Blog/News/Videos

Blog/News/Videos

Honoring our Fallen Veterans

Veteran Howard Fisher placing flag on gravesite
Many of our Veteran Connection Group members and Deputy Director & Veteran Will Wilson participated in placing flags at the gravesites of our fallen soldiers at Mona View Cemetery during the Memorial Day weekend. We remember and honor all who served and paid the highest price for our freedoms. Pictured: Veteran Howard Fisher placing flag at gravesite.

LET’S DO LUNCH! Oceana County

CEO Diane Fleser Gourp shot of those who attended

Thank you Oceana County residents, businesses and service providers for a “full house!”

Disability Network West Michigan recently held our LET’S DO LUNCH series in Hart at the Hart Community Center where we invited Oceana County residents, businesses and service providers to meet adminstrators and board members and to discover who we are and what we do in your communities.

We were so pleased to have such engaging conversations while presenting valuable information during a delicious lunch provided by Soup Of The Day Cafe!

 

A love letter to my Cerebral Palsy

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeBy Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist

A love letter to my Cerebral Palsy

Dear Cerebral Palsy,

 You haven’t always made it easy for me. In fact, you’ve been a pain (quite literally, for as long as I can remember), so much so, that I hated you. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just be “Normal.” I wanted the chance to run alongside my sister, to play sports or just go for a walk. So many of things most typical people take for granted, I’ll never be able to do.

My body is caught in the middle of a tug of war in between what my mind wants to do and what my body will physically allow. However, as time has gone by and I’ve become more comfortable with my body and I’ve learned my abilities (not just my inabilities). I have grown more fond of you.

Don’t get me wrong, the struggles I’ve faced have been mighty and I won’t lie and say things are necessarily easier now, but it is because of the struggles that you have brought with you… the constant surgeries (I lost count at 25?) the bullies, the doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, the scars, and countless daily challenges that randomly seem to appear on a moment’s notice, that I am who I am today.

Yes, I do still have pain, my speech is still occasionally slurred, my movement isn’t as quick as it once was, and my body doesn’t cooperate as much as I’d like, which is frustrating, but I feel like I am also stronger than I ever could’ve been, had I been able to live life without your companionship. Due to the bullies, I am kinder to others because I know what it feels like to be made fun of, because of the constant, ever-changing adversity I am more resourceful, and because of the hardship I am driven to use my life and take advantage of every opportunity to make this world a better, more kinder place for all… disability or not.

I may never be medically healed of Cerebral Palsy as it’s not physically a possibility at this time, but I’ve learned that it’s also not necessary. Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that the only real healing I ever needed was to learn to accept myself as I am today, rather than judging by someone else’s definition of what was “Better”. It is through my greatest weakness, I found my strength. I choose to be happy and positive because life is beautiful and meant to be lived to the fullest regardless of diagnoses, societal expectation, or stigma. It may not be a straight path, but a crooked path is better than none at all. All in all, I hope my life helps someone else know that no matter what obstacles you might face; you can still not only follow your dreams but achieve them as well. So today, it is with much gratitude that I say I appreciate you, Cerebral Palsy… I wouldn’t be who I am today, without you.

 

Pulling Back the Curtain On Living with a Panic Disorder

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeWritten By: Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist

It’s time to pull back the curtain and expose a long kept secret…. I live with a severe Panic Disorder.

For many this comes as a shock…why?  You never expected to hear it, especially coming from me. That’s right, me… I live in a state of almost constant anxiety.  On the outside I’m someone who’s quick witted, I have a great sense of humor and I always try so hard to pick other’s up… sometimes to a fault.

However, what you don’t see most the time is what’s happening underneath all of that. See, when you live with an Anxiety Disorder the slightest shift can send one’s brain into overdrive. Maybe you missed a text, a change in plans, an unexpected test result, a misstep in your word choice, or worse… you feel like you hurt someone you love, so you compulsively apologize. Not just for something you did recently, but for something you did years ago that just so happens to sneak its way into your thoughts.

