Reserve your tickets today (link below). We anticipate selling out again!
Video edited by Matt Pochily
The capABLE Campaign has three objectives:
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 Models all have a diverse ability and unique perspective on life in RVA. Their portraits and interviews were completed at a place in Richmond that is connected to their stories.
The portraits will be exhibited this summer at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
15. Jessica Johnson
Photograph by Luke Witt
Jessica is a force.
She is currently employed as the Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services’ Service Coordinator working for The Department of Medical Assistance Services - noting that people often assume she is a client rather than a service provider. “I currently work for the Department of Medical Assistance Services...I also receive services from The Choice Group for employment supports. I have also worked with Commonwealth Catholic Charities for case management services. And, I completed Internships with RBHA and Poplar Springs Hospital.”
She hopes to one day open an outpatient clinic of her own to “challenge the stigmas associated with mental, intellectual, physical, and social diversity in a safe environment and to allow future clients to address their goals, strengths, and weaknesses.”
Jessica graduated from Varina High School, received her undergraduate degree from Norfolk State, and her Master’s in Counseling from South University. She has also joined the Alpha Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.
Connecting with others is what originally pulled her into the field of counseling. “I am capable because I love getting to know people and their stories. What brought them to where they are. I believe that was helpful in my calling of becoming a Counselor. One of the major things that I like to do is to advocate for services and other options for people in the community, aside from medication and traditional counseling...we have to incorporate their community needs, their families, and even the things that they like to do into treatment.”
Jessica credits her parents for significantly impacting her professional success - encouraging her to “...live outside of my Cerebral Palsy.”
In her spare time, Jessica enjoys spending time with friends - often good food and music are involved too. “I am a big music fan...I love to go out with my friends and watch movies. I can sing a little bit and write some poetry. I like to learn new things to break the stereotypes about people in wheelchairs.”
On Sundays, you will likely find Jessica singing in the Mass Choir at Jericho Baptist Church.
Her perfect day would involve travel - exploring places like Italy, Spain, or California.
Jessica has many goals for the future. “One of my major goals right now is to begin my Clinical Residency to become a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor for the State of Virginia. Eventually, I would like to live outside of Virginia for a chance to have better resources that Richmond does not always offer and just to get a different scenery.”
Her other goals include having an accessible house built from the ground up and someone special to share her life with.
Jessica left us with a quote that she wrote and included in her senior year book: “Never allow anyone to underestimate you. Always show them your true potential.”
We could not agree more.
Jessica will serve as our Keynote Speaker at the upcoming Capable Celebration, kicking off the opening of our exhibit at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
14. Tori Pace
Tori’s spirit and spunk made for a fun photo shoot for our team. She arrived wearing her “diva” sunglasses and rocking a teal highlight in her ponytail.
Tori brings that same energy to her YouTube channel, “Talkshow Tori.” Her segments involve interviewing performers who inspire her and sharing what she has learned about important themes, like community and kindness.
Further, Tori shares her creativity in the community through participating in SPARC and studying voice acting. “Right now I am involved with SPARC...I am a Leader in the Live Art program. I also participate in programs at my YMCA. I just finished 18 months of weekly work with a Kinetic Imaging student at VCU exploring my passions of Voice Art and Foley Art.”
Many personal traits make Tori feel most capable. “I am very capable of many things! I am great at showing others how to power through challenges with a sense of humor. I find when typically developing people see that I can do things, it seems to help them realize that they can also. I am capable of helping myself and helping others. These are my greatest strengths.”
One of Tori’s other passions is watching and collecting My Little Ponies. She has filmed several #HasbroStories for the company, in addition to an invite for a private tour of their headquarters and her very own custom MLP design. Fittingly, her cutie mark is a heart.
She wants others to know the following about her: “I want people to know that I understand I was born with 11q Deletion Disorder. It is part of who I am, but it is not all that I am. I understand that because of this part of me, I sometimes have to do things differently than typically developing people, but like my friend Stephanie Clang says, ‘Just because I have to do it differently, doesn’t mean I can’t do it.’ Also, I am a MLP Superfan!”
And finally, Tori is full of pride for our RVA Community. “I feel loved and accepted and respected in my community. Isn’t that what everyone wants? I think Richmonders are extra special in that way!” We couldn't agree more.
