Winners announced for TARC 29th Annual Advocacy Awards

Winners of the 29th annual TARC Advocacy Awards have been selected and will be presented with their awards at the Advocacy Awards & Volunteer Recognition ceremony on Dec. 10, 2019 at the Marriott Hotel Southern Hills in Tulsa. The awards recognize individuals and organizations who have provided outstanding service and advocacy for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.

Winners of the 2019 Advocacy Awards are:

Volunteer of the Year – Joe Honeycutt

Self-Advocate of the Year – Tomas Davis

Parent of the Year – Andee Cooper

Direct Care Provider of the Year – Brooke Andrews

Professional Provider of the Year – Jeff Wonderly

Case Manager of the Year – Ellen Kunze

Educator of the Year – Cassandra Marlar

Elected Official of the Year – Cyndi Munson

Media Advocate of the Year – Tulsa Kids Magazine

Board Member of the Year – Seth Campbell

Special Achievement in Advocacy – Individual – Lori Hauge

Special Achievement in Advocacy – Group – Chris Castleberry and Darla Hill-Myers

Catalyst of Change Award – Early Access

Catalyst of Change Award – Wanda Felty

Catalyst of Change Award – Joanne Goin

Shelby Hard Courage in Advocacy Award – Valerie Wood

Lifetime Achievement Award – Sandy Ingraham

Each of these award recipients 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.

Tickets for the 29th Annual TARC Advocacy Awards & Volunteer Recognition ceremony and dinner are now available for purchase by clicking HERE or by calling 918-582-TARC (8272) through Dec. 4. The event will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Southern Hills Marriott Hotel in Tulsa beginning at 6 p.m.

LeAnne Taylor, KOTV’s “6 In The Morning” personality, will serve as the master of ceremonies. Guests will gather in the ballroom for an evening filled with live music provided by local music sensation, Branjae, the opportunity to bid in a silent auction, dinner, and program featuring keynote speaker, Richard Hight. Richard is an internationally-known artist and motivational speaker who hails from Oklahoma. His work is housed in more than 50 museums and universities around the country.

Established in 1952, TARC is a Tulsa-based nonprofit organization and Tulsa Area United Way agency that provides a network of services and programs that educates, empowers, and advocates for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their families.

 

Tickets Now Available for 2019 Advocacy Awards Presentation and Dinner

Tickets for the 29th Annual TARC Advocacy Awards/Volunteer Recognition and dinner are now available for purchase online. The event will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Southern Hills Marriott Hotel in Tulsa beginning at 6 p.m. LeAnne Taylor, KOTV’s “6 In The Morning” personality, will serve as the master of ceremonies. Guests will gather in the ballroom for an evening filled with live music provided by local music sensation, Branjae, the opportunity to bid in a silent auction, dinner, and program featuring keynote speaker, Richard Hight. Richard is an internationally-known artist and motivational speaker who hails from Oklahoma. His work is housed in more than fifty museums and universities around the country.

Tickets for the event including dinner can be ordered below.

2019 Advocacy Awards RSVP/Ticket Sales
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2019 Carnival of Caring

As part of the Tulsa Area United Way Day of Caring, TARC will be hosting the annual Carnival of Caring at LaFortune Park, 5302 S Hudson Ave in Tulsa on Friday, Sept. 6 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. Bring your own lawn chairs!

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 Aug. 30 by calling TARC at 918-582-TARC (8272) or by email at bmaxwell@ddadvocacy.net.

Richard Hight headlines 29th Annual Advocacy Awards

The 29th Annual TARC Advocacy Awards and Volunteer Recognition event will be hosted Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Southern Hills Marriott Hotel in Tulsa beginning at 6 p.m.

LeAnne Taylor, KOTV’s “6 In The Morning” personality, will serve as the master of ceremonies. Guests will gather in the ballroom for an evening filled with live music provided by local music sensation, Branjae, the opportunity to bid in a silent auction, dinner, and program featuring keynote speaker, Richard Hight.

Richard Hight is an internationally-known artist and motivational speaker who hails from Oklahoma. His work is housed in over fifty museums and universities around the country. Richard discovered his love of drawing while struggling with dyslexia in school, and has been producing art and engaging audiences ever since. Growing up with dyslexia led him to valuable lessons learned about focusing on strengths and recognizing possibilities, not limitations. His experience having a disability allows him to teach those valuable lessons to his daughter, Averie, who has Down syndrome.

In his presentations, Richard focuses on helping audiences to re-imagine the possibilities in store for them and to engage their passions and natural talents. His presentations focus on the power of creativity and all of its applications, be they the arts, business, or everyday problems. His programs combine the spoken word with compelling music and a live, visual demonstration where he creates (in full scale and color) an original piece of art to inspire individuals to achieve fulfillment in their personal lives and challenge organizations to implement creativity and innovation to accomplish their vision.

Richard has been named a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) by the National Speakers’ Association, and has appeared numerous times on CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX networks to discuss his work and perform demonstrations. Richard has also launched numerous international tours and shared his work with millions of people abroad.

