Darke DD celebrates March DD Awareness Month


Staff report

GREENVILLE — The Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Darke DD) celebrated DD Awareness Month in March.

Darke DD celebrated with activities focused on educating the community about the importance of kindness and inclusion of people of all abilities. It is said “we are all better together when we include everyone and understand that people with developmental disabilities are valued members of our community.”

The Darke County Commissioners kicked off the month with a proclamation recognizing March as DD Awareness Month in Darke County. During the reading of the proclamation, people with developmental disabilities explained, in simple terms, the meaning of each statement, and the Greenville Public Library showcased artwork created by people with developmental disabilities all month.

Self-advocates, Frannie Shellabarger and Samuel Ploch, spoke at the Greenville Rotary meeting in March with a powerful message, simply be kind and say hello when you see someone with a disability.

“It takes a whole community to embrace people of all abilities and make people feel wanted and included in activities and groups,” Tonya Clark, Darke DD Superintendent said. “Just say ‘hi’ to someone. Talk to them. All people have skills and abilities and can contribute to the community and life.”

People with disabilities live, work and play in our communities and have hopes and dreams just like everyone else. They want to be treated like valued members of our community. They want to be seen as an individual and not let their disability define who they are and what they can or cannot do.

Several other self-advocates traveled to school districts across Darke County to speak to children in kindergarten through 2nd grade about people with disabilities, acceptance, and kindness. The message was we are all different but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all be treated with kindness and respect. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same.

To wrap up the month of awareness, Darke DD hosted an Awareness Breakfast on March 29 for nearly 80 community leaders, business leaders, elected officials, clergy, educators, and other local service agency employees to truly highlight the support provided to more than 450 people in Darke County annually.

Samuel Ploch emceed the event to help highlight early intervention services, employment, provider supports and community inclusion. Tonya Clark, Darke DD Superintendent, provided an overview of supports provided by Darke DD and Jeremiah Wagner, Deputy Director for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, highlighted the uniqueness of the county board of developmental disabilities system in Ohio as compared to many states in our nation that operate a state-based system.

Mike Bowers, Director of Darke County Economic Development, gave an enthusiastic and inspiring call to action to attendees. He encouraged people to continue to be inclusive, supportive of people of all abilities and to help increase the number of people with disabilities being gainfully employed in Darke County.

70 people with developmental disabilities are working in Darke County, thus representing a 56 percent increase in the last 6 years. Darke DD partners with 28 agencies and 43 independent providers to provide supports to people living in our communities, and Darke DD now serves 46 percent more people than they did 20 years ago without any increase in tax dollars to citizens of Darke County.

“Darke DD always celebrates DD Awareness annually in March, however, efforts to continue to promote and celebrate the strengths and achievements of people with developmental disabilities continue all year long,” Clark said.

Darke DD appreciates the tremendous support of the community, our partners, and our employers, and they encourage everyone to embrace people of all abilities to continue to make Darke County a great place to live, work. and play.

Those who would like to know more about Darke DD or to be involved, please visit the organization’s website at www.darkedd.org. Those interested in working in the DD field or becoming a support provider, please call Joseph Badell at 937-459-4609.

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