Annual New England Council Dinner
The New England Council honored me this year at their annual dinner as one of the New Englanders of the Year for 2017. When I think about the night of the dinner and receiving the award, all I can say is wow. Out of all the incredible things that have happened over the past year, this honor was one of the very best.
The other honorees were Governor Charlie Baker, who has been a supporter and fan of mine ever since Ryan Kath did that story about me on the local CBS news; Navyn Salem, the founder of a company called Edesia, which feeds starving children in underdeveloped countries and saves their lives; and Jay Hooley, the CEO of State Street Bank, a company that has been a part of Boston for hundreds of years. They are all great people who are doing amazing things, and it was humbling to be honored with them.
Jim Brett, the CEO of the New England Council, introduced me and presented me with my award. I wasn’t expecting this big frame – it was awesome!
When I accepted the New Englander of the Year award, I gave a speech to everyone who was at the dinner. There were over 1700 people – way more people than I’ve ever spoken in front of live before! I was a little nervous, but I was also excited to share my story with so many people. I hope I inspired everyone to look at people and only see how much ability they have. You can watch some of my speech here:
I know I inspired at least one person who was at the dinner – Ronan Tynan, the famous Irish tenor singer. He was there to sing for everyone in between speeches, and when he got on stage, he started talking about me. He said my strength and resolve reminded him of his mom. I couldn’t believe it! Then, he invited me on the stage to join him. I was absolutely blown away! Of course I went up there, and he sang his famous rendition of “Hallelujah”. He held my hand and put his arm around me while he sang. I was so touched that I started to cry. And then everyone else started crying too! It was one of the most amazing moments of my life. Ronan was so gracious too, and took lots of pictures with my family and I. Thank you, Ronan – it was such a pleasure to meet you!
I was honored to have my family by my side on this amazing night (and every other day too)! I was also so happy to have Ryan Kath join me at the dinner. Like I mentioned before, he is the person who found me and believed in me and my story enough to share it on the local news. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to share my story so easily with people all over the world. Where a lot of people just saw my disability, Ryan saw my ability and helped me to help other people in getting the world to recognize their abilities too. Thank you, Ryan.
Of course I enjoy the awards and the attention, but that’s not really what it’s all about. It’s really about inspiring people to look at a person with a disability and instead of focusing on that disability, simply seeing their abilities. It’s about inspiring businesses to think about what people with different abilities can bring to the table and hire them. And it’s about creating jobs for people with disabilities. I hope I inspired everyone at the New England Council awards dinner to help me with my mission – and everyone reading this blog, too! I can’t do it without your support, so please consider making a donation so I can help as many people as possible.