The 2018 capABLE Project
This spring, The Next Move Program teamed up with 6 professional photographers and 13 individuals with diverse needs for a social media campaign to prove that we are all capABLE. The models that were selected have remarkable and varied stories. They are business owners, advocates, athletes, authors, volunteers, and artists. What they all have in common is their engagement in area programs. Each portrait was captured at a different location in our city, tied to each model’s story.
These portraits have been shared throughout the spring on social media and will be on display at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture starting June 16, 2018.
Join us June 14th at the Museum for a celebration and preview of the exhibit. The event is from 5:30-7:30 pm and hosted by CBS 6's Nikki-Dee Ray. All proceeds will go to our scholarship fund.
Many thanks to our models and photographers. Our photographers included Scott Elmquist, James Loving, Luke Witt, Jim Hale, George Baskerville, and Kourtney Smithson.
Madison is actively involved throughout the Richmond Community. She volunteers regularly with Discovery Church at the Daycare, assisting with the children. She is also a LiveArt participant and a 2017 Next Move Graduate from our University of Richmond site.
Madison is currently employed. “I work here at Crunch Fitness. And I walk dogs in my neighborhood.” Her favorite part of working is helping others: “They always tell me that I do a good job and that makes me feel so good.”
Many personal qualities make Madison feel capable. “I am capable because I am responsible, helpful, trustworthy, and dependable.” She enjoys injecting positivity into every situation. “I am a joyful person and I make people around me feel happy.”
Madison’s best day would be one spent at the beach with her family.
Her favorite part of living in RVA is spending time outside with her dog. She also enjoys the shopping, entertainment, and restaurant scene.
For the future, Madison would like to volunteer more with children in the community and maybe have that be part of a future career.
Don’t let Mandy’s laid-back personality and constant smile fool you, she is a fierce competitor. Mandy joined Sportable in 2017 following a spinal cord injury. “Last year was my first year as a Sportable Athlete. Before my car accident which caused my spinal cord injury, I was heavily involved in sports and participated in soccer, swimming, dance, and cheerleading. After joining Sportable, it felt great to call myself an athlete again and be competitive once more.”
In her first year, she was named the 2017 Rookie of the Year by the organization and participated in rowing, hand cycling, and archery. “It was through Sportable that I competed in my first Sprints Regatta, rode in my first 5k bike race, and brought home the Silver Medal in the 1000m Women’s Para Rowing event at the World Rowing Para Indoor Championships in Alexandria, Virginia.”
Outside of competition, Mandy is actively involved with the United Spinal Association of Virginia. “I mentor women with recent spinal cord injuries at VCU and local rehabs. Females account for only about 20% of those with SCIs. When I’m notified of a young woman who is recently injured, I visit them to share the advice that I wish someone had given me soon after my accident. We continue to follow up with each other for a few months and I try to encourage them and help them with their goals.”
Mandy also has degrees in Biology and Chemistry from VCU; she is actively on the job hunt and would not rule out returning to school for an MBA.
Many personal attributes make Mandy feel capable. “I am great at adapting and overcoming. I believe where there’s a will, there’s a way and with the power of persistence, practice, and by the grace of God, anything is possible.”
The perfect day for Mandy would include a long walk with her pug and time with loved ones. She credits her family’s support for her many achievements.
Mandy is optimistic about the future. She hopes to “Travel more. Obtain another degree. Have a fulfilling career that I enjoy. Be a role model for people in similar situations, encourage them, and give them the advice I wish someone would have given me.”
On Saturday mornings, you will find Edward at the South of the James Farmer’s Market; he will greet you with a smile while directing you to parking or answering your questions at GrowRVA’s informational booth. Edward began as a volunteer last summer with the organization and now is out every weekend, supporting both vendors and customers at the market. He loves belonging to the SOTJ market community and greets all of the regulars by name.
Edward is also a 2017 graduate of The Next Move Program, completing training at Wells Fargo Advisors. And he is a SPARC LiveArt participant, contributing his drumming and percussion talent to the annual show.
There are many personal attributes that make Edward feel capable. “I am good with people. I adapt really well. I am willing to do many things, give them a try. Also, I am good with building things.”
His best day would include friends and travel. “A day of hanging out with my friends and traveling to new places. I am hoping to go to Japan for 2020 to see some of the Olympics and the new Universal park.”
Edward’s favorite meal is “meatloaf with Italian Soda.”
Edward lives independently and appreciates how walkable sections of Richmond are. His current goal is to get his driver’s permit. “Right now, it is learning to drive. I am keeping it simple. I think if I can accomplish that, then there will be many more things that I can do.”
Photo credit: K. Smithson Photography
Widely known as “The Mayor of Chesterfield County,” Paul welcomed our team for his photo shoot and interview into his home, one that he shares with his longtime girlfriend. Very quickly, the interview wove into a tour of their home and stories that highlight his involvement throughout Chesterfield.
“I am involved with Special Olympics Virginia, the Knights of Columbus Council 6189, People’s First, which is this self-advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities speaking for our rights, St. Edward’s Church, and I also work at Kroger. I have been there for 17 years as a bagger and courtesy clerk.” At Kroger, he also serves in a leadership capacity. “I am also one of the head trainers, training those with intellectual disabilities and those without.”
His favorite mementos include pictures of him and his girlfriend, whom he met through Special Olympics, and copies of “By Their Works, 60 Great Men of Faith,” a text created by KOVAR, in which he is featured.
Paul feels most capable when sharing his story: “I would say public speaking with Special Olympics. I have been to Dublin, Ireland and spoken in front of 75,000 people.”
For a perfect day, Paul would “...spend time with all my friends at Special Olympics and Knights of Columbus.”
And for his favorite meal is “anything that my girlfriend cooks.”
For the future, Paul hopes to continue to live independently, be involved in the community, and love life.
Ajay is one of the most talented and humble individuals that you will ever meet. He is a gifted pianist and a composer. “I am a part time employee at my former High School, Northstar Academy. I play the piano and keyboard for the chorus there. I am also a student at the Berklee College of Music through their online program.”
He hopes to continue his study of music and create a career based on his passion. “I am an aspiring music composer. I hope to compose music for various documentaries.” He enjoys all genres of music. “As a kid, I was exposed to so many different types of music. My top six are jazz, classical, blues, any music film score, alternative rock and pop, and also electronic music.”
