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NACDD names Michigan, Alaska, and Pennsylvania disability advocates as 2021 national advocacy awardees

The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) will present its Champions for Equal Opportunities (CEO) Awards for outstanding advocates by and with people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) during its Annual Conference on August 4, 2021, at 2pm ET. This year NACDD is honoring four individuals with its CEO Awards. Sarah Carmany of Michigan will be honored with the Betty Williams Champions of Equal Opportunity Award, Jena Crafton of Alaska will receive the April Dunn Start Your Journey Award, and Tarik Kahn and Anna Perng of Philadelphia, PA will each receive the Outstanding National Advocate Award.

The awardees will be honored during the NACDD Annual Conference online Wednesday August 4, 2021, at 2pm ET virtually. Ms. Carmany and Ms. Crafton will also be inducted into the NACDD’s Self-Advocate Leadership Circle along with Devin Williams of Oklahoma and Anna Atla of Alaska.

Donna Meltzer, Executive Director of NACDD, stated, “NACDD is pleased to honor these great advocates who do so much to create real change in their communities and across the country, helping every individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities to live their best life. I am confident that our 2021 awardees, who have done so much to support people with I/DD during this very difficult time of pandemic, will continue their work well into the future. Additionally, Sarah and Jena are receiving awards named in memory of extraordinary women advocates who came before them.  I know they will carry on the legacy and fine example of Ms. Williams and Ms. Dunn.” 

The Betty Williams, Champions of Equal Opportunity Award recognizes a leader and self-advocate who has a long record of accomplishment of advocacy success.  Named in honor of Betty Williams who received the Champion of Equal Opportunity Award in 2016, and passed in 2018, this award honors the extraordinary work that Betty had done in her career and her life. 

Sarah cut her advocacy teeth in her local area, emulating inclusion, integrated employment, and autonomy in her own life, and sharing her experiences with others.  She lives in her own apartment in the Kalamazoo area.  She is self-employed in her own cleaning business, is active in her church and local recreational events.  She maintains local involvement as a Board member of the ARC Community Advocates, as well as serving as a Board Member of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, the local Community Mental Health.  Sarah is also an active member of her local chapter of League of Woman Voters.

The April Dunn Start Your Journey Award recognizes an up-and-coming advocate who has been making their mark in the state and is now engaging more on the national scene.  Ms. April Dunn was the NACDD 2019 Start Your Journey awardee.  We sadly lost April in the Spring of 2020 to the COVID-19 pandemic, this award honors her memory and her work. 

Ms. Crafton began her advocacy work at a young age, living by example and encouraging people with disabilities from all walks of life around the globe to pursue their dreams.  Having her own developmental disabilities, Ms. Crafton struggled with the challenges of learning in a traditional education system. Ms. Crafton ‘s parents recognized that the school system was not fostering an appropriate learning environment for their daughter and felt something needed to change and so they decided to try a different approach: to provide Ms. Crafton with a comprehensive, hands on learning experience that would teach her important and necessary life skills that she would not be able to learn anywhere else.  Ms. Crafton learned many critical life skills, including but not limited to leadership, survival, communication, patience, understanding, collaboration and teamwork, to live in harmony with one another, and how to adapt to ever changing environments. 

NACDD will be presenting two CEO awards for outstanding advocacy on a national level to Tarik Khan, Nurse Practitioner and Anna Perng, a self and parent advocate and community organizer, for their tireless efforts to bring much needed COVID-19 vaccines to people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in their homes. Tarik and Anna have worked as a team to get deeply into multipli-marginalized communities in which people with I/DD, their families and caregivers have been isolated and unable to get to vaccine sites. Their tireless efforts to ensure everyone who needs a vaccine can get one is a story of exemplary community advocacy and selfless efforts from which we can all learn. Their advocacy work has inspired others across our nation to take similar actions and for this we honor Tarik and Anna as exemplary leaders in advocacy.

About NACDD:  The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is the national association for the 56 Councils on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) across the United States and its territories.  The DD Councils receive federal funding to support programs that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for all people in the United States with developmental disabilities.  Learn more about NACDD:  https://www.nacdd.org/