Nominations for 2017 Advocacy Awards Now Accepted

Once each year, TARC recognizes those who have provided outstanding service and advocacy for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities. Please take time now to nominate one or more individuals/organizations you believe should be recognized for their efforts in helping others. Winners of the 27th Annual TARC Advocacy Awards will be announced at the awards presentation on Taa-27th-anniversary-4-rgbhursday, Dec. 7 at the Marriott Hotel Southern Hills in Tulsa.

There are 13 categories (see list below) in which nominees can be considered for an award. Anyone can nominate advocates for an award. Each recipient in this category has done something remarkable in helping to achieve TARC’s mission of ensuring a high quality of life for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their families.

All nominations must be received by Friday, October 13, 2017.

Please click HERE to submit a nomination.

Award Categories:

  • Advocate – Board Member
    Recognizes a member of the board of directors of any non-profit, community based service provider who has gone beyond the interest of his or her agency to become an advocate for all people with disabilities.
  • Advocate – Case Manager
    Recognizes the OKDHS/DDS case manager who has surpassed job requirements to advocate for his or her clients.
  • Advocate – Direct Care Provider
    Recognizes the direct contact staff person working for a community provider, who has gone beyond job requirements to advocate for people with disabilities.
  • Advocate – Educator
    Recognizes a public school educator who has promoted the inclusion of children with disabilities in regular school settings.
  • Advocate – Professional Provider
    Recognizes any professional such as a therapist or physician who advocates for people with disabilities beyond their professional responsibilities.
  • Advocate – Volunteer
    Recognizes the volunteer or group of volunteers who, in a program serving people with developmental disabilities, has gone beyond the call of duty to advocate.
  • Elected Official
    Recognizes an elected official who has effectively promoted better understanding and integration of people with disabilities in employment, education, and the community.
  • Self-Advocate
    Recognizes the self-advocate who has spoken out for all people with disabilities.
  • Media Advocate
    Recognizes the media professional who has effectively promoted better understanding and integration of people with disabilities living in the community.
  • Parent Advocate
    Recognizes the parent(s) of a person with developmental disabilities who has been a voice for all people with disabilities.
  • Special Achievement in Advocacy
    Recognizes the individual, business, or organization not included in other categories, which through a significant advocacy effort has improved the lives of people with disabilities.
  • Catalyst of Change
    Recognizes individuals, groups or  organizations that have been catalysts for significant positive change in improving the lives of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities over a long period of time.
  • Shelby Hard Courage in Advocacy
    Recognizes individuals who have faced extreme challenges while still advocating for others.

TARC reserves the right to withhold an award in any category in which an insufficient number of qualified nominations are submitted. A selection committee composed of prominent Oklahoma advocates in the field of developmental disabilities will make the final decision on Advocacy Award winners.

















Join The Fight for People with I/DD and Their Families!

rally“We are in the fight of our lives” is how Peter Burns, Executive Director of The Arc of the U.S. characterized the proposed federal government changes to Medicaid that would strip $800 billion from the program that largely funds all states’ home and community-based supports for people with developmental disabilities.

As disastrous as those potential changes at the federal level are, TARC, an affiliated chapter of The Arc, has been deeply concerned about the devastating effects of recent and proposed budget cuts by the State of Oklahoma on services and safeguards for people with developmental disabilities.

As a result, TARC is ramping up its public policy advocacy efforts to more effectively work with Oklahoma legislators and other influential decision makers to support legislation and funding that will assist individuals with developmental disabilities to have a better quality of life.

To assist with these efforts, TARC received a $15,000 challenge grant from The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation to help further the agency’s efforts to advocate for people with developmental disabilities.

The grant is helping fund a Public Policy Coordinator leading TARC’s public policy agenda by assisting in identifying emerging issues and helping craft agency’s public policy agenda, interacting with interested and committed individuals and coalitions to develop and implement action steps to address these issues, cultivating and mobilizing grassroots advocates in support of the agenda, and communicating TARC’s issues and priorities as a public speaker in the community.

Join the fight! Additional help is needed. You can assist our advocacy efforts by becoming a TARC member. All membership fees will be used to support public policy advocacy by TARC staff as they reach out to decision makers at the State Capitol. Members, in turn, will be assisted by the agency in their own outreach efforts to communicate their desires to their elected representatives to provide the necessary funding for the critical needs of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.


OK AIM Volunteer Recounts Memorable Monitor Visit

by Jordan Gilbert

Jordan Gilbert
Jordan Gilbert

My most memorable OK AIM monitor visit was with Carol (not her real name). As usual, our coordinator had scheduled a visit for my partner and me to check on Carol. When we called to confirm the visit, Carol told us that she could not keep the appointment. She said her staff had made other plans for her and that they would not be home. It is not unusual for a visit to be rescheduled, but there was just something about the way Carol was talking that made my teammate and me uncomfortable.

We contacted the coordinator and asked if we could schedule another time with the individual and were given permission to call the home and reschedule the visit. My partner and I called what we assumed was Carol’s home phone, but it turned out to be her cellphone. I got really concerned when she kept whispering and told me that she couldn’t talk very long because she didn’t want her staff to hear the conversation. She asked us to call back later when the evening shift would be on duty. Just hearing this made us more determined to make this visit happen.