Ajay is a 2017 graduate of the Next Move Program from our Wells Fargo Site. He is also very involved in SPARC’s annual LiveArt performance.
There are many personal attributes that make Ajay feel capable. “I take my work very seriously and I am very passionate about it. If there is one thing that I have, it is tenacity. I got that from my dad. He was a very hard worker and he taught me how to work hard, and how to chase after my dreams.”
When not performing, Ajay enjoys traveling with his family and chowing down on sushi.
He has many goals for the future. “I already have my driver’s permit, but I want my license so I can be more independent. I also want to join another organization that deals with music. I also want to live a very healthy, active, and stress-free lifestyle.”
Ajay, we are proud to call you our friend and cannot wait to see all the increible things that you will accomplish.
James is known for his smile and sense of humor. He is also involved in many area organizations. “I am involved in the Down Syndrome Association and at St. Gabriel’s Church. I volunteer at the church with CARITAS to help serve meals...and I also work with First Flight. We do construction.”
The setting of our photo shoot was at Luminary Hair, a business that has purchased items which James helped construct with First Flight.
He currently attends Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield. “I go to Clover Hill High School. It is a great place. I go to the Transition Academy. We work on job skills there.”
James feels capable in many ways. “I am a good friend. I can make you laugh. I work hard. I am a great party host.”
When asked what his favorite quality is about himself, he said “my beard” with a laugh.
His perfect day would be “going to a bar with my sister for a beer once I am 21. And eating Hawaiian pizza.” James is also a fan of American Idol and has met Ryan Seacrest. James shared that he was “friendly, but short.” He often hosts American Idol watching parties for this friends, enjoying the role of host.
As for the future, James’ wish is “...to keep working after high school.”
Adeline is an incredibly engaged woman, contributing her time and talents to so many area organizations. “I am connected to River City Stars Cheerleading, LIveArt, UR Best Buddies, Capernaum, Special Olympics, Northstar Academy, Meals on Wheels, and do volunteering at Hope Church. “
After a school based internship at Performance Food Group, Adeline was invited to return to the organization for additional training. She excelled. Adeline was offered employment with the organization this spring. “I am employed at PFG. I was just hired after an internship...I love all of it, I really like the front desk.”
For her perfect day, Adeline would take a trip to the beach. “My favorite day would be at the beach. I would walk and look for shells.” She also would spend it listening to Justin Bieber.
Her favorite place to visit in Richmond is the University of Richmond’s Campus. “I like living near the University of Richmond. I hang out with my best buddy, Emma, and we take walks around campus. We also eat there.”
Adeline pulls confidence from her engagement. “I am capable because I have a job and I volunteer.” There are many personal characteristics that she is most proud of. “I am smart, bright, kind. I am a good friend.”
Adeline, you are all of these qualities and many more. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Tiko is a man of few words, but his unique voice is perfectly captured in his art. Through graphic design, Tiko shares about loss, love, and celebrates nature.
Tiko is a graduate of the Next Move Program, participating at our Wells Fargo site in 2017. He is also a graduate of James River High School, where he learned the ins and outs of Photoshop. Further, Tiko is very active as a regular volunteer at St. Matthew’s Church.
He hopes to continue his training in graphic design and one day make it a career. When asked what makes him feel most Capable, Tiko said “I do graphic design best. I can also sing well.”
He enjoys researching natural attractions and animals, and incorporating them into his art. He is currently inspired by images of Niagara Falls and would like to plan a trip soon. “I would go to Niagara Falls. I would go because it would give me some inspiration for my design work...I am always looking to push myself and my work further. My favorite animal is an Argentavis. They are extinct, but lived back in the Ice Ages. I plan to incorporate them in my art too.”
Tiko has simple tastes when it comes to meals. “I would say that my favorite thing to eat would probably be Slim Jims. And to drink, I just like water or lemonade.”
Tiko has many goals for the future: “To be a graphic designer, to be the best version of myself, to help my mom buy a house.”
We are including some of Tiko’s art with this story because it is the only way to capture his talents. Enjoy. It has been featured on CBS 6 by our friend, Nikki-Dee Ray.
Photo credit: Jim Hale
Emily uses her voice and experience to advocate for others with disabilities. She is employed by I’m Determined as a Youth Leader. Run by the Virginia Department of Education, I’m Determined provides instruction and opportunities for youth with disabilities to develop self-reflection skills, to set goals, and to find their voice in sharing their needs.
Emily also works as a Special Education Teaching Assistant. “I am a Teacher’s Assistant with Fluvanna County Schools. Right now, I am working with students who are struggling to learn how to read and to do common academic skills. It’s really cool to be able to do some of the things that I struggled with in school and to be able to teach that now.”
She draws upon her own experience in school to support and inspire her students. “I think what makes me capable is that I can set a goal and no matter what, I am going to get there, even if it takes re-evaluating that goal or making a smaller goal first. I am pretty determined to get through the things that I want to get through.”
As for her favorite personal attribute, she appreciates her ability to connect with others. “I am a person that is willing to sit down and get to know somebody, and will not judge based on their outward appearance or their story.”
Advocacy is her greatest passion. “My biggest passion is that not everybody has a voice – I have a voice and I am able to speak up for my rights and other people’s rights. That is where I am needed in life...because we are people just like everyone else.”
She enjoys living in RVA, as she’s found that this community is pushing for progress: “That there are lots of opportunities for me as an advocate, that things are constantly changing, and that someone needs to be speaking up constantly.”
As for her favorite meal, Emily loves “...Macaroni and Cheese and I am a big coffee drinker.” (Though, not together).
In the future, Emily hopes to live independently. Of course, through I’m Determined, she’s set goals to make that dream happen. “Currently, I am living with my parents. My goal in the next year, though I am hoping it will happen this summer, is for me to move out.”
Emily, thank you for using your voice and encouraging others to do the same. We look forward to having you speak at the Capable Celebration as our Keynote Speaker.
Sarah was crowned in 2017 as the very first Miss. Hanover Abilities. The title is presented annually by Hanover County Support Services. The mission of Hanover Community Support Services is to help meet the needs of Hanover County citizens by providing financial resources to support independent/community living and respite care for individuals with developmental disabilities, emotional and mental health challenges, and challenges with substance use disorder.
