Awards Archive

Ability Awards Archive

The Able Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Ability Awards.

The following individuals, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a commitment to progressing the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida and are honored as leaders in their field. The Able Trust Board of Directors and Staff celebrate:

Ability Awards 2016

2016 Beverly Champan Award

Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program
ARC Broward
Sunrise, Florida

 

2016 Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award
Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award
Dennis Haas, President & CEO
ARC Broward
Sunrise, Florida

 

2016 Adult Leadership Award
Adult Leadership Award
Anthony LaCava
Marietta, Georgia

 

2016 Employer of the Year
Employer of the Year
Boca Raton Resort & Club
Boca Raton, Florida

 

2016 Employer of the Year

Employer of the Year
FairPoint Communications
Port St. Joe, Florida

 

2016 Employer of the Year Award

Employer of the Year
InnisFree Hotels
Gulf Breeze, Florida

 

2016 Representative of the Year 

Representative of the Year
Erik Fresen
Miami, Florida

(received by William Winialski)

 

Representative of the Year
Marlene O'Toole
Lady Lake, Florida

 

Senator of the Year
Andy Gardiner
Orlando, Florida

 

2016 High School High Tech Program of the Year
High School High Tech Program of the Year
Ability 1st
Tallahassee, Florida

 

2016 Public Employer of the Year
Public Employer of the Year
City of Tallahassee
Tallahassee, Florida

 

2016 Volunteer of the Year
Volunteer of the Year
Richard L. Cole, Jr.
The Villages, Florida

 

 

Ability Awards 2015

St. Petersburg College Foundation
Frances Neu, Vice President Institutional Advancement, Foundation
Executive Director
St. Petersburg, Florida

 


Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award
Lee Nasehi, President & CEO
Lighthouse of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

 


Media Representative Award
Florida Public Broadcasting Services
Janyth Righter, Executive Director
St. Petersburg, Florida

 


Adult Leadership Award
Joseph Murray
Lake Worth, Florida

 


Young Adult Leadership Award
Carly Fahey
Tallahassee, Florida

(received by Carly's grandfather Richard Sanczel)

 


Employer of the Year
Lockheed Martin
Keri Kelsey, Equal Employment Opportunity Manager
Orlando, Florida

(received by Lockheed Martin Director of Electronic Systems, Bob Akins) 

 


High School High Tech Program of the Year
Center for Independent Living of Central Florida - Polk County HSHT

 


Public Employee of the Year
Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director
Florida Department of
Economic Opportunity
Tallahassee, Florida

 

Volunteer of the Year
Joseph C. Mellichamp III
Tallahassee, Florida

 


Public Organization of the Year
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
Christina Daly, Secretary
Tallahassee, Florida

 


Small Employer of the Year
West End Animal Hospital
Dr. Deborah & Mr. Iaon Cottrell
Newberry, Florida

 

 

 

Ability Awards 2014

The Able Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Ability Awards.

The following individuals, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a commitment to progressing the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida and are honored as leaders in their field. The Able Trust Board of Directors and Staff celebrate:


Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program
STAND AMONG FRIENDS
SHAWN FRIEDKIN, FOUNDER; DAWN HICKS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR; JENNY BENITEZ, VOCATIONAL EVALUATOR
BOCA RATON, FLORIDA

 


Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award
WILLIAM KENNEDY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
CENTER FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING OF NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA

 

 


Media Representative Award
EVE SAMPLES,
STUART, FLORIDA

 

Adult Leadership Award
PAMME LYONS TAYLOR
TAMPA, FLORIDA

 


Young Adult Leadership Award
WILLIAM “DREW” DAVIS
LITHIA, FLORIDA

 

 


Employer of the Year Award
WELLCARE HEALTH PLANS, INC.
LAKELAND, FLORIDA

 

 


Employer of the Year Award
MARRIOTT GLOBAL RESERVATION SALES & CUSTOMER CARE
DIANNE THOMAS, ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER
MIAMI, FLORIDA

 

 


Employer of the Year Award
MARK BOSWELL, SOUTHEASTERN UNIFORMS
PLANT CITY, FLORIDA

 

 


Representative of the Year
REPRESENTATIVE ED HOOPER
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA

 

 


