The National Inclusion Project is pleased to announce its 2011 Champions Honorees, with awards to be presented at its annual Champions Gala. The benefit and awards ceremony will be held at 5:30 PM on Saturday, December 10, 2011, at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina. Champions are selected by the National Inclusion Project for their substantive efforts to ensure no child sits on the sidelines, supporting the Project’s mission of opening doors for all children to be included together and experience all that life has to offer.
This year’s honorees are:
Walgreens Distribution Centers (DCs) across the country supply the company's stores with products. As an integral backbone to the retail network, efficiency is key; but, to Walgreens supply chain and logistics senior vice president Randy Lewis, so is opportunity. As the father of a child with a disability, his personal experience sparked a new work concept at Walgreens DCs that would not only make them run more efficiently, but also offer more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
After working with specialists in the vocational rehabilitation field, Walgreens opened a state-of-the-art DC in Anderson, S.C. in 2007. Featuring a work environment designed to be inclusive for people with cognitive or physical disabilities. Walgreens' goal is to fill 20 percent of its distribution center jobs with people with disabilities. "Our employees with disabilities earn the same pay, work under the same standards and work side-by-side with all other employees," said Lewis. "This is a business, not a charity. And it has turned out better than we could've ever imagined." This concept is now the blueprint for new Walgreens DCs.
Kevin Connolly is a twenty-four-year-old man who has seen the world in a way most of us never will. Whether swarmed by Japanese tourists at Epcot Center as a child or holding court at the X Games on his mono-ski, Kevin Connolly has been an object of curiosity since the day he was born without legs. Growing up in rural Montana, he was raised like any other kid. As a college student, Kevin traveled to seventeen countries on his skateboard, including Bosnia, China, Ukraine, and Japan. In an attempt to capture the stares of others, he took more than 30,000 photographs of people staring at him, and showcased them in his dazzling memoir, Double Take, A Memoir, where he cast the lens inward to explore how we view ourselves and what it is to truly see another person. Kevin currently lives in Bozeman, Montana as a photographer and professional skier. Double Take, A Memoir is currently under development for a feature film.
When Chris was born with Down Syndrome in New York City in August of 1965, the doctors advised his parents to put him in an institution. The Burkes not only ignored that advice but treated Chris the same as his older brother and two sisters, a decision that has led to a remarkable life and talent.
"Life Goes On" was created after Burke landed the role of a boy with Down Syndrome on the ABC-TV movie, "Desperate.” His work so impressed the network executives that the show's producer was asked to write a show with Chris in mind. The critically acclaimed drama series "Life Goes On,” which earned Burke a Golden Globe nomination, aired on ABC from 1989-1993. Chris also starred in a made for television movie called "Jonathan, The Boy Nobody Wanted,” appeared in a T.V. mini series called "Heaven and Hell" and has had guest starring roles in "The Commish,” "The Promised Land,” "The Division,” and "ER.”
When not on the road performing, Chris works for the National Down Syndrome Society as the Editor in Chief of "Upbeat", a quarterly news magazine which is written by and for people with Down Syndrome. Chris co-authored a book about his life published in 1992, by Bantam Doubleday Dell called "A Special Kind of Hero,” marched in former President Clinton's inaugural parade, filmed a Public Service Announcement with former President Bush, received a Christopher Award along with Steven Speilberg for his work as an actor, and had a New York City public school named in his honor. “Believe in yourself, work hard and never give up,” says Chris. "We've all got disabilities. It's what we do with our ABILITIES that counts!"
The Champions Gala will feature a special performance by Clay Aiken, as well as a luncheon, and silent and live auctions, all in support of the National Inclusion Project’s programs for all children.
We invite you to join us in honoring our outstanding Champions and in celebrating the National Inclusion Project’s impact on improving the lives of children and families across the country. Individual tickets and tables are available for purchase at www.inclusionproject.org/gala.