Sarah’s title has given her many opportunities to connect with her community. “I was also the very first Miss. Hanover Abilities in 2017. I did three parades. I met many people. I spoke to businesses and I asked them if they could hire more people with disabilities. We can do things just like other people. We are not 100% what you would expect, but we can do it. We are very capable.”
She is also involved in Special Olympics and Friends for Life. Sarah is employed at T.J. Max and she enjoys working in retail.
Sarah lives in a group home managed by Good Neighbor Community Services. She loves her independence. “I am very grateful that I am able to take care of my own needs. I have good independent living skills.” She has decorated her bedroom in a “soft color purple.”
There are many personal attributes that make Sarah feel capable. “I am a good reader. I have a passion for memorizing random and unusual fun facts...for example, learning about actors and actresses with disabilities.” She is also an expert on presidential facts and can share countless facts about area roller coasters, loving the variety at Kings Dominion.
For future plans, she has a list of historical places to visit on her bucket list.
Sarah, it was a pleasure to meet you. We love that you are using your platform to advocate for others with disabilities. Keep it up!
Haley has never met a stranger. She lends her endless energy to many area organizations.
Haley is a graduate of The Next Move Program, completing her internship experience at The University of Richmond. She is still very involved with our Tablespoons Baking program, where she trains weekly in a professional kitchen under a chef, serves at our corporate catering gigs, and sells cookies to the community at the South of the James Farmers Market. “I like doing Tablespoons. We learn to bake and be safe in a kitchen. I am learning to be more independent. We sell to customers. It makes me proud that they like our cookies. I am working on counting change for them too.”
Haley recently completed a training program at Positive Vibe Cafe this past spring and will participate in Project Search next school year. She is currently a senior at James River High School.
There are many personal qualities that make Haley feel capable. “I am good at learning. I am a good friend. I am generous. I help people feel better if they are sad. I am social and I am happy.”
Her perfect day would include a park visit. “I would go to Pocahontas State Park and walk around with some friends – probably have a picnic.”
Haley has many goals for the future. “I want to live independently and get married one day. I want to have my own dog, a pit bull named Bacon. I also want to get my learner’s permit. Nothing can stop me."
And, she is looking forward to celebrating her 21st birthday later this year. She even offered to by our team a round. We may take her up on it.
Photo Credit: Luke Witt
Efren, an Electrical and Mechanical Engineer, is a crucial member of the Maintenance Team at The Greater Richmond ARC’s Camp Baker in Chesterfield. Camp Baker is a year-round, fully accessible facility, serving people of all ages with disabilities. Efren’s responsibilities include electrical, plumbing, drywall, carpentry, and HVAC repairs, along with safety inspections and grounds work. “He has a vast amount of knowledge in most things related to building maintenance,” said his supervisor Bob Lehmann. “He is a hard worker and never complains, and he is a great asset to the Maintenance Department and Camp Baker. We are very lucky to have him working with us today.”
Efren immigrated from the Philippines in the late 90’s for more employment opportunities, after being urged by family members for many years to come to the States. He has been a member of The ARC’s team for the last five years, having also worked at their Defense Supply Center in Richmond, along with completing grounds keeping and other duties at the organization’s headquarters on Saunders Avenue.
Efren became part of the disability community later in life, after losing his hand to an unidentified virus. He spent a year in the hospital and underwent numerous surgeries, before an amputation. “Because of my experience here since I lost my hand, there were so many companies that I applied for, but when they saw me...they thought that I could not work.’ The adjustment was challenging at first. “I was depressed. I wish I had lost my feet and not my hand because this is my livelihood. God wanted me to survive, so here I am.”
He now enjoys a quiet life in Richmond, preferring this city to the hustle and bustle of life in California and New York, other states where he has previously resided. In his free time, he enjoys country music, a day spent on his computer, and cooking his favorite vegetarian dishes.
When asked what he envisions for the future, Efren shared the following with a smile: “I consider myself an old man, that's why I don’t have any more goals...because I’ve already worked my way up. I have traveled everywhere...and I just need to rest.”
In reflecting on his life, Efren’s illness is something that he would not change, as it has given him a deeper appreciation for his life. “I was praying to God to take me, but he didn’t. I’m still here. I’m still strong. Now, I just enjoy my life.”
Photo Credit: Jim Hale
Shaina is a talented artist connected to Milk River Arts, a creative community of artists in Richmond for those both with and without disabilities to learn and cultivate their craft with each other. The inspiration for her art is her life in Richmond. "I take pictures when I don’t have time to sketch something that I’ll want to paint later. I pick people that I think look hip, mostly young people who are around my age. I’m inspired by people who look like they have a story to tell...I think my art is about being able to see different life perspectives."
She especially enjoys sketching and painting while grabbing coffee in her favorite local coffee shop, Alchemy. "I paint in coffee shops because they make me feel normal. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I have disabilities when I’m in a coffee shop. I’m surrounded by young, hip people. Coffee shops are relaxing, you know. They symbolize intelligence.”
Shaina lives in the Faison Residence and navigates the city with GRTC. She enjoys the independence it allows her. When not exploring the city, Shaina is in class at J. Sargeant Reynolds in the Human Services Program. She is also involved with her church at the Buts Theater.
When asked how she is most capable, Shaina shared, “I am good at art. I am good at caring for other people.” There are many personal qualities that she is proud of: “My hair and my loyalty to my friends. Also, my love for God and for others. I try to see the best in others, but can be honest about a person or situation as well.”
Her favorite day would involve a trip to the mountains, the beach, a local coffee shop, or an art gallery, especially the Warehouse Art Gallery in Luray.
As for future goals, she hopes to further her faith, one day roommate with her best friend, and to make a living through her art.
As for closing thoughts, Shaina cut to the heart of this campaign. “I think that it is important to look at those of us with disabilities as intelligent human beings with our own style. Give us a chance...a genuine chance at friendship. You will learn that we are all more similar than different.”
The 2017 capABLE Project
This spring, The Next Move Program teamed up with 6 professional photographers and 19 individuals with diverse needs for a social media campaign to prove that we are all capABLE. The models that were selected have remarkable and varied stories. They are business owners, advocates, athletes, authors, volunteers, and artists. What they all have in common is their engagement in area programs. Each portrait was captured at a different location in our city, tied to each model’s story. These portraits have been shared throughout the spring on social media and now can be enjoyed at the Virginia Historical Society.