Senator of the Year
SENATOR AARON BEAN
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

 

High School High Tech Program of the Year
BREVARD SCHOOLS FOUNDATION – BAYSIDE HSHT
CHRISTINE BARBUTO, HIGH SCHOOL HIGH TECH PROGRAM MANAGER
PALM BAY, FLORIDA

 


Public Employee of the Year
DAVID DARM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
FLORIDA COMMISSION ON JOBS FOR FLORIDIANS WITH DISABILITIES
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

 

 


Volunteer of the Year
ELADIO AMORES, CORPORATE CONSULTANT
DEPT. OF EDUCATION: DIVISION OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION
SARASOTA, FLORIDA

Ability Awards 2013

The Able Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Ability Awards.

The following individuals, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a commitment to progressing the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida and are honored as leaders in their field. The Able Trust Board of Directors and Staff celebrate:


The Stephen R. Wise Founder’s Award
Senator Stephen Wise

 


Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program
Hope Clubhouse of Southwest Florida,
Debra Webb, Executive Director
Fort Myers, Florida

 


Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award
E. Gay Hawk, Executive Director
National Alliance on Mental Health Pinellas County
St. Petersburg, Florida

 


Media Representative Award
Staci Spanos, Anchor WJXT Channel 4
Jacksonville, Florida

 


Adult Leadership Award
Thom DeLilla
Tallahassee, Florida

 


Young Adult Leadership Award
Renzo Burga
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

 


Large Employer of the Year
Publix Super Markets
Lakeland, Florida

 


Small Employer of the Year
Crumb de la Crumb, Cindy Shoemake
Valrico, Florida

Representative of the Year Award
Representative Janet H. Adkins
Fernandina Beach, Florida

Senator of the Year Award
Senator Aaron Bean

 


High School High Tech Program of the Year
Dyslexia Research Institute, Inc.
Port St. Joe, Florida

 


Public Employee of the Year
Aleisa McKinlay, Director Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Tallahassee, Florida

 


Public Organization of the Year
Community Based Care of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

Ability Awards 2012

The Able Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Ability Awards.

The following individuals, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a commitment to progressing the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida and are honored as leaders in their field. The Able Trust Board of Directors and Staff celebrate:


Kelly Greene, Executive Director of The Center for Independent Living of South Florida, Miami, FL – Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program

 


Kathleen Peck, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for the Lighthouse of Collier, Naples, FL – Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award

 


Tallahassee Democrat, Patrick Dorsey & Bob Gabordi, Tallahassee, FL – Media Representative Award

 


John Miller, Palm Beach County, FL – Adult Leadership Award

 


Sarah Goldman, Orlando, FL – Young Adult Leadership Award

 


Sykes, Lakeland, FL – Large Employer Award

 

Ross, Dress for Less, Stuart, FL – Medium Employer Award

 


Marlene O’Toole, Lady Lake, FL – Representative of the Year

 

Jack Latvala, St. Petersburg, FL – Senator of the Year

 


Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, in Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties – High School High Tech Site of the Year

 


Steve Howells, Executive Director of FAAST (Florida Alliance for Assistive Services & Technology) – Public Employee of the Year

 


State Attorney’s Office, 4th Judicial Court, Jacksonville, FL – Public Organization of the Year for their leadership in the James Patrick Memorial Work Incentive PAS Program

 


Bob Bromberg, Miami, FL – Volunteer of the Year for his leadership in the Miami Dade Employability Network

Ability Awards 2011

The Able Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Ability Awards.

The following individuals, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a commitment to progressing the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida and are honored as leaders in their field. The Able Trust Board of Directors and Staff celebrate:


Robert Kelly, Executive Director for the Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind, Daytona Beach, FL – Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement program

 


Sue Buchholtz, Chief Executive Officer for PARC, St. Petersburg, FL – Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award

 

Goodwill Industries of South Florida & Big Blue Productions, Inc, Miami, FL for the “For Once in My Life” musical documentary – Media Representative in Television Award

 


Joyce McInerney, Polk County, FL – Adult Leadership Award

 

Whitney Harris, St. Petersburg, FL – Young Adult Leadership Award

 


Ashbel Williams, Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer of the State Board of Administration, Tallahassee, FL – Public Employee of the Year