We could hardly wait until later in the evening to make the call. When we finally got in contact with Carol, she could barely talk without crying. She apologized for not being able to see us, but said that she was changing companies and that her current company was being very controlling and sending in staff that she did not trust or like to work with her. She also said her evening staff was kind and she wanted them to be present when we came to visit.

Between Carol and the evening staff, we were able to schedule a time the visit could take place. When we got to the home, Carol was a lovely hostess. She kept telling us she really enjoyed having company and didn’t get to see many people because of her staff. The change in companies was supposed to take place within a week and her evening staff was going to transfer with her. Carol kept telling us that she was afraid that the staff would make things very uncomfortable for her until she transferred.

It was wonderful to see that the evening staff was so comforting. This staff even offered to take Carol on outings to keep her busy and away from the day shift. There wasn’t any evidence that Carol was being physically harmed, but we just didn’t want to leave her until we were satisfied that more people were aware of what she was telling us. We notified the OK AIM Program Coordinator before we left Carol’s home to discuss the situation.

Carol was so excited about our visit that she pulled out her little Polaroid® camera and had her staff take pictures so that we could remember each other. As an ORU athlete, I have taken a lot of pictures. My phone is full of pictures of my friends and I even have a bunch of selfies. But none will be as precious to me as the tiny Polaroid picture I have of Carol.


OK AIM Coordinator’s note:

The information from this visit was reported to the DDS case manager and case manager supervisor. The case manager contacted the incoming residential provider and maintained daily contact with Carol until the transfer was completed. Since this visit, Carol has contacted OK AIM several times inquiring when another visit could be scheduled because she felt so comfortable with the monitors from her last visit. She also requested that the same “friends” be assigned on subsequent visits. The monitors also received a complimentary email from an individual who identified herself as Carol’s advocate. The efforts made by OK AIM volunteers are    invaluable and the results of monitoring visits can significantly and positively impact the lives of service recipients.


Joey Travolta headlines 27th Annual Advocacy Awards

Joey Travolta
Joey Travolta

“In high school, I was always the protector of kids with special needs,” said Joey Travolta, the keynote speaker at the 27th annual  Advocacy Awards and Volunteer Recognition event scheduled for Dec. 7, 2017 at the Marriott Hotel Southern Hills in Tulsa.

That protective instinct became a motivating force in shaping Joey’s future career choices. He went on to earn a degree in special education and became a special education teacher. Born into a show business family, Joey, older brother of John, became a performer in 1978 as a recording artist with Casablanca Records and then stared in several feature films.

He has directed and produced more than 20 films, including the documentary Normal People Scare Me, while mentoring a 15-year-old boy with autism who directed the film. In 2007, Joey founded Inclusion Films which involves individuals with special needs in the process of making films.

Joey will share his passion for helping students with  intellectual and developmental disabilities develop self-esteem, confidence, and creativity through acting and digital film making.

In December 2016, more than 200 volunteers, professionals, and others who advocate for and serve people with developmental disabilities from across Oklahoma gathered to celebrate the 26th Annual Advocacy Awards and Volunteer Recognition event.

Advocacy Award winners in 2016 were: Advocate – Case Manager of the Year-Samuel Graham; Advocate – Direct Care Provider of the Year -Tracy Coody; Advocate – Educator of the Year-Dr. Linda Wilson; Advocate – Professional Provider of the Year-Dr. Don Hamilton; Advocate – Volunteer of the Year-RoseAnn Duplan; Self-Advocate of the Year-Dwayne Boyd; Parent – Advocate of the Year-Heather Pike; Special Achievement in Advocacy – Individual-Kathleen Bratton-Batts; Special Achievement in Advocacy – Group-Youth Philanthropy Initiative – Cohort 7; Media – Advocate of the Year-Tulsa World; Elected Official Advocate of the Year-AJ Griffin; Catalyst of Change-Oklahomans For Autism Insurance Reform, Erin Taylor, and Jenks Public Schools; and Shelby Hard Courage In Advocacy-Teri Burnstein.

To nominate a person or organization for the 2017 Advocacy Awards please click HERE. All nominations must be received by Friday, October 13, 2017.



TARC Receives Telly Award

tellybronzelargeTARC and Flying Colors Media were the recipients of a Bronze Award in the Not-for-Profit category at the 38th Annual Telly Awards for the video production of “Cheryl and Christian—A Mother’s Story”.

The video tells the story of how Cheryl Srader, with the help of TARC, became a powerful advocate for her son, Christian who has spina bifida and other disabilities. (Watch the video on our homepage.)

Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding content for TV and Cable, Digital and Streaming, and Non-Broadcast distribution. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world.


3rd Annual Carnival of Caring

carnival-of-caringAs part of the Tulsa Area United Way Day of Caring, TARC will be hosting the 3rd annual Carnival of Caring at Whiteside Park, 4009 S. Pittsburg in Tulsa on Friday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Individuals with developmental disabilities and their staff or caregiver are invited to come and enjoy a fun day of food, games, activities, arts & crafts, and music with DJ – Steve Pitts. There will be no charge for any of these event activities. Sponsored by TARC, Matrix Service Company, and Tulsa Area United Way.