*Many thanks to our friends at Canvas for allowing us to hold Tori’s photoshoot in their beautiful studio.
13. Shayy Winn
Shayy is a true star in the making. She has many gifts to share - her voice, charisma, and determination are most apparent initially.
In just the hour that we spent with her for this campaign, Shayy was stopped four separate times to take pictures with fans. She gets recognized constantly according to her Dad, after competing in a national singing competition this spring.
People especially connected with Shayy’s personal story. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor a year and a half ago, she lost most of her vision. While that would have negatively affected many, to Shayy it further encouraged her to pursue her dreams. “Never let anything stop you or get in your way. If someone says that you can’t do something, show them that you can.”
She also believes that her personal struggles are a way to connect with others. “I inspire other people. That is how I am most capable. I am proud that I have gotten to help so many people through their own situations.”
Shayy is involved in many area organizations in this community. “I am involved with LiveArt, The Richmond Youth Peace Summit, and Generation Dreams. I am also a senior at Thomas Dale High School.”
After graduation, Shayy hopes to pursue her singing career. She believes that she would also enjoy a career as a physical therapist. And, further travel is also on her list of goals, especially a trip to Africa.
Shayy’s favorite meal includes Tropical Berry Sprite and shrimp. Her favorite show is Law and Order, SVU. Her favorite artist is Anita Baker.
There are many reasons Shayy appreciates calling Richmond home. “What i love best about living in the Richmond area is that it is very cultivated. It is multicultural too. It is also very musical and artsy.”
Shayy, we know your talent and personality will take you far in life.
12. Rees Volante
Photograph by Luke Witt
Rees attends Northstar’s Career Academy. She is also connected to Art 180, SPARC’s LiveArt, The SPCA, Hope Church, Brainy Camps, and VCU’s Healthy Lifestyle Center. Rees participated in our Arts District Internship Session last summer and was placed at The Broad.
She will attend the VCU Ace-It program starting this fall: “I would like to thank my Northstar Family, the people at Hope Church, and The Next Move Program.”
Many qualities make Rees feel capable. “I am really good at being independent and trying new things...I am good at sewing, sports, rock climbing, and construction.” Rees is also known for her strong sense of personal style.
Rees also feels empowered as a self-advocate in the community. “I am capable, even though I have a disability, of doing many things. I like to teach people about Epilepsy, so they can help others in the world.”
Her perfect day would include going “...rock climbing and then fishing, maybe spend time at the beach.”
Rees’ favorite food is her Grandmother’s mac n’ cheese.
Her favorite aspect of living in the Richmond community is having access to nature - she loves the park system.
For the future, Rees hopes to “...graduate from College, learn more about becoming a preschool teacher, and then start a family.”
11. Patrick Lanzi
Photograph by Luke Witt
Patrick first connected with our team as a Next Move Program Intern, completing our internship programs at Quirk Hotel and Wells Fargo Advisors. He is now employed - working two jobs in the community. He works at Taste Unlimited, the location of our photoshoot, and at Ware Langhorne.
At Taste Unlimited, Patrick assists customers, restocks inventory, and completes prep work in the kitchen. He is an Office Assistant at Ware Langhorne, a practice management company.
Patrick is actively involved in SPARC’s Leadership Program and will perform in LiveArt this June. The theme is Family.
He is also involved in our baking program, Tablespoons Baking, and is a customer favorite when we sell at the South of the James Farmers’ Market.
Patrick’s friendly nature, work ethic, humor, and love of performing make him feel most capable. These things also make him feel “powerful.” He wants people to know that he is “there to help other people.”
His favorite band is The Beatles.
His favorite food is Italian, as he was born in Italy.
For the perfect day, he would spend time with his friends or take his girlfriend out to Chick-fil-A.
His favorite part of living in the Richmond community is being near his family - he especially enjoys taking his mom out to dinner.
10. Sam Hulcher
Sam lends his time and talents to endless organizations in our community. He is connected to “The Autism Society of Central Virginia, Friends for Life, Grace Community Presbyterian Church, Hanover Christian Firewood Ministry, Feedmore, The SPCA, Be Social Richmond, RVA Bembe Drum Circle, and The Special Olympics.”