Many thanks to our models and photographers. Our photographers included Lauren Roberts, Scott Elmquist, James Loving, Luke Witt, Michael Simon, and Kourtney Smithson. Videography was provided by Matt Pochilly.
There were 3 purposes to this campaign:
- show a diverse perspective on life in our community
- give children with diverse needs adult role models from their own community to emulate
- show the power of inclusion – not only do these individuals thrive but our entire community thrives when inclusion is part of the picture
The 2018 capABLE Project
We are currently looking for new and empowered models to feature in 2018.
Models should be 18+, have a disability, and unique perspective on life in RVA. We also love to feature related organizations as part of the feature, typically using these locations as the portrait backdrop. If you have a location in mind, share that too.
Models will participate in a photo shoot, an interview, and be featured through our social media campaign this spring. The campaign will culminate to a gallery exhibit and celebration this summer.
The portraits will be exhibited this summer at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
Please consider donating today to support this effort.
Meet the Models
1. Shelley Lantz by Lauren Roberts, All Things Beautiful
Shelley’s positive energy and eagerness to connect are apparent to all who meet her. Both of these skills, she brings to countless Richmond area organizations. “I do Friends for Life, DSAGR Fun for Life, Nova Masters Swimming, Special Olympics Swimming, River Road Church activities, LiveArt, and Advisory Council for the Next Move Program.” Shelley was recognized for her work in the community as “Self Advocate of the Year” with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond. “I just got an award this past year…that was the self-advocate of the year! I am capable because I volunteer and participate in the community.”
Shelley has also been employed in an area biotech company since 2011. “I’m at True Health Diagnostics Laboratory. I pack kits together, like test tubes and that kind of stuff…for doctors and hospitals.” Shelley’s favorite part of living in the Richmond area is working in the community. In the future, she wants to “live on my own and take care of myself.”
Shelley’s favorite meal is “Chick-fil-A Chicken and pink lemonade.” If she could plan the perfect day, she’d go to “here we go, Disneyland. Yea, here we go!”
Shelley wants the community to know that “I like to have friends and being busy.” As for her favorite things about herself, “I’m friendly and welcoming…I like bowling. I’m cheerful. I’m a good aunt. I’m a good friend. And yea, I’m a good dancer.” Shelley, of course, demonstrated her dancing unprompted.
2. Charlotte Dean by Luke Witt
For the last 5 years, Charlotte has been working as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the YMCA of Greater Richmond. She loves the organization and she loves that it gives her the opportunity to give back. “I work at the YMCA of Greater Richmond. I have been able to volunteer through them. In my volunteer aspects, i have been able to read to preschool aged kids. That was fun because that gave me the ability to interact with preschool kids that might be like ‘what’s wrong?’ ‘why do you have that?’ ‘why do you have a walker?’ What I have learned about kids is that they are 100% authentic and they just want to know. They are not being mean or cruel, they just want to know, but they see that this is someone who is coming to read to us and her heart is in the right place and she’s nice and she’s smiling. So I love that–being able to not only volunteer with children, but to be able to expose them and to teach them about what it is to have people with different abilities.”
She hopes to inspire an honest conversation about celebrating differences in our community; noting that as a child, she did not have role models that were “like her” to emulate. Her goals for the future are meaningful and inspired–to share her story and be the role model she wished she had had. She plans to do this through public speaking and writing. “To be an author. To be a motivational public speaker. And if I could have that moment where a young girl or young boy sees me, whether it’s on tv or in a public forum somewhere and says ‘Oh my gosh, she looks like me or she has what i have, but she’s doing all this great stuff’ and I can motivate that child or I can motivate that child’s parents, for the parents to know to not limit their child. Your child may not have been born with what you expected, they may be a little different, but they are in no way limited. They are enhanced if you really think about it. If you encourage them and you push them, they will achieve far greater than ‘able-bodied people.’ And so I really want to be that role model because growing up I didn’t really have that, but I did have great parents.”
Charlotte’s faith is also a foundation for her life. She attends Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries. “I look at it as God made me the way he made me. And some people may look at people with disabilities and say ‘I feel so sorry for you.’ Why do you feel sorry for me? I look at it as this is the way God made me. I am capable because God put in me things that He may not have put in you. And I think that people need to look at it from that perspective. Don’t look at me and say what I don’t have. Look at me and say what I do have. So I am capable for a multitude of reasons. I am capable because of my spirit. I am capable because of my drive. I am capable because of my determination. And I am also capable because of what God put in me.”
She loves her life and she wants people to see her ability first and foremost. “If you are looking at me and really see me, you wouldn’t see the walker. You would see me first.”
Charlotte is proud of her Richmond roots. A few of Charlotte’s favorite places in RVA include Can Can, Mellow Mushroom, and The Jefferson. “I am an RVA girl. I grew up in Richmond. I definitely love the fact that Richmond has evolved over the past several years. It seems that Richmond has become more accepting and open to people of different cultures, different backgrounds, different viewpoints. I think that shows that we are really at the threshold of becoming just a fantastic city, every more. I am really excited at the direction that I believe Major Levar Stoney is going to take our city. Very very excited about what he has planned.We’re great. We are just about to get better.” We are excited too.
Charlotte, we cannot wait to witness all that you will accomplish! And please save us an autographed copy of your book!
3. Jordan Hogan by James Loving
Jordan is a star. Like most true entertainers, his personality comes to life in front of a crowd. Jordan’s capabilities as a performer are taking him to the World Special Olympics Games this year in Austria, where he will represent the Miracles in Motion Dance Troupe in the solo and crew categories. He was invited after a competitive selection process. Jordan’s will be performing “Dancing Fool,” both his favorite number and now favorite song.
Jordan also performed alongside Jason Mraz last summer in at SPARC LiveArt. This is one of many opportunities that he has experienced through his love of dance.
When not on stage, Jordan is involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond. Through this organization, he enjoys going to their events, bowling nights, and spending time with his friends.
