Ohio’s five Easterseals affiliates joined in presenting the Ray of Hope Award to Gov. Mike DeWine, who has a long history of supporting people living with disabilities. As one of his first official acts, Gov. DeWine signed an executive order establishing Ohio as a Disability Inclusion State and Model Employer of Individuals with Disabilities. Part of this act calls on all state agencies to review their hiring practices and eliminate barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities.
Previously as Ohio Attorney General, Governor DeWine helped to secure funding the Ohio AgrAbility program, which provides education, resources, and technical assistance to disabled farmers so they can continue farming more independently. The program has helped more than two dozen farmers return to agriculture over the past three years.
According to Dorothy Pelanda, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture and a former Ray of Hope recipient, an average of 100 U.S. farmers a day suffer injuries severe enough to cause them to miss work. “It is our job in government to protect those who have dedicated their lives to providing for the rest of the masses, but it’s also our mission to do everything we can to allow them to continue to do what they love,” Pelanda said.
“This partnership we have with Easterseals and the Ohio Department of Agriculture has really been an enlightening example of an industry that sometimes people forget that is one of the most dangerous but is also a passion,” said Kevin Miller, Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. “We’ve done everything from help a farmer with a mobility vehicle with special tires to get through the fields … to lift equipment so they can get into the tractors and combines so they can still provide for their families.”
Ray of Hope Awards were also presented to Sen. Larry Obhof, President of the Ohio Senate, and Rep. Larry Householder, Ohio House Speaker. Sen. Obhof was recognized for his legislative support for people with disabilities, including helping to establish the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Council, increasing tax deductions that families with children with disabilities could take for the state college savings program, and extending disability benefits to volunteer, part-time, and reserve officers and first responders. Speaker Householder was recognized for his commitment to bipartisan leadership in the House and the impact that will have on people with disabilities, Ohio’s veterans, and the economically disadvantaged.
The Ray of Hope Awards were designed by the artists of InsideOut Studio in Hamilton. The studio is a partnership of Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati and the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities. InsideOut provides artists with disabilities the opportunity to produce, market, and receive income from their art while gaining confidence in their abilities. The award design whimsically melded the design of the Great Seal of Ohio with the Easterseals logo to reinforce the organizations historic roots in the Buckeye State. One of the award artists, Morgan Gattermeyer, traveled to Columbus to share how InsideOut and Easterseals have helped her grow as an artists in various media, including clay, fused glass, and paint.