Sam is also employed by VCU’s Cary Street Gym where he works in housekeeping.
He feels that many factors make him feel most capable – “sports, my job, remembering people’s names, and remembering directions.”
On the topic of sports, Sam takes his basketball very seriously. He supports local college teams like VCU and University of Richmond. He also loves “the Los Angeles Lakers because my man, LeBron James, is on that team.”
Sam wants other people to know that he is “polite, loyal, friendly, active, helpful, and a man of faith.”
His favorite day would be one spent at the beach. He goes to the beach “with family. Sometimes, we go to Top Sail and sometimes we go to Duck.”
Still, no place can hold a candle to RVA because he loves his large network of friends and all of the fun programming in this community.
*Many thanks to our friends at The University of Richmond for allowing us to hold Sam’s photoshoot in the Weinstein Center.
9. Joe Christian
Photograph by Luke Witt
What is first apparent about Joe is his enthusiasm. It is contagious. He brings that same enthusiasm to the many area organizations which he is connected too. “I work at Custom Tee’s. It is in in Downtown Petersburg. I have been there for 20 years.”
Joe currently participates in softball, bowling, and volleyball for Special Olympics Virginia - an organization that has led him to gain many friendships over the years, including one with Paul Marretti, a 2018 Capable Model.
He also is involved with People First and is a member of Swift Creek Baptist Church.
For fun, Joe enjoys listening to music (especially jazz and old school Country), watching movies, exploring his neighborhood in the Brandermill Area, and spending time with his wife, whom he met while bowling. They have been married for 13 years. They also enjoy traveling together, especially to Disney World.
Many personal qualities make Joe feel capable: “I am nice, dependable, kind...and as my Grandma would say, ‘you are a little bit of everything.’ Oh, and I am energetic.”
He enjoys a diverse range of foods, including candied yams, mashed potatoes, and traditional Japanese cuisine. His favorite drink is eggnog.
His goals for the future are mostly focused on travel because “...there is just so much in this world to see.”
In the next few years, Joe hopes to travel to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and the UK with his wife.
Thank you for our friends at Special Olympics VA for hosting the photo shoot.
8. Chloe Sutterfield
Chloe is a freshman at VCU, majoring in Music and Journalism. “VCU is a great school. They have a great campus. It is very diverse.”
What makes Chloe feel most capable is her musical abilities. “I write my own songs and play the piano and the guitar.” Her favorite current artist is Ed Sheeran.
She also works with I’m Determined, a program that trains young adults to be self-advocates. “I work with I’m Determined which is part of the Virginia Department of Education. We work with young adults with all kinds of special needs.”
Chloe is the perfect fit for this organization, as she is an incredibly determined person. “Never tell me I can’t do something because I will do it.” To expand, Chloe gave us a perfect example of this. “About two years ago I was getting ready to graduate from high school and I wanted to walk across the stage, but...I had hurt my shoulder about 6 months before it. People were telling me that it had to heal before I could walk across the stage...But I got better. I healed. And I got to walk across the stage.”
A video of this moment went viral online with over 18 million viewers across the globe.
Chloe’s perfect day would be traveling - specifically going to see friends that live in Australia.
Her favorite part of living in Richmond is the variety of experiences that it offers. “It’s spread out and it’s got a lot to do too - a lot of sports that I can participate in.”
7. Amaris Stewart
Amaris just completed her reign as the 2018 Miss. Hanover Abilities title holder, an annual pageant held by Hanover Community Support Services. Her dedication to many area organizations and skill at playing the harp both helped her take the crown. “I am involved with Chabad for Virginia, and Resources for Independent Living, and The Academy of Music.”
She was initially nervous to participate, and especially to perform at the pageant, but gained so much confidence from the process.
As for what Amaris most appreciates about herself, it is her disability. “I would say my disability makes me feel most capable. What I like about it is that it makes me smart and it makes me think differently than other people.”
Her favorite place to visit in Richmond is Carytown, enjoying the restaurants and shopping. Amaris’ favorite meal is pizza, but vegetarian pizza, as she is concerned about animal rights and the environmental impact of eating meat.