He also works at Spot On Therapy where according to his mother, Jordan “has a variety of tasks that he performs and he loves working there.” Jordan reports that his favorite job tasks include “greeting and sharing a smile.”
Jordan’s favorite aspect of living in Richmond include spending time with friends, his work, and of course dance. His favorite thing to do for fun is “to go out to eat at Mexico [Restaurant]” and order “quesadillas with salsa”—the hotter the salsa, the better. A true gentleman, his best day would also include spending time with his mother. Jordan is also a huge Disney and Disney World fan—loving both the music and Haunted Mansion.
According to mom, Jordan is “happy all of the time.” This is fitting as his life goals include dancing as much as possible and having a happy life. It is fair to say that he is excelling at both.
Update from Interview: We are pleased to share that Jordan received a Silver Medal in Austria for his performances!
Thank you to our friends at Kelley Communications for sponsoring Jordan's story.
4. Pia Scott by Luke Witt
Pia has an incredible reputation at The Virginia Home. This resident is known for her charm and genuine spirit, and she definitely did not disappoint. Within seconds, she had our team smiling from ear to ear. During the interview, Pia gave us the grand tour of her home, sharing her favorite highlights. Some of these included the gym and beauty salon, as well as the J.Sargeant Reynold’s Degree and picture with Trey Songz hanging in her bedroom. She was so eager to share her home, that it was quite common for her to move on to the next highlight while the group was distractedly chatting.
Pia is actively involved at The Virginia Home, participating in various classes and activities, including singing in the upcoming spring play. Pia is also an incredible artist. “I was in a program A.R.T which helps people with disabilities to express themselves at Artworks. It was really fun to express myself.
In the future, she plans to continue her education. “I will be taking classes at Full Sail University in Music Production.” This goal aligns with how she feels most capable. “I make beats and put them on SoundCloud and I write music in my head.”
Pia wants people to see her for her many talents. “I might be disabled but that does not make me who I am. We disabled people are pretty normal, just with some challenges.”
Of course, we had to ask what music Pia likes best. “My favorite music is R&B. I grew listening to it. My favorite singer is Beyonce. She is so amazing. She stands up for women and minorities.”
Pia’s favorite part of living in Richmond is the food scene. “I love the food around here—especially the soul food. I love the chicken at Family Secrets.”
Her two life goals include being happy and successful. “My number one goal in life is to be truly happy. I want to be a successful music producer and live in Atlanta one day. I want to help my family out the best way I can.” Keep an ear out for Pia’s work on iTunes!
5. Justin Feaster by Scott Elmquist
Two things are apparent to everyone who meets Justin: his ability to connect with others and his incredible spirit.
Justin is involved in many area organizations. He serves on the Next Move Program Executive Board as a graduate and advocate. He also works for the JCC in facilities management, and is currently finishing the PAVE Program at J. Sargeant Reynolds where he will graduate this May.
On Sunday, you will find Justin singing and leading worship at his family’s church. He is the son of a local pastor. ”I sing gospel at my father’s church. He’s a great father and a pastor. I am very honored to serve underneath him.”
Justin is most proud of his perseverance. Working a night shift while pursuing his education is challenging. “I am capable because I like to overcome my challenges and push myself.” His favorite quality about himself is his outgoing personality. “I love meeting people. I love meeting people who have different ideas.”
Justin is grateful that his family relocated from Buffalo, New York to Richmond. While he misses his family and authentic buffalo wings, he has found more opportunities. “The best thing is the opportunity, in my experience. The schools—how they have resources like laptops…they have more than what we had back in Buffalo. The opportunities are better.”
In the future, he hopes to continue to challenge himself. He hopes to find employment in a capacity that uses his new degree and ultimately pursue a career in ministry.
Thank you to our friend and Advisory Council Member, Cathy Redford, for sponsoring Justin's story.
6. Emily Bower by Kourtney Smithson, Kourtney Smithson Photography
Emily is an employee, an athlete, and a Global Messenger for Special Olympics of Virginia. She has many job tasks. “I do a lot of filing, shredding, and data entry.”
Emily feels capable because of her ability to draw attention to important causes in our community. “I feel like I am capable because I use social media to fundraise for events like The Special Olympics Polar Plunge and I spread the word about other causes that I care about.” She also has an online blog on which we shares poetry, advice, recipes, and her life experiences.
Through her public speaking engagements, blog, and personal interactions, it is obvious that Emily is very open about who she is. “I think my most favorite thing about myself is I like how I conquer my fears. I definitely feel determined to overcome them. It can be hard sometimes, but it really pays off when you can put yourself out there.” She wants people to understand that despite her learning disabilities, she is “...smart and capable of doing anything that I put my mind to. I also want to be respected because I have many unique abilities that others may not have.”
Her perfect day would include a trip to Atlantis to “...read, sleep, and play with the dolphins.” Her favorite restaurant is Peking. Emily noted that the best aspect of living in Richmond is having friends and family nearby.
Emily has many goals for the future. “I want to learn how to drive, become a great Special Olympic athlete, and live as independently as I can.” She also wants to got back to J. Sargeant Reynolds and continue to take classes, especially in History.
7. Wyliek Wright by Luke Witt
Wyliek and his cousin spent a few hours sharing his neighborhood with us. Wyliek is living and working in Church Hill, while finishing his final year in high school. He grew up going through CHAT, participating in their afterschool and mentoring programs. He is also a member of East End Fellowship Church.
Wyliek is a great athlete who loves both basketball and tennis. “I did four years of tennis at Armstrong.” Athletics are how he feels most capable. “I like to cook. I like to play sports. I’m an athlete. I can run. I like to do everything.”
Wyliek’s loves his happy life and community. “I love my life. It’s good.” He wants others to know him for his humor. “I’m a funny guy and I’m a goofy guy and I like to play around. I tell jokes a lot.”
As much as he loves his community, he does have concerns for the place he calls home. “It’s hard living in Richmond right now. People killing people and shooting people. I hope they stop the violence.”
Still, Wyliek’s future is bright. Thanks to his experience with Positive Vibe Café, he hopes to one day become a chef and open his own restaurant in Richmond. Wyliek, save us a reservation!
8. Christopher Brennan by Scott Elmquist
Christopher proudly shared his passion for landscaping–showing us his company business card, equipment, and a repurposed childhood wagon, redesigned to carry his tools while on a job. Christopher hopes that this business will one day become his livelihood. “Me and my friend started doing it a little bit when we were in high school. We’ve got business cards now.”