We are thrilled to have Richard Hight join us this year and we look forward to his demonstration that will “ignite passion, purpose, and possibilities”.

 

Nominations for 2019 Advocacy Awards Now Accepted

2019 Advocacy Awards Nomination Form

Every year, TARC has the honor of recognizing those who have provided outstanding service and advocacy for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.

Please take the time to nominate one or more individuals/organizations you believe deserve to be recognized for their efforts in helping others. Winners for the 29th Annual TARC Advocacy Awards will be honored at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Marriot Hotel Southern Hills in Tulsa.

There are 13 categories in which nominees can be considered for an award.

Every recipient of the award categories listed below has done something remarkable in helping TARC achieve its mission of ensuring a high quality of life for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their families.

 

Anyone can nominate advocates for an award by scrolling down and following the link to the nomination form. Nominations are due by Oct.18.

 

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.

 

2019 Advocacy Awards Nomination Form

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.

Father’s Day – Mike and Kenzi’s Story

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me” – Jim Valvano

Last month, we celebrated the Mother’s Day tradition by highlighting two amazing women – Andee and Cheryl.

For Father’s Day, we are honored to share the story of Mike and the love he has for his daughter Kenzi.


“Kenzi is a fun loving, adventurous person that has a passion for life.”

Kenzi was born with moderate to severe cerebral palsy.

She has undergone multiple hip surgeries, spinal surgery to clip nerves in her spine, surgery to place rods along both sides of her spine from her hips to her neck, and more. Because of her limited mobility, Kenzi uses a wheelchair.

Although she has used a wheelchair since birth, Kenzi’s father has taught her that she can still do anything she wants to do.

“We have always told her that we didn’t want her to be limited in what she wanted to do and that we would help her do whatever we could physically help her do.”

Mike does not let Kenzi’s diagnosis stop him from including her in the activities they love to do together. Since Kenzi is adventurous and willing to try anything, Mike has shared his love for the outdoors with her and they participate in many activities as a family.

They take a yearly snow skiing trip to an adaptive sports center in Colorado. They have taken Kenzi snowmobiling, where she is strapped to the front of her dad using Velcro straps.

Kenzi has been rafting down the Illinois River using an adaptive seat, swimming using a life jacket, and many other activities.

Kenzi also loves to go fishing with her dad regularly.

 

Mike helps Kenzi experience the freedom of doing activities she loves without feeling any constraints. Whether she is on the slopes snow skiing in real time, cruising through the Illinois rapids, or going on a hunting or fishing trip with her dad — Kenzi feels powerful and free.

 

“As Father’s Day approaches, I am thankful for Kenzi and the love that we share together and the time and adventures that we are able to enjoy as father and daughter!”

 


Mike is a father who proves that love has no limitations. He supports Kenzi in everything she wants to do and shows her that anything is possible. That is how every parent should be. Every child should feel as loved and supported as Kenzi does.

If you have a story like Mike and Kenzi’s, share it with us and show everyone how spreading love can be life-changing. Happy Father’s Day!

 

Mother’s Day – Andee’s Story

Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1905 and first celebrated in 1908. She wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started as a peace activist and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world“.

To honor this Mother’s Day tradition, we want to share the stories of two incredible mothers who love their children with everything they have. Today we are highlighting Andee.


Andee Cooper’s life changed in September of 2011 when her three-year-old son, Kannon, began having his first of thousands of seizures. In a matter of weeks, Kannon was experiencing more than 110 seizures every day and tests soon diagnosed her once healthy son with epilepsy. Although many kids grow out of childhood onset epilepsy, Kannon’s hundreds of seizures per day began affecting his brain.

After two weeks at the Mayo Clinic, Kannon was diagnosed with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, a complex, rare and severe childhood-onset form of epilepsy characterized by multiple and concurrent seizures and cognitive dysfunction typically extending into adulthood.

Immediately, Andee began a journey she never thought she would experience. She and her little boy who was already potty-trained, could count to twenty and sing the sweetest songs, were now facing a new future foreign from his first three years of life.

One of the first places Andee turned to for help was TARC. With consultation from Sherilyn Walton, TARC’s Family Support Coordinator, Andee received recommendations on school systems, therapies, sensory integration techniques and most importantly how to serve as an advocate for her son.

As Kannon started school, Andee worked with TARC to find resources so she could move to a new home in the Jenks School district with a school nurse on staff and a distinguished special education program. An on-site nurse is critical to Kannon’s care so he can receive his daily seizure medication or rescue medicine when needed. And when behavioral issues emerged, Sherilyn and Andee met with educators to find a solution.

Now a ten-year-old student in Jenks Public School’s Special Education Program, Kannon has been through more testing and has more battle wounds from seizures than one child should have to endure in a lifetime. With an IQ of 41, Kannon’s cognitive function is that of two-year-old, despite his physical appearance of a typical ten-year-old healthy boy.

“My son is often misunderstood because he looks healthy,” said Andee.

