One of the events that I most look forward to every year is the Annual Speak UP &
Speak OUT Summit. We have the honor of working with the Illinois Council on
Developmental Disabilities to manage the Summit.
This year 525 individuals with disabilities and their care takers registered for the
Summit and we took over the entire Springfield Hilton!
This was the 10th anniversary of the Speak UP & Speak OUT Summit, a brain child
of our good friend Lester Pritchard. I remember the first Speak UP and we all
wondered if anyone would come. Well, 135 people did come and it grew from there!
Speak Up has evolved into a unique sprit of self-determination and advocacy. The
program and keynote presentation are often developed and led by individuals with
disabilities and the Costume Dance is a vision to behold! The excitement begins on
Monday evening during preregistration and grows each day!
Oh what a night!
This year’s presentations included: How We Live in the Community; The Power of
Your Vote; Self Advocates and Sexuality; Living in My Own Home with Supports;
Seven Steps to Talking to Lawmakers; Woo Hoo…I’ve Got a Job Interview and
Another Movie Star!
We also held a screening of the movie, “Where Hope Grows,” because David
DeSanctis, the second lead in the film, would be speaking the next day. To view
the film with an audience of 170 individuals with disabilities was a marvel. To
hear the crowd applaud, cry and shout during the film was incredible. Afterwards,
on of the viewers said, “Thank you for bringing David!” If you have not seen,
“Where Hope Grows” rent it. No, buy it! It’s a wonderful story.
The keynote presentations included:
Zach Zaborny – Education of An Aspe: College Through My Eyes. Zach
talked about living with Asperger’s Syndrome and his experiences in
academics, social relationships and extracurricular activities. A very
Director Greg Fenton from the Division of Developmental Disabilities shared
with us new directions within the Division and then held a question and
answer session to hear from the people! And hear he did about the
importance of supportive living, jobs, retaining direct care staff, having loving
relationships and supporting what the people want and need. It was a very
meaningful session, and I believe the Director got a strong message.
David DeSanctis – Up, Up and Away! David is a young man with Down
Syndrome and had the second leading role in the movie, “Where Hope Grows.”
David’s presentation, in my opinion, was the best of the Summit and that is
saying something. David inspired us and challenged us to be the best that we
can be. His speech, interspersed with his favorite music and dance was
fantastic! We have already invited David to The Arc’s Annual Convention in
April! Save the date, April 20 & 22, 2016!
The Summit has developed into a unique uplifting event that truly inspires and
transforms people’s expectations of themselves and the people who support them.
Lester would be proud.
The most asked question of The Arc Team throughout the Summit was, “What are
the dates for next year?” – Sooo here’s the answer: next year’s Speak UP & Speak
OUT Summit will be October 31 to November 2, 2016.
Here are some pictures from the Summit.
David DeSanctis & Friends
Let’s Get Physical!
Adam Ballard on Educating Legislators
Vincent, ICDD Chair Bill Bogdan & Zach
Another packed breakout presentation, lead by self-advocates!
Director Greg Fenton
Captain Hook & Guest!
My friend Marty!
David DeSanctis: Q&A on Where Hope Grows
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423