Amaris will graduate next year from Douglas Freeman High School. Afterwards, she has many goals to accomplish. “I would like to work with animals. I would also like to live in a house in Hawaii. I would like to have a boyfriend. And I would like to travel.”
6. Kemani Turton-Jones
Photography by James Loving
Kemani is someone that makes you smile - largely because he is so passionate about his interests and life.
He was an Intern with Next Move Program at Quirk Hotel and Wells Fargo Advisors. He is still connected to the organization through our Tablespoons Baking Program. “I help volunteer with Tablespoons Baking where I help volunteer with baking Oatmeal Cream Pies and Unicorn Cookies. We sell them at the Farmer’s Market.”
Kemani is our top sales person at the South of the James Market. His enthusiasm and energy connects instantly with customers.
He also volunteers at Positive Vibe Cafe, after completing their training program several years ago.
In addition, Kemani cooks for his family. His favorite dishes to make are fish and quesadillas. He regularly researches recipes to try online. His general knack for research is what makes him feel most capable. “I like to research and plan for trips to new destinations and I like to cook.”
As for travel, Kemani enjoys the planning of a trip as much as the actual trip. He is an expert on various bus systems throughout the US and participated in the Pulse Media Day locally - previewing the new system last year and creating a video about his experience before the line opened to the general public.
As for his perfect day, he would revisit a recent trip to Florida. “My perfect day would start with a plate of Mickey waffles in Disney World. I would ride different roller coasters, greet different Disney Characters, and of course, eat at different restaurants.”
Kemani’s favorite part of living in the Richmond Community is the food. He enjoys “dining out and all of the new restaurants.”
This foodie hopes to one day have his own food and travel show. Count us in - we would definitely watch!
5. Chelsea Gaughran
Chelsea’s photoshoot and interview was held at her Grandmother’s home in Bon Air - a property that has been in their family since the 1700’s.
Chelsea is involved with many area organizations including The Special Olympics Young Professionals Board and Global Messenger Program, Night to Shine, and The Angel Tree. She is also a proud graduate of Northstar Academy, sporting a tattoo of north star on her ankle.
Chelsea is employed at an area car wash called Wash Your Way RVA.
There are many things that make Chelsea feel capable. “I’m athletic. I play a lot of sports in Special Olympics. What I do best is bring people together. I try to help other kids with the struggles of having 22q, also known as Velocardiofacial Syndrome.”
Her favorite qualities about herself include her perseverance, honesty, and respectful attitude towards others. Similarly, the motto that she lives by is quote that says “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.” We may have to borrow that one.
Chelsea’s deep connection with and love for her family continued to come up throughout the interview, with each room or feature within the property holding a very special memory - like her Grandmother’s fish pond and gazebo. In fact, her perfect day would include “being able to spend one day again with my Grandmother who we called Tutu.”
What she loves best about RVA is being so close to her extended family. “My whole family lives here. We live a mile apart from each other. I have 12 first cousins. We spend all holidays, birthdays, parties, and vacations together.”
Chelsea’s goals for the future include working as an employee for Special Olympics, playing in one of the Special Olympics’ World Games, and meeting both Tim Shriver and Tim Tebow (because of his support of Night to Shine).
Chelsea, thank you for welcoming us into your family home. We understand why it is so special to you.
4. Daronte Rollins
Daronte is eager to pay his support forward, in a very big way. He lives a very active life as a T-4 Paraplegic, participating in Sportable and volunteering as a peer mentor with the United Spinal Association of Virginia.
He is also a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he is studying to become a Social Worker. Daronte first became interested in social work, after receiving the support of many similar service providers in his own life: “It’s a field that allows me to be an advocate and a leader in my community...I guess it was ultimately from all of the community support that I had...that aid and that support has led me into social work where I can most make a difference.” Daronte also works as a Research Assistant in Glen Lee working with at risk youth in the community.
In regard to what makes Daronte feel most capable, it is all he that has accomplished. “I may have a lot of obstacles...but I am just myself and I still am able to be involved and be an athlete, like play basketball with Sportable. I am still furthering my education. I have gainful employment. All of the things that people strive to do as a young person, I am still actively doing.”
Further, he appreciates his ability to connect with others - Daronte says he has “never met a stranger.”
