Kaelan Richards: 202-973-7175, krichards@ucp.org


Annual awards honor exceptional people, programs and partnerships across the UCP affiliate network

Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2014) – United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is honored to announce the awardees for the 2014 Awards for Excellence, which recognize UCP affiliates, individuals and companies whose exceptional service, achievements and dedication succeed in enabling a life without limits for people with a range of disabilities and their families.

This year’s Awards for Excellence were presented at UCP’s 2014 Annual Conference, “Hitting the Right Note: Mission, Movement, and Music,” which took place in Nashville, Tennessee, and brought the UCP affiliate family together to discuss how to adapt to an ever-changing policy environment, identify new ways to talk about disability in a way that resonates with a variety of key audiences, and develop a roadmap for the organization’s future. Attendees participated in conversations about how the UCP network can explore new opportunities and strategies to continue and enhance our mission to ensure a life without limits for people with disabilities, and helped to develop a specific, strategic plan to grow and enhance the UCP network for the next generation and beyond.

More than 150 affiliates staff, volunteers, partners and allies participated in this year’s conference, including Board of Trustees member and UCP Celebrity Ambassador, actress Cheryl Hines. Known for her Emmy-nominated role on the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, Hines has a long history of supporting UCP, and hosted this year’s Awards for Excellence presentation.

“The Awards for Excellence are a way for UCP to recognize the incredible work that our affiliates, friends and partners do to support our mission, and we are thrilled to honor such an extraordinary group this year,” said Stephen Bennett, President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy. “Their dedication and efforts to make a difference every day in the lives of people with disabilities across the country are incredible and we are proud of each one of our awardees. Their work is so inspiring, and a great example of our mission in action. Congratulations to them all!”

UCP recognized the following awards recipients at the Opening Reception and the Awards for Excellence dinner and presentation at the 2014 Annual Conference.

The Kathleen O. Maul Leadership Award is presented to an exceptional executive director in memory of Kathy Maul, a remarkable executive director at UCP of Suffolk who died young and left a legacy of leadership ability and strong commitment to UCP. For his work over the past thirty years to ‘help families dream new dreams,’ it is with great pleasure that UCP presented this leadership award to Dr. Gary Edwards, CEO of UCP of Greater Birmingham.

When Dr. Edwards was named Executive Director of UCP of Greater Birmingham (UCPGB) in 1982, the staff totaled 25. Thanks to his dedication, UCPGB currently employs 160 people who serve several hundred children and adults – and their families – every day. During his tenure, Dr. Edwards expanded early intervention programming to make UCPGB Alabama’s largest service provider, launched a physical medicine and rehabilitation facility that serves eleven counties throughout the state, and developed UCP Enterprises to employ over 100 adults living with disabilities. For these, and countless other accomplishments, Dr. Edwards is highly deserving of this accolade.

The Chair Award is presented to a corporation deemed exemplary by the Chair of the UCP Board of Trustees that, through its support of UCP, has made a direct impact on the lives of the people the organization serves.

UCP presented this award to The Hershey Company, a valued champion of the organization’s mission since 2010. As a sponsor for UCP’s My Child Without Limits (MCWL) program, The Hershey Company supports health professionals and families and caregivers of young children, ages zero to five, with developmental delays or disabilities. With Hershey’s generosity, UCP provides medically reviewed information and resources, as well as an online support community, to people throughout the country and around the world. In 2012, The Hershey Company announced a new initiative to expand its hiring of individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities in its manufacturing facilities. The Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program embodies Hershey’s Corporate Social Responsibility philosophies and the company’s commitment to attract, engage and retain a more diverse and inclusive workforce. The Chair Award was presented to The Hershey Company in recognition of the corporation’s continued investment in the lives of people with disabilities.

The Employer of the Year Award recognizes a business or agency that has made an outstanding contribution to employing people with physical disabilities, or that has provided training programs leading to employment and creating a better working environment for people with disabilities. It is with great admiration that UCP recognized Meijer, Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan for doing just that.

UCP of Metro Detroit nominated this leading Supercenter because of the company’s steadfast commitment to diversity and dedication in helping people with disabilities reach their full potential through meaningful employment. In 2009, the organization made a commitment to recruit qualified individuals with disabilities into its manufacturing and distribution network, and partnered with local and state vocational rehabilitation organizations in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin to effectively source candidates with disabilities. Meijer sets a precedent for all workers to respect diversity and to be mindful of disabilities. The organization provides training to leadership members on diversity and inclusion. Further, they have a full-time employee dedicated to driving the disability employment initiative and coordinating vocational rehabilitation efforts. Meijer stands as an active voice in discussions around Disability Policy Reform for the State of Michigan in an effort to create more opportunities for persons with disabilities. For fostering an environment where all employees are treated equally and given the tools they need to succeed, UCP honored Meijer, Inc. as the 2014 Employer of the Year.

The Ritter Legacy Award recognizes an affiliate that has produced exemplary communications through a variety of media that increases public awareness about people with disabilities, the programs of the affiliate, and the national UCP brand. This year’s award goes to UCP of San Luis Obispo for its Life Without Limits Individual Campaign. This campaign depicts real people with disabilities as individuals with interests similar to all people within the community. This marketing tactic is strong, powerful, resonates with the general public, and promotes UCP’s mission of a life without limits.