Because we’re all different, one scenario may send you over the edge, but not bother someone else. My personal landmines tend to vary by the day, but the ones listed above are and have been a constant for me. Fourteen years after my initial diagnosis, I still have no idea why these seemingly simplistic scenarios send my brain into an emotional tailspin. I know this all seems irrational, but my brain doesn’t discriminate… no matter the topic, person, or scenario, it can always find a way to twist even the smallest detail into the worst possible self-talk there is. From they love me to they hate me in the midst of a single conversation.

The good news is as time has gone by I’ve learned little coping mechanisms, which have helped me learn how to better manage my anxiety a great deal so it doesn’t dominate every aspect of my life as it used too. (Of course I still have bad days, but I’m doing better than I was generally). If my anxiety starts to run away with my thoughts, I’ve began trying to draw my emotions… sometimes it’s easier for me to visually depict what I feel rather than saying it. Other times I’ll turn on a favorite song and listen on repeat… not just because I love the music, but because I know what’s coming next and exercising just the slightest bit of control can help put my mind at ease… in otherwise uncontrollable situations. All in all, while this process certainly isn’t easy… not for myself or anyone else living with the same or similar condition(s) I keep reminding myself that everything in life worth having requires small but necessary steps in order to proceed. You can have a house, but you need to lay down a foundation first. You can run a mile, but you need to learn to walk first. You can have your dream job, but first you have to apply… on and on. Hopefully whatever goal you’re working toward becomes closer and closer each day. You might stumble along the way or get pushed back a bit, but you find the courage to keep going. The life you hope for might not be easily attainable, but with a little effort it is possible. You’re worth it!

The Michigan Victory Games

Picture of entire Wave Team attending the Victory Games

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeWritten by Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist DNWM

Imagine a world where you feel like you never quite fit in, where you constantly feel judged and feel like an outsider because your body physically doesn’t match how you feel about yourself mentally. This was how I felt about myself or at least it was before I began participating in the Michigan Victory Games as a member of the Muskegon Waves.

Then I started attending the Victory Games three years ago, I was a bit shy and felt anxious in new environments and around strangers, but the Victory Games slowly helped me not only overcome this, but begin to thrive far beyond my wildest dreams. By attending the Games I began to learn not only what I could do athletically, but more importantly personally.

See, The Michigan Victory Games is so much more than about just playing sports. It gives athletes a safe place to try new things, a place to socialize, a place to compete and a place to grow outside of sports. It truly enriches lives and promotes change for those living with differences. The Victory Games presents athletes with a can-do environment where you’re not only presented with an opportunity to participate in various sports, but encouraged to try regardless of personal ability level. The events are Track & Field, Bocce, Bowling, Weightlifting, Table Tennis, Swimming, Biking, Slalom course, and a few others, along with a dance at the very end of the Games.

Overall, I know to some… this all may not seem like a big deal, but for me the experience as a Muskegon Waves athlete has been life-changing as I’ve  not only have become more confident in myself as an athlete, but more importantly as a person. It is my hope to continue to attend the Games for as long as I can as not only an athlete, but most of all as an example… I want those around me to know that if I can do this, so can you!

If you would like to learn more about the Victory Games or how you can get involved or participate, you can email me at jeffreyv@disabilitynetworkwm.org or call me directly at 231-332-4043.

Rep. LaFave mobilizes plan for updated accessibility logo

State Rep. Beau LaFave has introduced a plan to update the accessibility icon used on signs and in parking lots and buildings in Michigan, better reflecting the lifestyles of people with disabilities.

The legislation would require that any new placement or replacement of signs displaying the international symbol of access utilize the updated logo, which portrays active independence, rather than stationary helplessness. The new symbol would be replaced at no cost to taxpayers and no additional cost to business owners.

Michigan wouldn’t be the first to adopt the new icon. New York and Connecticut have already implemented similar legislation.

“The new logo shows that individuals with disabilities play an active role in the community and aren’t just sitting in a chair letting life pass them by,” said LaFave, of Iron Mountain. “It’s not about political correctness, it’s about showing the true relationship between people and the devices that assist them. It’s not 1968 anymore. It’s time to portray the new reality.

“As a person living an active life with a disability, I’m proud to stand on the front lines to instigate this important change.”

LaFave’s measure would also take steps to remove the term “handicapped” from signs and other communications at state and local levels.