Daronte also appreciates music - listening to a wide variety of genres. J. Cole is his favorite artist.
Family is also very important to Daronte, who has a very special admiration for his Grandfather. His perfect day would include time with his family and in particular spending time with them at a sporting event. Daronte is an avid Eagles Fan, so attending a NFL game would also make the cut.
As for goals, Daronte wants to travel before settling down. He also wants to build an impactful career - “paying it forward” all along the way.
3. Ryan Corcoran
Ryan is easily the heart and soul of an organization that already has that in spades. He works at Patrick Henry Family YMCA in Member Services, a position he obtained through his prior internship with Next Move at that Branch. He not only works there, but engages within the larger community through the Y, by participating in the weekly Pickleball Games and uses the wellness floor to train for his numerous 10k and half marathons.
Ryan also works for his family business, All Stewed Up, where he helps the team with catering for events.
Ryan believes that being a “hard worker, greeting people, and making others smile” are what makes him feel most capable. And, he is most proud of his positive attitude.
As for other interests, Ryan enjoys “traveling, roller coasters, and Broadway shows.”
His dream vacation would be a trip to Italy to indulge in the pasta.
In the future, Ryan hopes to relocate to Florida and live independently.
Ryan, it is always such a pleasure to spend time with you - we can’t wait to see what more you will accomplish.
All Stewed Up will serve as a sponsor, catering our upcoming Celebration on May 29th, which will celebrate the kick off of this exhibition opening at The Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Please join us!
2. Sarah Owens
Photograph by Luke Witt
Sarah is actively involved in her community with connections to SPARC’s LiveArt, The Next Move Program, and Goodwill. She interned with our program at Wells Fargo Advisors.
She is currently employed at Goodwill as a Customer Service Associate in Mechanicsville. Additionally, she works at a family business, her mother’s daycare. Sarah was most recently hired by Wells Fargo Advisors and we couldn’t be more happy for her.
Many abilities make Sarah feel most capable: “I help people when they are having a bad day. I am capable of doing many things like counting money, memorizing information, and I am a fast learner.” She is also proud of her bubbly personality and ability to connect with others.
She wants others to know that she is “helpful, a leader, and a great person to be around that will make you laugh.”
For fun, Sarah likes to follow various artists and YouTubers online. She also enjoys traveling.
Her favorite food is anything with cheese (yes, please) and she loves an Arnold Palmer.
Sarah’s favorite part of living in Richmond is her connections and friendships throughout the area.
Sarah’s future goals include buying a new car and continuing to progress in her career.
Shawn graciously welcomed our team into his home for his photoshoot and interview. Shawn both resides and works in the Willow Lawn area. From the view of his condo, he pointed out all of the businesses and organizations that make up his “community.”
Shawn is currently employed at Tijuana Flats and is enrolled in the Penn Foster Career School to become a Computer Support Technician. He also proudly showed us one of the four computers that he has built in his home office.
In addition to school and work, Shawn is actively involved in the community. “I am actively involved in the Autism Society’s Adults with Asperger’s Support Group and have been for over 12 years. I am also a past board member of this organization. Also, I helped start a bible study for mature persons...I have been the leader of this group for over 9 years.”
He wants others to know that “...I am just like everyone else. I may learn things in a different way or understand things differently, but that does not make me any different than anyone else out there.”
Through his leadership in RVA, he hopes to spread the message that “People with Disabilities have many talents and abilities. Give us a chance and we’ll show you all what we can do!”
Shawn believes that diversity and proximity make Richmond special: “Since I have lived here all of my life, I like how diverse our city is. There are many different cultures, as well as a diverse range of people with disabilities that make up our city. I also like that I am only a couple of hours away from the beach, mountains, as well as our Nation’s capital.”
Shawn has big plans for the future. “I would love to one day take a cruise. I would want to be able to get a job as a Computer Support Technician after I finish school.”
Shawn, thank you for welcoming us into your home. We cannot wait to see all that you will accomplish in the future.
Apply to be a 2019 Model
Nominations are due February 27, 2019.
Apply for yourself or nominate another:
Please provide as much detail as possible - it is critical for the selection process.
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.”
2017 capABLE Highlight:
Video edited by Matt Pochily