 

Bill Palmer, Director of the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Tallahassee FL – Public Employee of the Year

 


James Kiser, volunteer nurse at The Able Trust Florida Youth Leadership Forum – Volunteer of the Year

 


Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida, Gainesville, FL – High School High Tech site of the Year

 

Representative W. Keith Perry, Gainesville, FL – Representative of the Year

 


Dept. of Environmental Protection; State Parks, statewide in Florida – Public Organization of the Year

 

Wal-Mart – Business Mentor of the Year

 

Julio Suarez, Director of Diversity Outreach for Darden Restaurants, Orlando, FL – Executive Champion of the Year

Ability Awards 2010

The Able Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2010 Ability Awards.

The following individuals, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a commitment to progressing the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities in the state of Florida and are honored as leaders in their field. The Able Trust Board of Directors and Staff celebrate:

  • Lighthouse Central Florida, Orlando, FL, Beverly Chapman Award for Employment
  • Kelly Greene of Center for Independent Living of South Florida, Miami, FL; Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award
  • Deborah Circelli of The Daytona Beach News Journal, Daytona Beach, FL; Print Media of the Year
  • Jim Payne of NBC’s WESH2 News, Winter Park, FL; Television Media of the Year
  • Torri Bandel, Delray Beach, FL; Adult Leadership Award
  • Mervin Hernandez, Orlando, FL; Young Adult Leadership Award
  • Bryan Vaughn, Tallahassee, FL; Public Employee of the Year
  • Rogue Gallart, Orlando, FL; Volunteer of the Year
  • Independent Living Resource Center St. Johns & Clay counties, Jacksonville, FL; High School High Tech Program of the Year
  • Publix, Lakeland, FL; Business Mentor of the Year
  • Rosen Hotels & Resorts, Orlando, FL; Large Employer of the Year
  • TJ Maxx, St. Petersburg The New Gateway Mall, St. Petersburg, FL; Small/Medium Employer of the Year
  • Palm Beach Business Leadership Network, West Palm Beach, FL ; Business Leadership Site of the Year

Ability Awards 2009

Businesses and individuals around the state were honored for their employment, leadership and service to Florida citizens with disabilities at The Able Trust Ability Awards luncheon. This years award recipients were nominated by members of their community for going above and beyond the legal compliances of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and demonstrating a clear and conscious effort to be disability-friendly.

The 2009 Ability Awards winners are listed below by category:

Organization Awards

Small Employer of the Year

Mark Kamleiter

An Attorney at Kamleiter & Kirk, Mark Kamleiter has provided employment and natural support for an individual with disability in his office. He has worked hand in hand with The Lighthouse Team for accommodations of speech coach and office skills. He is leveraging this employee experience in his company’s newsletter so that others may learn from his office’s experience. Mr. Kamleiter represents that it takes the effort of all, large or small, to be a leader in providing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, one job at a time.

 
Large Employer of the Year

Lockheed Martin and Roxane MacGillivray

Lockheed Martin, a Fortune 100 company has been working to become a model company in the hiring of people with disabilities. As one of the first companies in Florida to embrace that concept, Lockheed Martin is often used as a model for other large companies. Roxane MacGillivray, Ethics Investigator for Lockheed Martin, is very dedicated to the mission, and is a champion within her company on implementing policies that benefit traditionally under-represented groups such as those with disabilities. Roxane has been very active with the Orlando Business Leadership Network, sharing her company’s best practices to accommodate employees with disabilities. Lockheed Martin is striving to become a “worldwide employer of choice” for people with disabilities.

Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program

Gratitude House, Inc.

In 2007 with a grant from The Able Trust, Gratitude House started providing an onsite employment skills and vocational counseling service for women receiving rehabilitative service for chemical addiction and co-occurring disorders. Essential to maintaining a successful recovery for anyone is the ability to gain and retain employment suited for an individual’s career plans. Gratitude House has provided a tailored employment skills and computer instruction program based on each woman’s needs, so that confident and skilled clients could gain the jobs they seek. Many clients found success at competitive job fairs and gained employment near their homes earning aboveentry wages. Gratitude House has been successful in making a difference in the lives of many through rehabilitative service and employment training and placement. Founded in 1968, Gratitude House is led by Gail Dempsey’s dedication to recovery and to women suffering from the disease of addiction. The Able Trust applauds their commitment to employment for all.