He also works part-time at Target as a cart attendant and cashier. His work ethic is one of his favorite characteristics about himself. “I love to work. I am a respectful employee.” He is a graduate of The Next Move Program; the confidence and work experience that he gained from the program has helped him in his current position and will in his future career aspirations.
Christopher is also actively involved in Special Olympics. “A program that I am involved in is Special Olympics. I play basketball, softball, and golf.” He also recently has started hitting the gym regularly in an effort to improve his competitive edge and to live an overall healthy lifestyle.
He wants others to know that he is “...a good person. I like working hard and making my own money.”
When asked how he is capABLE, Christopher had a lot to share. “I am a hard worker. I like to help others. I am kind. I am a great friend. I am good at working with my hands and putting things together.”
As for future life goals, he was to continue to expand his landscaping company and have that become his regular gig. Christopher, we know your passion and work ethic will take you very far.
9. Ellie Graham-Landau by Michael Simon, Michael Simon Photography
Ellie enjoys the autonomy that comes from living independently and working from home. Ellie moved into a group home in 2016.
She is actively involved in a day support program. She enjoys spending time with her friends in the program and creating the regular art projects. “We do a lot of fun stuff like arts and crafts.”
Ellie is also involved in Special Olympics, having routinely participated in swimming and bowling. She has also recently participated in SPARC’s LiveArt. She is a 2014 graduate of The Next Move Program.
Ellie is a creative spirit. She enjoys art, writing, dance. “I am capable because of my writing.” She wants others to know that she is comfortable in her own skin. “I like myself. I like my smile.”
On what she loves best about living in Richmond, she enjoys being so close to friends and family. “I like it because I get to be near my dogs. I like meeting new people.”
For the future, Ellie wants to continue to travel and have a significant other.
10. Lauren Stokes by Elizabeth Howley
Lauren is fun, outgoing, and has a touch of sass. She works at American Family Fitness. “I am employed at American Family Fitness. I like it. I like to clean the bikes and clean the mirrors. I have been working here for about 9 months.” Her favorite part of her job includes seeing the members and spending time with her coworkers.
She is also very involved in the community. “I am a member of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church. I help with the coffee ministry at church. I help with Stop Hunger Now and I do Special Olympics.” Lauren is a 2016 graduate of Next Move Program.
Lauren has many capabilities. “I like to cook, swim, read, work out with my trainer named Rachel, ride my bike, ride horses.” She wants people to know her for her kindness and independence. “I like to make cards for people. I am independent as much as possible.”
She is a huge fan of traveling, especially to Disney and has an upcoming European cruise planned.
As for the future, Lauren hopes to continue working and one day live independently from her family. “My goal is living on my own without mom and dad, and maybe living with a roommate.”
Thank you to our friends at Richmond Pit Bull Project for sponsoring Lauren's story.
11. Zak Ford by Lauren Roberts, All Things Beautiful
Zak is cool. He is exudes a calm confidence—a confidence that has grown as he has become more independent by both living and working as an adult in the community. “I am living on my own and got a job in downtown Richmond. I like living on my own. It’s a great thing in my life.” Zak uses the GRTC system to travel from his townhouse in Henrico into Downtown Richmond for work each day. This is one of the many things that makes him feel most capable. “I walk to the bus every day. I clock in and out to work so I get paid. I use my skills at my work so I can reach my goals, keep working on my career.”
Throughout the interview with Zak, he was sure to share the highlights of his home including his punching bag, VCU diploma, sports memorabilia, and a picture of his new god son. He was eager to share about his life with us, about the people and interests that make it complete.
A perfect day for Zak would include “hanging out, shopping, or going to a play.” For music, he prefers “pop, some country and rap.” For a meal, Zak shared his top choices with a grin “I mostly like meat, but I don’t want to be rude, but I also like beer.”
Zak is incredibly proud of the meaningful work that he does every day. “I work for a lab. I got a lot of friends there. I like to help save people’s lives and help the doctors.” He considers his his work one of the things that he does best. “I got a lot of talent and skills at work. I solve problems. I challenge myself.” When asked to summarize how he is capable, Zak put it best, “…because of my talents and skills.”
Thank you to our friends at Grid for sponsoring Zak's story.
For more on Zak's capABLE photoshoot, watch this video made by our friend, Matt Pochily of RVA's Coffee with Strangers.
12. Jenson Larrimore by Luke Witt
We had the great pleasure of first meeting Jenson during a speaking engagement at VCU. Through his candor, humor, and self-reflection, Jenson was able to share about his personal experience living before and after his spinal cord injury. He interwove his experiences with a larger message–discussing advocacy, self-advocacy, and even the negative connotations associated with the term disability. “I think that what I am able to do the best is look at situations, look at problems, look at proposals from two uniquely different perspectives. I spent 25 years as a relatively healthy, able-bodied man, and now I’ve spent 10 years as a wheelchair user and an active member in the community.”
Jenson’s message is consistent and positive. “I can’t imagine who I’d be after 10 years. I can’t imagine the man I would be without my accident. Because it has made me who I am and I love myself. And I believe that this is a message that a lot of young people need to hear.”
To say that Jenson is actively involved in the Richmond community is an understatement. “Of course I have been connected with VCU and their departments of Diversity and Inclusion, Access and Equity, Disability Support Services, as well as The Partnership for People with Disabilities, The Virginia Spinal Association – they do peer mentoring for the MCV North 1 Unit, which is a spinal cord injury unit. I spent 10 years as a chef, I still do cooking events and have worked with Positive Vibe Café.”
Jenson is also a supporter of locally grown and sourced foods, enjoying both the health benefits and connection to the individuals and local businesses involved. “I am a big supporter of the local food systems, farmer’s markets, specifically the Birdhouse Farmer’s Market, which is held every Tuesday next to the Randolph Center. I am very involved with the Richmond Food Co-Op.”
As for what makes Jenson most capable, he believes it is his ability to share his story with others. “I would say that what I do best is getting on my soapbox and speaking, whether it would be to a group of people or one on one. I’ve found that what makes me most capable for doing these things that I am very passionate about is my ability to articulate my thoughts in a positive manner, in a way that helps people to see things in a way that may not have seen them before.”