Please RSVP by Sept. 1 by calling Barry Maxwell at 918-582-TARC (8272) or by email at

TARC selected for national special educational advocacy curriculum project

TARC is one of 10 chapters of The Arc of the U.S. selected to participate in a pilot project to create a training curriculum that will be used nationally to train parents and others how to effectively advocate for special education services.

TARC was chosen for the project largely because of their more than 20 years of experience and expertise in doing effective special education advocacy.

Sherilyn Walton, TARC’s Family Support Coordinator, provides this service and is well regarded by schools and parents for her expertise. She is a licensed clinical social worker and was a general and special education teacher for several years.

As a result, she not only understands the laws affecting special education and what is required, but also  can relate well with school personnel.

“We are honored and excited to have been chosen to participate in this important project and lend our knowledge and expertise in the development of this national training curriculum,” said TARC Executive Director John Gajda.

“Training others on how to be effective advocates for special education services fits perfectly with our philosophy on advocacy. Sherilyn not only attends meetings with parents, she teaches them how to be effective advocates so they can continue to advocate for their child throughout their school experience,” he added.

The special education advocacy training curriculum developed by this pilot project will be specifically designed for the nearly 700 state and local chapters of The Arc to help prepare chapter staff to effectively train parents and others to advocate on behalf of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in special education matters.

The training curriculum will discuss how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 programs apply to individual students participating in these programs as well as advocacy strategies to address potential concerns at each step of the special education process to ensure students receive a “free and appropriate public education.”

Thanks to funding from TAUW and generous donors, special education advocacy services provided by TARC are available to families in the six counties (Tulsa, Creek, Okmulgee, Osage, Rogers and Wagoner) served by TAUW.

TARC has provided this service in 79 public schools and three charter schools in 17 separate school districts.

For more information on this service and others provided by TARC, call   (918) 582-TARC (8272).


Call to Action: Write Your Legislators Now!

Tell OK lawmakers: End special interest tax giveaways for oil & gas companies!

Oil & gas companies have been benefiting from special interest giveaways at the expense of education, public safety and services to people with developmental disabilities and other vulnerable populations for too long. Working Oklahoma families deserve so much better.

Tell lawmakers: It’s time to take the gross production tax back to 7%, which is still lower than other oil producing states. Click HERE or below for a quick and easy way to contact your state legislators.


Volunteers Needed for Shot In The Dark Golf Tournament

The 22nd annual Shot In The Dark Golf Tournament will take place on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) at MeadowBrook Country Club. Since the tournament will be at a new golf course this year, it will be even more important to have an adequate number of volunteers on hand to help golfers find their way in the dark and help ensure their safety. Ideally, around 80 volunteers will be needed.

Volunteers are needed to serve as:

  • Tee Box Monitors
  • Greens Monitors
  • Hazard Monitors
  • Golf Course Set-up
  • Volunteer Registration
  • Golfer Registration/Golf Sales
  • Event Set-up
  • Event Clean-up Crew
  • Monitor Relief and Stand-by

All volunteers are invited to enjoy dinner and live entertainment prior to tee-off time (9 p.m.) and will receive a T-shirt (to be worn during the tournament) and goodie bag. They can also participate in the silent auction.

To sign up as a volunteer, please contact Craig Thompson at 918-582-8272 or


Take Action Now!

On April 18, the Oklahoma Policy Institute stood alongside more than 20 nonprofit, grassroots, and professional organizations (TARC was one of those organizations!) representing hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans on the front lines of public service and community engagement at a press conference at the Capitol to ask lawmakers to address our state’s universally-known revenue and budget problems by adopting the Save Our State Budget.

This budget was built on the belief that Oklahomans deserve a budget that will place Oklahoma on a sustainable path by getting away from budget gimmicks.

  • Place Oklahoma on a sustainable path by getting away from budget gimmicks.
  • Prevent drastic cuts to state services.
  • Invest in core government services like education, public safety, healthcare, and transportation.

The budget is a responsible three-year blueprint for a better budget based upon the following principles:

  • Address the overall budget situation, not just the public education crisis. The plan ensures there will be enough revenue to avert further budget cuts and invest in key priorities.
  • Acknowledge revenue is part of the problem and modernize the tax system while ending special interest giveaways.
  • Look beyond the current crisis and propose realistic solutions to structural budget problems plaguing the state.
  • Propose reforms to budgeting practices that will increase legislative oversight and reduce the potential for future revenue failures.
  • Model the transparency we believe our elected officials should adopt.

From the TARC perspective, this budget addresses the critical need to continue existing commitments to individuals with developmental disabilities already receiving services and expanding services to those on the DDS waiting list for Waiver Services. This proposed budget embodies the advocacy goals we have set for TARC.
The full budget plan can be downloaded at the Save Our State website at
The website has a “take action” link in the upper right corner. Please make use of this resource as well as contacting your legislators and asking them to support this plan. People with developmental disabilities and their families will benefit.