Individual Awards

Dr. George l. Spelios Leadership Award

Donna Fassett of ARC Gateway

The Dr. George Spelios Leadership Award is named after the founding Chairman of The Able Trust who prized creative and innovative leaders of community organizations who assisted in employment for individuals with disabilities. Donna Fassett of the ARC Gateway in Pensacola represents such a leader. She started from the ground up at Gateway as a case manager in 1979 working to encourage individuals with disabilities to be a part of their community and workforce, at the same time engaging the Pensacola area community to open doors to her clients. Throughout her career at ARC Gateway and with each promotion she had her eye on expanding employment opportunities for everyone, based on their abilities not their disabilities. She has been the Executive Director at ARC Gateway since 1993 and has been the catalyst for promoting the abilities of all in her community.

Adult Leadership Award

Don Chester

Don Chester is the Assistant Administrator of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Palm Beach, where he has worked since 1973. He has been Chairman of the Board of eight organizations, and currently serves on nine local boards in his community, including among others Palm Beach County Medical Society Services, Palm Beach Community Health Alliance, Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies, and Palm Beach County Homeless Advisory Board. Seriously injured in a jogging accident, he is also dedicated to mentoring those who are newly injured so that they can believe in the small victories that will lead to large victories that are in their future. Don continues his profession at the Medical Center with the support of assistive technology and his service dog, Pollyanna.

Youth Leader Award

Anthony LaCava

Anthony is the kind of person we hope to see all Youth Leadership Forum delegates grow into—a vibrant person, successful employee and inspiring mentor. From a novice delegate to a skilled Junior Staffer, Anthony has grown in confidence, leadership and abilities, taking on the volunteer position of Program Manager. As manager, he has persistently sought ways to help make the forum more successful and memorable for all of the participating delegates each year. He organizes the program PowerPoint for the “Reflections” at the end of each Forum taking care that each delegate, junior staff and volunteer is included. Anthony has recently taken a new employment opportunity in Boston, Massachusetts but made sure in accepting the job offer to secure time off this July to join us again for Youth Leadership Forum 2009.

Business Mentor of the Year Award

University of Florida

The University of Florida exemplifies quality one-on-one mentoring for young adults with disabilities. Since 2002, University of Florida professionals have provided job shadowing and internship experiences for multiple students through Florida Disability Mentoring Day and High School High Tech in 15 departments, including: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Health Science Center/Information Technology, Police, and Okaloosa County Agriculture Extension. A special thanks to Mr. Carl Crane (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept.) for his leadership in mentoring activities.

Volunteer of the Year Award

W. Drew Andrews

Over the last decade The Able Trust’s Youth Leadership Forum has had the fortunate honor of the volunteerism of Drew Andrews. He has made the forum part of his summer vacation each year; choosing to lead home-groups, sleep in a dorm, and work for 4 days straight with the Delegates and Junior Staff. Drew is renowned for his humor, smile and knowledge about education, career planning and transition services for young adults with disabilities. His disarming manner and charm can make even the most shy or nervous new delegate comfortable and ready to participate in this new experience. Drew Andrews volunteers because he truly wants to help make today’s youth tomorrow’s leaders.

Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year Award

JR Harding

The Able Trust has been the recipient of the successful and dedicated effort of Dr. Harding to secure donations, sponsorships and other resources for its programs and services. He truly believes in the value of the youth programs, and asks for nothing in return for his promotion of the programs and fundraising. It is not unusual for JR to just send The Able Trust an email with a notice of another new supporter, with a simple request that staff send the supporter a thank you. He is a shining volunteer leader, and the quality of several of our youth programs depends on his efforts.

Public Employee of the Year Award

Paul Martell

An employee of Volunteer Florida, The Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, Paul is committed to bridging the gap between communities and government with the service and talents of volunteers, Paul’s leadership has been instrumental in the creation of Project Impact. This program links high school and college students with disabilities to mentoring, leadership development and service learning experiences. Paul has been a leader by igniting the spark of volunteerism in Florida’s communities to include everyone, including people with disabilities.