The campaign has succeeded in raising awareness within the affiliate’s service area – building the mindset that people with disabilities are active within the community and have individual interests. The campaign presented a dynamic representation of individuals with disabilities across a number of channels, including print, social media, and video. We applaud UCP of San Luis Obispo for its innovative communications, powerful promotions, and targeted marketing outreach.

The Outstanding Youth Award is designed to honor a young person who has significantly enhanced the lives of people with disabilities through caregiving, volunteerism, advocacy, innovation, or fundraising. 

This year’s awardee is Marie Blanchard, nominated by UCP of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Her teachers have called her powerfully determined, impressive, and inspiring.  A volunteer coordinator called her responsible, dedicated, and enthusiastic. Friends consider her “a walking infomercial on the joy and potential of being a person with a disability.” Born with cerebral palsy, Blanchard’s physical limitations have not stopped her from becoming an artist, activist, fundraiser, and supporter of UCP – all before the age of ten! She has also raised over $20,000 in support of UCP of Oregon and Southwest Washington’s “Walk, Run, n’ Roll” event, gave a keynote speech at a statewide disability conference with an audience of several hundred, created a disability awareness program that has impacted over 150 local elementary school children, written her own original cookbooks, and started a highly successful Etsy store featuring her original art pieces.

Blanchard inspires teens to embrace their disabilities and challenge themselves to live a life without limits, and we are humbled and inspired by her efforts. 

The Nina Eaton Program of the Year Award recognizes a program of a UCP affiliate that has made an extraordinary contribution to the quality of life of people with disabilities, enabling them to become more independent, productive or integrated into the family or community through a particular program.

The 2014 award is presented to UCP of Huntsville and Tennessee Valley, Inc. for its Childcare Enhancement with a Purpose (CCEP) program. The CCEP program is an innovative inclusion training and technical assistance initiative that uses a multidisciplinary team approach to address issues related to childcare providers and community settings. The program offers a proven approach to training individual childcare providers and parents through on-site trainings, consultations, and technical assistance supporting best practices for inclusive environments for children with special needs. Further, the training provides the knowledge base and tools necessary to identify and assist children at risk of possible developmental delays. UCP affiliates throughout Alabama are proud of the CCEP program and of the program’s insight and innovation to address a crucial need of families throughout the state who have children with disabilities.

The Universal Accessibility Design Award recognizes an individual, business, government or governmental agency that has provided leadership developing a universally accessible environment by creating new tools modifying the environment, enhancing independent living or achieving a barrier-free environment.

UCP of Sacramento and Northern California nominated Wijit, Inc., a component of Innovations Health Devices, for its technological creation that has revolutionized the manual wheelchair. The Wijit is a unique, level-activated propulsion system that ends reliance on the manual push rim and allows wheelchair users to work with their larger muscle groups, greatly reducing upper extremity stress injuries. The Wijit alleviates the need for expensive motorized chairs by replacing the existing wheel of the wheelchair from the axle out. This innovative technology allows manual wheelchair users to travel twice as far while expending half the energy – benefiting mobility, reducing repetitive stress injuries and saving money. The invention of the Wijit is worthy of the Universal Accessibility Design Award due to the impact it has made on the communities that UCP serves.

The Ethel Hausman Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an exceptional individual who, through volunteering, has made an outstanding contribution to UCP.

Every Monday through Friday for the past eight years with very few exceptions, Althea Lewis has volunteered at the UCP of Tallahassee’s LifeLinks Day Program. While she does not drive, Lewis rides the bus or catches a cab every day to and from the facility – demonstrating her strong volunteer ethic. In this capacity, she does what she does best: share her kind and uplifting self with profoundly disabled individuals. And it shows!

Individuals within this program that do not verbally communicate or readily respond to stimulation know Lewis and respond her gentle approach. Her presence causes them to smile, move more, make sounds and engage in direct eye contact. Her care and compassion for the individuals she serves is genuine and causes a true difference in her community. For the impact she has made on the LifeLinks program and for her unfaltering dedication to the organization’s mission, UCP proudly presented the 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award to Althea Lewis.

The Life Without Limits Award honors an individual with disabilities who has demonstrated leadership and achievement of such caliber as to be a significant role model to people with and without disabilities.

Danielle Liebl of UCP of Central Minnesota received the 2014 Life Without Limits Award in recognition of her work to successfully challenge stereotypes, her status as an outstanding leader within her community and her active participation in activities to enhance the quality of life for others with disabilities. Described as the ‘poster child’ of Special Olympics Minnesota, Liebl’s participation and leadership in this organization began at the age of eleven. She was an athlete for six years competing in swimming and golf, and continued her involvement as an advocate promoting inclusion and participation in her local community of Richmond and Cold Spring, Minnesota. During her time on the Special Olympics National Youth Activation Committee, Liebl co-founded a campaign called “Spread the Word to End the World.” This campaign has gained impressive momentum and become an international movement.

While a student, Liebl served two years on the board of directors for UCP of Central Minnesota and participated in events and committees to improve programming and services to individuals with disabilities across the state. A 2013 graduate of the College of St. Benedict, Liebl was most recently selected as one of only ten youth (out of 700 nominees nationwide) to be awarded a 2013 Peace First Fellowship. This award includes a $50,000 grant over two years to establish her nonprofit organization, DIFFERbilities Experience, for the purpose of providing opportunities in arts, education and sports to persons with and without disabilities to promote inclusion and acceptance.

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About United Cerebral Palsy

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit www.ucp.org.