Happy Disability Awareness Month!
I have a vivid memory of being three years-old in a cream and yellow flowered dress spinning around and around in our small living room. My sweet and gentle mother came into the room and said, “Michelle- why are you so happy?” I laughed and smiled because I thought she already knew, “Because I love everyone so much in this whole-wide world. Everyone is so beautiful.” She told me when I was older, that was the moment she knew I was going to work for social change.
When I was in high school, I dreamt of opening an inclusive theatre. The dreams in my head were very clear and included people with and without disabilities working together through the arts to break stigmas and stereotypes. My dream has already come true.
I attended Indiana University and heard about Recreational Therapy. It was the major I thought I had just created in my head. I couldn’t believe it existed! It was perfect because it was supporting people and implementing therapy through leisure and recreation activities. After my bachelors, I attend Kansas State University to pursue a Masters in Drama Therapy and focused my study around inclusive theatre.
While in my masters, I dreamt of working at a parks and recreation department where I could implement recreational therapy, drama therapy, adaptive recreation classes, develop inclusive community opportunities, advocate and break stereotypes for people with disabilities. Little did I know this position existed and was vacant at the time I was ready to pursue this dream.
Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation is an organization who believes in inclusive services and adaptive programming. I was ready to apply and was looking forward to helping them take that next step forward, especially in the form of inclusive theatre. I am so blessed to be one of their employees and be the Inclusion Supervisor at the Monon Community Center. I have the joy of developing, planning, and implementing classes and programs for people with and without disabilities.
The month of March celebrates Disability Awareness Month and every year we promote the individuals who participate in everything we have to offer. Throughout the month, we will have coloring sheets within KidZone, ESE, and our Adaptive programs for participants to color and interpret how they see themselves. We will create a beautiful art display with these submissions outside our walking track. Also check back into our blog for a video post created by our participants. Feel free to submit pictures of yourself or family on Instagram during Disability Awareness Month while participating in activities and hashtag #ISEEYOU #ccprinclusion. We are excited to get our community involved this month in breaking barriers and stereotypes.
On March 18 and 19, we have a treat for you! For the past year, we have been rehearsing and producing a show called, “I SEE YOU,” that will be performed by individuals with and without disabilities. It’s a two-night extravaganza and only costs $5 to see the show. In Act I, people with disabilities have written monologues about their lives including strengths, weakness, hopes, and futures. These stories will be moving and humbling. In Act 2, “The Roundabout Playback Troupe,” which is the ONLY inclusive playback troupe in the United States will be performing stories from the audience. So everyone can enjoy this experience, there will be a sign interpreter, we will have an ASL sign interpreter on March 19. We hope that you can come share in this beautiful event! The event starts at 6pm at the Monon Community Center on March 18 and 19. Look for our theme of “I SEE YOU” around the Monon Community Center for the whole month of March and stop by one of our desks to purchase your ticket today.
One of my favorite parts of my job is that I support all of our programs and classes to implement modifications and adaptions so that all of our programming is inclusive. If a guest needs a modification for any of our programs the process is easy. They contact me with their request and we discuss their needs. After we have a chance to talk, I write a plan, implement their needs, and evaluate them throughout to make sure it’s successful. You can find our request for modification on our website by clicking here.
I still remember the day where I was spinning around and around vividly because my mom got down on my level and said, “Michelle- you won’t be able to change the whole world, but you can change a small part of it by just being you.” I believe this thought is true for all of us and what this department believes: that everyone should be able to utilize their community to the very fullest and make a positive change for their community.