Media Representative Award

Florida Public Radio and Tom Flanigan

Florida Public Radio is the nation’s oldest public radio network, with 13 stations located from Pensacola to Miami. Its mission is to provide public radio listeners with in-depth coverage of the Florida Legislature, state government and issues that affect the state. Florida Public Radio is also the home for NPR programs, many of which speak to different disabilities, helping to erase incorrect perceptions and address discriminatory practices and barriers. Excellent programs have been aired on topics from autism, severe mental illnesses, learning disabilities, dangerous school discipline methods for children with disabilities, care for caregivers, and even Wheelchair Tai Chi. As FPRN’s news director, Tom Flanigan is a friend and supporter of The Able Trust, often highlighting people with disabilities, or the wonderful programs that serve them. He gives his reporters free reign to pursue these important stories so they in turn can spread the news about all Floridians, including individuals with disabilities.

Special Recognitions

High School/High Tech Project of the Year

Florida Crown Workforce Board

Florida Crown provides HS/HT services to students with disabilities throughout Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist and Union counties. Through Florida Crown’s quality services, students can earn a free computer and increase academic achievement by several grade levels. In 2008, 30 students received paid summer internships and every high school senior secured employment or post secondary education upon graduation. This year, the program provided 23,000+ services to at-risk students, resulting in quality mentoring relationships, FCAT successes and academic achievement of grade level completion, paid summer internships, employment and college entrance.

Florida Business Leadership Network Local Chapter of the Year

Panhandle BLN

SINCE 2005 this BLN chapter has been generating support among businesses in Pensacola and surrounding counties for the hiring of persons with disabilities. Under the constant direction of Lara Burnside who has been its Chair since 2005, this BLN continues to grow in membership and volunteer support for accomplishing its mission. The Panhandle BLN has maintained its growth in spite of devastating hurricanes in the area, the depressed economy, and the challenges of a workforce that includes many rural areas. The members support each other in their efforts to assure that people with disabilities are welcome employees and valued staff in the regions business operations. Since 2005, members of this BLN have helped approximately 200 persons with disabilities obtain employment!

Legislator of the Year Award

Senator Stephen R. Wise, Ed.D

As a Representative in 1990, he was instrumental in moving the legislation that created The Able Trust, believing that employment was critical for people with disabilities. Motivated by friends with disabilities, he has continued, throughout his term in the House of Representatives and his current tenure as a Senator, to support and protect the work and mission of The Able Trust. In the past two years, he has worked hard to continue the support of the High School High Tech program within the state appropriations process, and was also the key legislative force behind the Personal Care Attendant Program, expanded last year to include coverage of more disabilities.

Representative Will Weatherford

Elected to the House of Representatives in 2006 and representing District 61 in Pasco County, Rep. Weatherford has proven to have the interest of persons with disabilities at heart as he guided The Able Trust’s High School High Tech program through the legislative appropriations maze, the pre-session and the 2009 session. Instrumental in protecting the funding for the program, he worked tirelessly to make sure that the program would continue, to ensure the best possible futures for well more than 1,000 high school students with disabilities across the state of Florida.

Gala Fundraiser of the Year Award

Fonda Lee

Countless hours of her time and expertise have been devoted to The Able Trust Annual Gala, which includes extensive fundraising, work on pre-Gala events, and an energetic hand on the evening of the Gala. Fonda yields her positive attitude and can-do spirit to assist The Able Trust in accomplishing its mission. She was one of the top fundraisers for the Gala in both 2008 and 2009 and organized the Bridgebuster 5K run as an additional fundraiser in the fall of 2008. She also donated significant time to help Youth Leadership Forum students ready themselves for their appearance at the 2007 and 2008 Galas.

Ability Awards 2007

Businesses and individuals around the state were honored for their employment, leadership and service to Florida citizens with disabilities at The Able Trusts 10th annual Ability Awards program, held in conjunction with the Employability Symposium in August in Tampa, Florida. This years award recipients were nominated by members of their community for going above and beyond the legal compliances of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and demonstrating a clear and conscious effort to be disability-friendly. The Able Trust would like to thank this years Ability Awards sponsors, Darden Restaurants and Walt Disney World Co.