He shares his story in a variety of mediums beyond just speaking engagements and consulting.
“I am working on some other projects. Obviously I do a lot of video. As I chose to show my trip to Hawaii. Those videos being so raw and unpolished…I find that a lot of people appreciate that, especially young people that are newly injured or early diagnosed. They are fresh from the trauma and looking for some measure of control and when you give them something unpolished and real, it seems much more attainable.” He is also planning to publish several books and essays on this experiences–again, intertwining his story with broader disability topics and issues.
Jenson, it was our pleasure to meet you and see the impact you are having to make RVA a better community. Please, save us a copy of each book once it’s released!
13. Ray Scannell by Kourtney Smithson, Kourtney Smithson Photography
Ray has been an employee of McGuireWoods LLP for 33 years. He takes great pride in the value that he adds to the organization. “I put the paper out ... the employees use it in the copy rooms. I work independently.”
In addition to his job in the Richmond office of a major international law firm, Ray is enthusiastic about his participation in Special Olympics. “I do Special Olympics basketball, swimming, golf and soccer.” He shows off a Special Olympics medal that he had won the previous day at a basketball tournament.
He also regularly attends church at St. Bridget’s.
Ray is a sports fan, cheering on his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. He has attended several games with his brother at Heinz Field.
In the past year, Ray has started living independently. He of course has a Steelers rug in his apartment. His favorite meal includes steak and ginger ale.
Ray believes he is capable because he is “a great athlete and a great worker.” He wants people to know that he is “... honest, dependable, and helpful.”
Ray's goals for himself include dating, gaining a driver’s license, and continuing to play sports.
14. Natalie Schwartz by Michael Simon, Michael Simon Photography
Natalie is a restaurateur. She grew up enjoying traditional Lebanese recipes passed down from her mother’s home country. When she met chef, Omar Abouzaki, they teamed up to create Natalie’s Taste of Lebanon. Their goal is to provide authentic Lebanese cuisine and hospitality to the Greater Richmond Area.
When not working, Natalie is actively engaged in many activities. She participates in SPARC LiveArt and Special Olympics bowling.
Natalie is a very capable individual. “I am capable because I have good social skills. I do my best. I work hard. And I make people happy.” She wants other people to know that she is just like everyone else. “I am a normal person despite my disabilities. I work hard. I make people happy.”
Natalie enjoys traveling. “I did a big hike. We went to Machu Picchu in Peru. My brother helped me hike there.” She also enjoys the cultural and entertainment scene in Richmond. “I like all the festivals and the shows, and Richmond has a lot of variety of things to do.”
Further, she has many goals for the future. “I want to do well here at the restaurant.I hope this will be long term. And to become a Lebanese citizen.” She is also open to expanding the restaurant one day, stating that a second location could be a possibility.
Natalie was the ultimate hostess, offering delicious treats to our team throughout the interview. We can’t wait to return and bring our friends. We know that she will be waiting for us. Before we left, Natalie said, “I invite everyone to come over here and I will host them.”
For great food and hospitality, we urge you to visit Natalie at Natalie’s Taste of Lebanon, 3601 Cox Road, Suite A, Henrico, VA, 23233.
Thank you to our friend Seo Kelleher at Courage to Be for sponsoring Natalie's story.
15. Matthew Shapiro by Michael Simon, Michael Simon Photography
Matthew is confidently leading the charge for inclusive practices in area businesses and organizations. He is the founder of 6 Wheels Consulting, providing public speaking and consulting services. “My whole approach is this idea of inclusion above compliance. Too often people get bogged down with ADA compliance and they think that if they are, then they can check that box, and I can move on, go about my day. But there is so much more life and living with a disability that the non-disability population can do to be inclusive and welcoming and supportive to the disability community. Through my consulting work, I try to get people to realize that it’s not hard to make stuff accessible. It's not expensive.”
Matthew is also connected to both Leadership Metro Richmond and Sportable. “I’m currently in the Leadership Metro Richmond class for 2017. We are learning about the different challenges that Richmond faces, connecting with a bunch of other civic leaders in the area. I am also heavily involved with Sportable, which runs adaptive sports programs for individuals with disabilities.”
A perfect day for Matthew would include taking some much needed time for relaxation. “I’m a pretty simple person. I love sports. If I could go to a big sporting event like March Madness, that would be great. Or even just spending time with friends and family – I love being around people.” A VCU Graduate, Matthew also enjoys spending time in the downtown area – enjoying both the great restaurants and diverse entertainment choices.
Matthew’s goals for the future include both expanding 6 Wheels and one day running for public office. He views both as an opportunity to give a voice to others from the diverse needs community who do not have one. “The disability population is the only minority group that we can all join in the blink of an eye and it’s the only minority group that we’re all going to eventually join because we’re all going to get old. So why don’t we do more now to establish an inclusive mindset, establish a more inclusive community, and be open to all people?”
He also believes that the diverse needs community has many capabilities to share. “My answer is often just give us an opportunity to show you what we can do because in most cases people with disabilities are some of the most forward thinking individuals, creative thinking individuals, resilient individuals because that’s how they live on a daily basis. For other organizations in the community to see that stick-to-it-iveness, that ingenuity, that creativity, all of that. If you give somebody that opportunity to show you that, 9 times out of 10, they are going to blow you away.”
But Matthew wants to be clear that his work and community involvement are not meant to be inspiring. “I’m not there to inspire people, what I am there to do is to motivate people.” He wants to be a true agent for change in the Richmond community—opening minds and changing policy.
Thank you to our friend and Advisory Council Member, Carol Schall, for sponsoring Justin's story.
16. Becky Ogburn by Scott Elmquist
Becky’s smile and fun personality light up a room. She is one busy lady. “I go to SPARC’s LiveArt, Special Olympics Basketball, Bon Air Presbyterian Church, Best Buddies at U.R., therapeutic harp, and Camp Virginia.”
Becky also works at the legendary Joe’s Inn of Bon Air. She has been employed there since 2015. Her favorite part of her job is seeing the regulars and the free lunch she gets as an employee. Becky is also a Next Move Program graduate and completed our program in 2014.
