capABLE RVA: Gallery Event & Fundraiser

We are so proud to announce that The capABLE Project's Gallery Event, capABLE RVA, will be held on May 25th from 5:30-8:30 pm at the VCUarts Depot.

Early bird tickets are on sale now (link below). All proceeds will go to our scholarship fund. Help us celebrate the remarkable models and photographers that participated in this project!


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.
— Jenson Larrimore, 35

Photo credit: 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!

I am a normal person despite my disabilities. I work hard. I make people happy.
— Natalie Schwartz, 25

Photo credit: 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.

I do a good job at day support. I am very helpful.
— Ellie Graham-Landau, 22

Photo credit: 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.

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.
— Patricia Jean Tomlinson, 61

Photo credit: 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.

Official capABLE Tote

It's time to celebrate the fact that we are all capABLE. There is no better way to do that than by rocking this tote and message.

Add To Cart
I am capable because I am independent as much as possible.
— Lauren Stokes, 21

Photo Credit: 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.

I’m not there to inspire people, what I am there to do is to motivate people.
— Matthew Shapiro, 26

Photo Credit: Michael Simon 

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.

I am capable because I like to overcome my challenges and push myself.
— Justin Feaster, 23

Photo Credit: 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.


A behind the scenes peek of Elizabeth Redford Howley getting just the perfect shot of model, Shelley Lantz 😂. Help us to continue to share these #capABLE stories by donating today and purchasing tickets to our upcoming gallery event! Visit eventbrite now.

 #disabilityawareness#disabilityadvocacy #autismawareness #downsyndromeawareness#inclusivecommunities #RichmondiscapABLE

I love my life. It is good.
— Wyliek Wright, 19

Photo Credit: 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!

Reid Hall 6 Web.jpg
I am capable because I am creative.
— Reid Hall, 22

Photo Credit: 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.

He is fun loving and loves being in front of a camera or crowd.
— Jordan's Mom

Jordan Hogan, age 25

Photo Credit: 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.


Zak's capABLE Story

So excited to share a new promotional video for The capABLE Project, featuring friend and model, Zak. Proud doesn't begin to describe how we feel about him!

To purchase tickets to our gallery event on May 25th at the VCUarts Depot, visit

To donate to this campaign visit, 

HUGE thank you to Matt Pochily for helping us share Zak's remarkable story.

capABLE RVA: Gallery Event & Fundraiser

We are so proud to announce that The capABLE Project's Gallery Event, capABLE RVA, will be held on May 25th from 5:30-8:30 pm at the VCUarts Depot.

Early bird tickets are on sale now (link below). All proceeds will go to our scholarship fund. Help us celebrate the remarkable models and photographers that participated in this project!

Shelley Lantz 7.jpg
I am capable because I volunteer and participate in the community.
— Shelley Lantz, 28

Photo credit: 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.


Check out this amazing video that Matt Pochily made about The capABLE Project.

I might be disabled, but that does not make me who I am
— Pia Scott, 26

Photo credit: 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!

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 Ford, 25

Photo credit: 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.



Richmond is capABLE

Starting in February 2017, seven professional photographers are partnering with Next Move Program to capture empowering portraits of individuals from the disability community in Richmond. Over 15 individual’s images and stories will be shared as a social media campaign.

We want your help to capture adults with disabilities thriving in the Richmond community – working, volunteering, continuing their education, and above all engaged. We want to inspire a larger conversation about the unemployment crisis that exists in the Commonwealth – with 70% of young adults with disabilities struggling to find and keep competitive employment. We also want to inspire young people with disabilities to set goals and dream big by giving them successful role models – their own peers – who have beaten the odds. We are all capABLE.

A gallery event will be held in May 2017 - more details to come.

Want to get involved?

Your organization can help our campaign inspire change and ignite a community conversation by becoming a Media Sponsor. 

Have an idea for a model that we should feature? Send us a nomination.

All inquiries should be sent to