by Hal Franklin, Administrator
Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities
For most people, fall is about the turning of the leaves, crisp days and cool nights. For me, fall is about the opportunity to honor some very inspiring people who devote themselves to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. This year’s Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities’ 22nd Annual Awards Ceremony and Luncheon, was an exceptional event that will linger in people’s memories for a long time.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Commission Chair Terri Parrish joined Kathleen Cairns of WBFF Fox 45 to recognize 12 individuals, businesses and organizations for their achievements and contributions by and for citizens with disabilities. More than 230 guests took time from their busy schedules to participate.
There was not a dry eye in the house when Dundalk Middle School student Tisa Belcher, who has lost her sight from a brain tumor, took the stage to accept her Student of the Year award for her outreach to help others. Another highlight was the crowd’s standing ovation for Joan Denzler, a 49-year volunteer of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Maryland Chapter.
Other award winners this year included:
SPECIAL CHAIRPERSON’S AWARD - Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Cathy Raggio, Rachel London of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, and Frank Kirkland of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration for their sponsorship of the Emmy Award winning documentary, “Departing Rosewood.”
EDUCATION ADVOCATE - Sue Murray, Hannah More School and the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities
STUDENT - Tisa Belcher, Dundalk Middle School
TEACHER - Holly Niemiec, Mars Estates Elementary School
EMPLOYER - Wanda Muse, McDonald's Perry Hall Restaurant
EMPLOYEE - Ana King, Wegmans of Hunt Valley
ACCESS TO COMMUNITY RESOURCES – The Downtown Sailing Center
DISABILITY ADVOCATE - Ed Book, Associated Catholic Charities Child and Family Services
VOLUNTEER - Joan Denzler, National Multiple Sclerosis Society Maryland Chapter
FAMILY SUPPORT – Carissa Mortenson and Julia Kardian, Grace Fellowship Church
MEDIA - Michael Gerlach, WCBM Talk Radio AM 680
INNOVATIVE COMMUNITY PROGRAM – Rhonda Greenhaw, Center for Adults with Autism, Towson University
We on the Commission on Disabilities wish to extend our sincere appreciation to our sponsors and benefactors: Arc Baltimore, Emerge, Inc., The League for People with Disabilities, Chimes, Sheppard Pratt Health Systems, Elizabeth Cooney Human Operations, Richcroft, Inc., Mosaic Community Services, ComForecare Home Care and United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland.
This is my 14th annual awards ceremony and I am continually impressed with the quality of services and dedication of workers and volunteers in Baltimore County.