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.
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
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.
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.