Andee has learned how to enroll in services that have helped ease the financial burden for her family, including providing services for Kannon with physical therapy; access to in-home services through a Medicaid waiver; and enrollment in SoonerCare which covers the medication Kannon needs to prevent seizures, an adaptive wheelchair, and some of her family’s monthly medical expenses. We are grateful that Andee reached out to our team at TARC and that she continues to work with us as she devotedly advocates for her son and others with disabilities.

As any parent, Andee will experience ups and downs and bumps along the way, but TARC’s Family Support Programs will be there to support Andee and Kannon long after his school years have ended.

As a single parent, an ally has been especially important for Andee and she credits Sherilyn and TARC for the progress she’s seen in her son as well as in her own professional career.

“I owe her everything—all of my positive outcomes and successes I have because of her help,” said Andee. “She has taught me how to be the voice for my child.”

While TARC did help Andee and will continue to do so, it was because of her initiative and advocacy that Kannon has the life he does today.


Andee is the mother that every child should have. She is wonderful in her advocacy and support of her child. That is how every parent should be. Every child should feel as loved as Kannon does. Thank you to all mothers out there!

If you have a story like Andee’s, share it with us and show everyone how spreading love can be life-changing.

Mother’s Day – Cheryl’s Story

 

Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1905 and first celebrated in 1908. She wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started as a peace activist and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world“.

To honor this Mother’s Day tradition, we want to share the stories of two incredible mothers who love their children with everything they have. Today we are highlighting Cheryl.


Imagine receiving a phone call at 28 weeks pregnant saying the ultrasound you just received shows your child has Spina bifada, water on the brain, a hole in his spine, and will never walk.

For Cheryl, a diagnosis such as this before the birth of her son Christian shaped her life as a mother like nothing else could and sent her down an entirely new path.

Cheryl contacted TARC more than ten years ago before Christian entered kindergarten. Christian was a non-verbal student and his mom was anxious about him starting school and what his future would hold.

Helping her navigate her emotions, Cheryl worked with Sherilyn Walton, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at TARC to secure an educational framework that has helped Christian develop into the young man he is today.

“Christian benefits from the decisions I make, but he also suffers if I make a wrong one,” said Cheryl. “If you would have told me in kindergarten this is where we would be, I don’t know that I would have believed you.”

Christian, now 19 years old, is a senior at Jenks High School and is transitioning into adulthood, a scary time for all parents. The skills his mom learned from TARC have taught Cheryl how to navigate and advocate for services for her son. After 24 surgeries, it is Christian’s confidence that gives Cheryl her greatest hope for his future.

“Will he go to tech school? Is he going to college? Is he going to work? Of course he is,” added Cheryl. “So, I’ll be graduating from Sherilyn to another person at TARC who handles transitioning into adulthood. Christian will have access to self-advocacy groups that teach him how to get on a bus, how to apply for a job and how to live to his fullest potential.

“I owe Sherilyn my life and my son’s life. I’m so grateful he has not only survived elementary and middle school but now we are in high school, and now I have an organization that I can trust with Christian’s adult life as well. He’s perfect. He is the best human on the planet!”

Cheryl’s words, “He is the best human on the planet”, perfectly show the never-ending love she has for her son. Cheryl actively advocates for Christian and loves him through the good and the not-so-good. The “not-so-good” just helps them grow as a family and as advocates.


Cheryl is the mother that every child should have. She is wonderful in her advocacy and support of her child. That is how every parent should be. Every child should feel as loved as Christian does. Thank you to all mothers out there!

If you have a story like Cheryl’s, share it with us and show everyone how spreading love can be life-changing.

 

 

Drug Shows Promise in Socialization For Those With Autism

There is new research suggesting targeting a hormone may lead to improved socialization and behavior in those with autism. The hormone known as vasopressin is being studied in both adults and children and there is reason for cautious optimism.

The children’s study looked at 30 kids ages 6 to 12 with autism and after randomly assigning some children to take a vasopressin nasal spray and others a placebo, parents and researchers observed greater increases in social abilities in those who took vasopressin. Along with showing less anxiety, the children showed improved performance on lab tests designed to measure social capabilities.

From the Science Translational Medicine journal, researchers found improvement was greatest among kids who had the highest levels of vasopressin before the study began. The treatment also appeared to diminish restricted and repetitive behaviors.

A separate study looked at 223 adult men with moderate to severe autism. A drug called balovaptan, which affects the brain’s response to vasopressin, was given to the men at four varying doses of balovaptan or a placebo for 12 weeks. While the adult trial showed no meaningful gains when the men were assessed using the Social Responsive Scale, two groups that received higher doses of the drug showed gains on a second scale examining socialization, adaptive behavior and daily living skills compared to those who received the placebo.

“Both drugs were well tolerated and had an acceptable safety profile, suggesting that modulating the vasopressin pathway may be a useful therapeutic strategy for ASD,” researchers behind both studies wrote in the journal. However a senior author of the study cautioned the public that larger trials are necessary to make sure the treatment is safe.

Click here to read more about the science behind the study.