The 2007 Ability Awards winners are listed below by category:

Organization Awards

Small Employer of the Year

Crystal Bay Enterprise, Inc.

Crystal Bay Enterprise, Inc. owner Debbie Hietala operates the cafeteria in the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa, with over half of her current workforce having a disability. Being visually impaired herself, Debbie has a long standing commitment to hiring, serving and accommodating employees with disabilities, particularly the visually impaired.

 
Medium Employer of the Year
Regal Cinema

Regal Cinema in Pinellas Park currently makes including people with disabilities in their workforce a priority. Manager Cheryl Basaldo sets aside jobs to match the capabilities and goals for employment for people with disabilities and encourages them to move up and explore work opportunities in the theater. The Cinema's managers are given the time and encouraged to work with those with disabilities so that they might fulfill their full potential.

Large Employer of the Year
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF) has a long standing commitment to diversity and inclusion and recognizes the importance of increased access to meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Company chairman and CEO Dr. Robert Lufrano recently made a commitment to becoming the "employer of choice" for Floridians with disabilities over the next few years. The company has a dedicated team member whose role is to develop and provide individualized accommodations for new and returning employees with disabilities. They are also actively involved the Florida Business Leadership Network (BLN), including serving as the lead employer in the local BLN chapters of Orlando and Jacksonville.

Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program
The Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind

The Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind in Daytona Beach has an outstanding track record for helping people with disabilities build careers. The organization's Supported Employment Program provides adult Floridians with disabilities with assistance with finding and maintaining employment in their community. Clients are served for as long as assistance is requested in the areas of job retraining, communication, problem resolution and transportation assistance. Last year the program supported 65 graduates.

Individual Awards

Dr. George l. Spelios Leadership Award
Grace-Anne Alfiero

In 1995, Grace-Anne Alfiero developed the idea for and co-founded the Creative Clay Cultural Arts Center, Inc., with the goal of making the arts accessible for all members of the community, particularly individuals with developmental, physical or behavioral disabilities. Today Creative Clay offers four art programs in St. Petersburg, including ARTLINK which pairs artists with students for visual art, theater scripts or musical performance collaboration and ARTBIZ which provides the necessary vocational skills for students to market and advertise artwork.

Media Representative Award
Geoff Oldfather

Geoff Oldfather is a columnist with Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. With over his 28 years of reporting in South Florida, advocating for and working with individuals with disabilities has always been important to Geoff. He has a personal passion, being a father of a son with a disability, and a community passion, serving as vice chair of the board of directors for The ARC of Martin County. Through that role he founded the Treasure Coast Challenge Ride, a major motorcycle event which draws thousands of people to Stuart each year.

Youth Leader Award
John Thomas (JT) Davis

Twenty-two year old John Thomas (JT) Davis lives with a learning disability that affects his ability to grasp math, reading and spelling, yet he doesn't allow it slow him down. JT is a strong, outspoken advocate for people with disabilities, serving as a role model at The Able Trust's Florida's Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) for the past five years, as well as a member of the Florida Youth Council. In addition to attending school, JT works for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Recreation and Parks where he is working to make sure all of Florida's parks are ADA compliant and accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Special Recognitions

High School/High Tech Project of the Year
The High School/High Tech (HS/HT) Project of Madison County School Board

The High School/High Tech (HS/HT) Project of Madison County School Board is an exceptional program that assists students with disabilities with achieving their dreams. Under the leadership of Mary Coody, HS/HT Project Coordinator, this HS/HT project has flourished over the last six years. They have developed strong partnerships with local businesses, colleges and universities which have provided incredible career opportunities to students. In 2007, students received college and career resources from North Florida Community College, Florida State University, The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, The Art Institute in Jacksonville and the Sally Corporation, to name a few.

Florida Business Leadership Network Local Chapter of the Year
The Big Bend BLN (BBBLN)

The Big Bend BLN (BBBLN) helps local businesses learn more about hiring people with disabilities through training and technical assistance, making it easier for employers to recruit, hire, train and retain employees with disabilities. With more than 20 internships in place, the BBBLN has been very successful in their efforts to place students and job seekers with disabilities in the work place. The chapter was recently awarded a grant by The Able Trust for an additional 20-25 internships next spring.