She is capable is many ways. “I’m good at dancing, a good friend, and at public speaking.” Further, she wants people to know that she lives independently in the community. “I am very happy. I moved into a group home in August 2016. I LOVE it!” She enjoys the freedom and planned activities.
For her perfect day, Becky would go to an Adele concert and ride the water rides at Kings Dominion. Her favorite restaurants are “Joe’s Inn and any Chinese food.”
Becky has many future life goals. “I want to work, maybe go to college, have a boyfriend and get married.”
Thank you to our friends at Superfun Yoga Pants for sponsoring Becky's story.
17. Josh Smith by Kourtney Smithson, Kourtney Smithson Photography
Josh is an avid athlete, participating in numerous sports teams through Sportable. “I participate in Sportable and play basically every sport under the sun that they offer.” He has had a competitive spirit since childhood. “I’ve played sports my whole life. Sports were a big part of my life and so when I had my accident, I thought that I was going to lose out on that, but then I found Sportable. They have so many different sports. That has just opened my life back up again to be able to be competitive and be around other people and stay active. I am blessed to have Sportable in Richmond.” He hopes that they will add adaptive rugby, or “murder ball” as it is called by those who play it, to their programming.
Josh also volunteers with The United Spinal Cord Association of Virginia. “I do peer mentoring for the patients in MCV and at different hospitals.”
He has a degree in Engineering from Virginia Tech. He was able to use his engineering chops in 2015 to create an adaptive device called the Sixth Digit. The device makes typing on computers and phones more accessible. The invention went through several phases of prototypes and a successful crowdfunding campaign before being sold internationally.
Josh works full time for Old Dominion Insulation. “I am a full time project manager and estimator for an insulation company…It keeps me busy and I like all the people I work with.
Josh’s believes what makes him most capable is his positive attitude and approach to life. “I think that one of the best things that I do is I can find enjoyment and can make things fun that others may not think is fun or I just see the positive in things. So especially in my situation, I see life from a more positive attitude. I find things funny that I have to deal with instead of letting them get me down…You just have to laugh at life sometimes.
Josh enjoys the variety that RVA has to offer. “On the weekends, maybe Belle Isle or Maymont Park is nice…I live near the bottom. I live in Manchester so I go to the bottom a lot, so like Tap House and Bottoms Up Pizza…There’s always something to do for whatever you like…there are music venues and outdoor activities and shopping centers. Just anything you want to do, there’s always an option.”
As for goals for the future, Josh has several. “I want to retire at 55. I would like to be my own boss at some point, have a family, maybe get into the Paralympics.” Josh, we can’t wait to cheer you on day at the Paralympics Games.
18. Reid Hall by James Loving
To say that Reid is creative is an understatement. He is a Richmond area artist expressing his unique perspective through “painting, photography, and video.” Although he began pursuing art seriously in 2009, he has always had a strong aesthetic. His mother noticed his talent as early as Kindergarten. His favorite subjects include tree bark and puddles – loving the natural complexity and unique qualities that they both present.
Reid is actively involved in Milk River Arts, an organization that provides him support and opportunities to develop his craft. He describes it as “basically people with disabilities make art—I am doing a lot of painting.” He has two upcoming shows at ArtWorks and The Visual Arts Center this year. Reid also sells his prints, as well as garments and items featuring his prints on his Red Bubble shop.
Reid is also involved with The John Maloney Project, People International, and the Richmond SPCA. For People International, Reid will be choreographing, directing, and casting a play this summer. Reid also has his own Youtube channel where he gives daily reviews for Mario levels created by gamers all over the country.
Reid’s favorite music is “any music that is upbeat and has a positive message.” His favorite food is gluten-free vegan pizza. As for his perfect day, Reid “would go someplace quiet to just take it easy.”
Reid’s goal for himself to further develop his skill as an artist. We look forward to seeing great work from him.
Thank you to our friends at Richmond Autism Connection for sponsoring Reid's story.
19. Patricia Tomlinson by Elizabeth Howley
Patricia, PT, is a beloved employee of 37 years at Richmond’s ARC. “The ARC is my life. All of my energy and my time goes into my job…I can make a difference there daily in somebody’s life. It will be 37 years on April 1st.”
She is the long-standing receptionist and ARC institution, greeting clients and guests, directing calls, and answering questions. She multi-tasks with grace, efficiency, and of touch of humor. “I think one of the most important things about me that makes me who I am is that people can vent to me. They can come to me if they are having a bad day. They can tell me anything and I mean anything. They know it won’t be shared farther. That is one thing I have been able to do over the years, I have been able to make people feel comfortable in every situation.”
She also supports The Virginia Voice. “I am connected with the Virginia Voice. They are near and dear to my heart. They read magazines and articles for people who can’t read them. I donate to that organization every year because I benefit from it directly and many people I know benefit from it.”
A die-hard sports fan, you will often find PT wearing a UVA, Stealer’s, or Laker’s shirt. Her style shares her passion and helps to break the ice at work. “If they come in and I have my Pittsburgh Steelers shirt or my UVA shirt. That kind of breaks the ice…I’ve found that I’m very good at making people feel comfortable. People who have vision, they’re not always very comfortable with us…they just don’t know what to say and what to do. I think that’s part of my gift in working at the ARC is getting people to feel comfortable.”
It’s not a surprise that PT dreams of traveling to Heinz Field and the Staples Center one day.
She has many other goals. “My goal right now is to stay at the ARC for at least 5 more years. My goal after that is to work part time. I just don’t think I could sit at home. That’s just not me. Another goal that I have is to just continue to be the person that I am. Some people have a tendency to be someone they aren’t. But I am not one of them. I like to say, you see what you get. I love people. I like to analyze myself and make sure I’ve met my goals…I make a difference in people’s lives, whether directly or indirectly.”
It is easy to tell that PT loves her work. She makes you feel welcomed and important—making a point to remember who you are. And when you return to the ARC and check in, she is quick to say “welcome back” with her southern drawl and warm smile. Her ability to connect with others is truly a gift.
Official capABLE Merchandise
After many inquiries, we have decided to make the Official capABLE T-Shirt shown on cover model Shelley available for purchase. Sizes Adult S-XL are available under Shop. Official totes are also available. All printing is completed locally in RVA by Water Baby Print Shop. Buy today and show that RVA is capABLE.