The legislator worked closely with Disability Network Michigan to create the legislation. The group joined him at the Capitol today to advocate on behalf of the legislation. Scores of individuals with disabilities were in attendance to support the cause.

“Disability Network Michigan’s 15 federally-established Centers for Independent Living served 43,588 people with disabilities last year,” said Sara Grivetti, CEO of Disability Network Michigan. “We know that people with disabilities are active members of their communities. This legislation will help our signs reflect the reality.”

LaFave’s bill in the package is House Bill 4516. The second bill, HB 4517, was sponsored by state Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, of Norton Shores. The bills were co-sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, including all Upper Peninsula representatives and the chair of the House Health Policy Committee.

Michigan SILC Voting Membership Seats Open for Governor Appointments

 

The Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (MiSILC) currently has four voting member vacancies with a fifth voting member seat becoming vacant on May 2, 2019. They are looking for qualified candidates that reflect statewide geographic diversity as well as demographic and disability diversity. The majority of the council, both non-voting ex officio members and voting members, must be comprised of a majority of people with disabilities who are neither state nor CIL employees. Ideal candidates from CILs include current and former CIL board members and consumers knowledgeable about CILs and independent living. If you know anyone who may be interested in serving, please pass along this opportunity.

 

Council members serve a three year term and are eligible to serve a second three year term if re-appointed by the Governor. No council member may serve more than six consecutive years (unless they are finishing a partial term of another council member who resigned or otherwise left the council mid-term).

 

At this link, please find an overview of the Michigan SILC’s purpose and role in promoting and supporting Independent Living throughout Michigan. A link to the current SPIL and the Governor’s online appointments portal are included in the document. Anyone interested in being considered for the MiSILC vacancies is encouraged to apply immediately.

Motivational Monday – Meet Aaron “Wheels” Fotheringham

Picture of Aaron on a half pipe doing tricks in his wheelchair. Caption: "Always test your boundries and don't the the disability restrain your capacities and possibilities."

Aaron “Wheels” Fotheringham

Aaron Fotheringham (Born with Spina Bifida on November 8, 1991) is an extreme wheelchair athlete who performs tricks adapted from skateboarding and BMX. Although he used crutches early on, he has been a wheelchair user full-time since the age of eight. He would watch his brother riding his BMX at the skate park, and one day his brother told him that he should try riding his chair in the park. Aaron later noted that “I did, and I was hooked”

Accomplishments:

– At the age of only 14, he was the first person to successfully perform a backflip in a wheelchair

– At the age of 18, he was the first person to successfully perform a double backflip in a wheelchair

Motivational Monday – Meet Tim Tebow

Picture of Tim Tebow with the following caption: Don't be normal. Be an example.

Tim Tebow:

Timothy Richard Tebow (born August 14, 1987 in
Makati City, Philippines) is a former professional American football quarterback and current professional baseball outfielder in the New York Mets organization. He played college football for the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship-winning teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and spent two seasons with the team. He also played for the New York Jets in 2012. Additionally, he had preseason stints with the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Tebow is dyslexic and believes in his uniqueness as a gift from God.

2006-2009 – Winner of numerous College Football Awards

(Notable Achievements) 

2007 – Heisman Trophy Award Winner; Sporting News Player of the Year

2008 – First-team Academic All-American

2009 – Sports Illustrated College football Player of the Decade

2010 – Laundched the Tim Tebow Foundation

Motivational Monday – Meet Muniba Mazari

Muniba Mazari sitting in a wheelchair. " I don't know how my story will end, but nowhere in my text you'll ever read, I gave up."

MUNIBA MAZARI:

Muniba Mazari (born
March 3, 1987) is a Pakistani artist, model, activist, motivational speaker, singer, social reformer and television host. She uses a wheelchair due to injuries sustained in a car accident at the age of 21 which makes her Pakistan’s first wheelchair-using model. She is also the National Ambassador for UN Women Pakistan

Career Highlights & Awards:

2015 – One of the two Pakistanis to be named BBCs 100 most inspirational women

1st wheelchair-using model for the Toni & Guy chain of hairdressing salons in Pakistan

2016 – Featured in Forbes 30 under 30