United Helpers Holds Celebration for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
HEUVELTON – Holding signs that said things like, “The only disability is a bad attitude,” “My ability is stronger than my disability,” and “Keep staring, I might do a trick,” a group of nearly 50 individuals with developmental disabilities and their caregivers took to the streets of Heuvelton for a walk to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
United Helpers Behavioral Health and Life Skills operates 10 Individualized Residential Alternatives (IRAs) across St. Lawrence County, providing employment to more than 250 individuals, while also caring for nearly 50 individuals with developmental disabilities.
One of those IRAs is located in the village of Heuvelton, with two more scheduled to open later this year. Whitney Atkins organized the event and serves as program leader at the Flackville IRA located in Heuvelton.
“The people we care for in these IRAs are just that, people – just like you and me,” she said. “An IRA is a home – their home. IRAs have a kitchen, a living room, a dining room, and each individual who resides there has their own personalized bedroom.”
Ms. Atkins explained, “The primary responsibilities for those of us who work in their home, are centered on supporting the individuals in leading self-directed lives. We do this by working with them to maximize their potential by assisting with maintaining and/or developing skills and abilities. These skills are what helps the individuals interact in their community to the maximum degree that they are interested.”
Prior to the walk program members and IRA staff from across the organization gathered for a barbecue at the Heuvelton Fire Hall with those present signing a large, tie-dyed banner with the words “Developmental Disability Awareness 2022” on it.
Developmental Disability Awareness Month is celebrated each year in March. According to the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), activities during the month of March are designed to “highlight the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities.”
“United Helpers has been caring for individuals with developmental disabilities for more than 30 years,” said United Helpers Behavioral Health and Life Skills Director of Residential Services Colleen Aldridge. “It always has been and always will be our mission to provide the people we care for with the highest quality of life possible. Whether it be helping them find jobs in the community, trips to concerts, fairs, and amusement parks, or simply being there for them with a hug or words of encouragement, we really are, as our tagline says, “Always Caring.”