., a Los Angeles Clippers game, Minneapolis concert featuring Michael Tait of the Grammy-winning Newsboys, plus singer-songwriters Adam Agee and Dave Stovall, and a hundreds of churches across the U.S.
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. The proclamation called upon all Americans to provide support and opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome, to reach their potential. The number of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities continues to grow. More than 50,000 young people with autism graduate from high school each year, according to the Institute for Corporate Productivity 2019 Study.
Throughout the year and across the nation, Bethesda leads the way in providing solutions for employment, housing, faith/community challenges. For example, in the employment arena, Bethesda offers job coaching services in multiple states as well as Bethesda College, a two-year education and training program at Concordia University Wisconsin. Bethesda provides numerous innovative housing arrangements, including Shared Living and Supported Living environments, and last summer broke ground on Bethesda Cornerstone Village in Victoria, Minn., a unique residential community that will integrate people with disabilities with active adults age 55 and older. Bethesda is also creating solutions using assistive technology to empower independence.
Bethesda also employs a network of staff and volunteers to help ensure people with disabilities can experience a welcoming faith community, and regularly advocates one-on-one with influential state legislators to increase reimbursement for provided supports.
Also new this year, Bethesda is introducing a symbol for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. It shows an engaging figure with a heart, waving a hand – to remind everyone about the need to include and that people with disabilities have many abilities they want to share.
“People with developmental disabilities are saying ‘don’t forget to include me,’” said Cindy Moon-Mogush, chief marketing and communications officer for Bethesda. “Like everyone, they are also putting their hearts into achieving their dreams. When we remember to include, we move forward together as a community. That is what this symbol represents. We hope it will be widely used in the disability field, instantly recognizable and an inspiring reminder of all the possibilities that exist for people with disabilities.”
Bethesda offers more than 300 programs across the country, provided 4 million hours of support across all programs in the most recent fiscal year, and is guided by Christian faith. For more information on Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, go to IncludeAllAbilities.com.