The Dan Piper Award was established to commemorate self-advocate Dan Piper’s life by celebrating an individual with Down syndrome- 18 or older-who, through everyday activities, brings about a greater public awareness and understanding of people with Down syndrome in his or her community.
The Dan Piper Award is given in memory of Dan Piper, a young man with Down syndrome. Dan had an inclusive education and showed the Iowa Public School System that people with Down syndrome are not only intelligent and able to learn, but are also contributing members of the school community through involvement in extracurricular activities. Dan was employed, and had many friends in the town where he lived in Iowa. Dan considered himself a “regular guy” who was given opportunities that allowed him to accomplish extraordinary things, such as testifying before Congress on behalf of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The recipient of the 2020 Dan Piper Award will travel to New York City where he or she will receive the award at the New York City Buddy Walk® in September.
2018 DAN PIPER AWARD RECIPIENT: BENJAMIN PELHAM
Benjamin exemplifies the character of Dan Piper throughout his everyday life. Benjamin Pelham’s story is remarkable. He has added more to the lives of those who know him in 23 years than most could do in 50. As an advocate for the Down syndrome community and their potential, he has blown away expectations and shown many all he is capable of. Thanks to Benjamin Pelham, the world knows what people with Down syndrome can do and are more courageous, more hopeful, and more grateful because of it.
2017 DAN PIPER AWARD RECIPIENT: BRANDON GRUBER
Brandon’s motto is: “Work hard, choose kindness, be yourself”. Brandon demonstrates this motto in everyday activities through his interactions with those around him and his leadership skills. Brandon has started his own foundation (321life.com) so that other individuals with Down syndrome could experience inclusion in their schools. Brandon also served as the Youth City Council member in Aptos, CA, was a summer intern for Congressman Sam Farr and volunteers at the Teen Kitchen Project. He lives each day with perseverance, kindness and grit. Brandon continues to make a difference in the world around him by living to his fullest potential, by promoting understanding of Down syndrome and by advocating for others.
2016 DAN PIPER AWARD RECIPIENT: TYLER CALDWELL
The 2017 award recipient, Tyler Caldwell of Roanoke, VA, is the embodiment of the Dan Piper Award. He has many accomplishments to his name and is a current Kroger employee. Tyler was in the first graduating class of the Growth Through Opportunity program. The Growth Through Opportunity, or GTO, Cadet Program is designed for young adults with unique challenges to gain valuable social experience and job skills by volunteering for the police department. Tyler has become a valuable representative for GTO and has attended multiple conferences to discuss the impact of the program and his job!
2015 DAN PIPER AWARD RECIPIENT: MEGAN CLOYES
NDSS proudly honored Megan Cloyes at the 21st Annual New York City Buddy Walk®. Megan attended West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, graduating in June 2012. While at North, Megan completed a combination of special and regular education courses. Her greatest successes were in language arts. And her greatest challenge was, and remains, math. Megan chose Choir as her elective each year, which was a wonderful experience. She performed several times at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, at Princeton University and at the State Capitol in Trenton, NJ. Megan was also a member of the Marching Band’s Color Guard, performing at football games and marching in parades. At Senior Awards Night, Megan received the Jack Rutledge Memorial Scholarship awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated involvement with students with intellectual disabilities and special needs within the WW-P community. Megan was the first recipient with special needs to be awarded the scholarship. Throughout High School Megan was also a Girl Scout with over 50 hours of community service. Megan began participating in Special Olympics in fifth grade and continued to compete on SO high school teams in soccer, cross country skiing and track & field.
Megan is an accomplished public speaker and has completed a Toastmasters course. Megan has spoken at NDSS events, a Toy R Us annual meeting, The Peddie School and at several fund raisers.
Megan applied to and was accepted to the Career & Community Studies Program at The College of New Jersey. Megan had to complete an application, write a short essay and be interviewed on campus prior to her acceptance. Megan lives just off campus in a house with three other CCS students and a TCNJ student house mentor. Each semester, she takes several courses within the CCS program, is assigned an on campus practicum and takes one TCNJ course. Megan has enjoyed taking several psychology courses as her electives. Megan is on campus most days from 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon; when not in class she takes advantage of supported study labs to work on her assignments and socializes with her friends. Megan has joined the TCNJ SO Unified soccer and basketball teams, and has competed in college tournaments in both sports. She is also a member of the Best Buddies Club and the Catholic Campus Ministry. Megan loves the independence that she has while at TCNJ.
For many years, every once in a while, after a particularly great event, a major accomplishment, or just on a beautiful day, Megan will out of the blue state, “I love my life.” And she really, really means it.
2014 DAN PIPER AWARD RECIPIENT: JOE NELSON
NDSS proudly honored Joe Nelson at the 20th Annual New York City Buddy Walk®. Joe, the youngest of three siblings, is 24 years old, and lives in Michigan. He moved in with his sister a few years ago, leaving behind their parents. This was incredibly hard for Joe to do, but he has known since he was a teenager that he wanted freedom and to be responsible for his own decisions, and he knew that he couldn’t do that living at home.
When his sister was accepted into graduate school and had to move several states away, he decided to come along, even though that meant moving farther away than he has ever lived before. He did it because he knew that it meant new opportunities, and the chance to keep working towards his goals of independent living and being a public speaker for Down syndrome issues. These goals are important to him, and he has worked hard to accomplish them.
This year Joe took a class on becoming an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. To do the class he had to travel an hour away to stay in a hotel by himself overnight, something he’d never done before, at least one weekend a month. He attended classes, many of which he was one of the youngest participants, and many of which were over half populated by people without disabilities. He had to read material, do homework, and take notes on his tablet to keep up, but he was so proud of the material that he learned there. He wants to use those lessons to help him advocate for himself and others.
Joe also went on a summer break trip with local college students this year to Philadelphia, where he worked with his college buddies doing volunteer work. He said it was hard work, but he was able to help kids there, and show them that people with disabilities are important. When he returned, he participated in a panel at an academic conference at a local university. He volunteers at every possible opportunity, and in years past has been a spokesperson for events large and small.
2013 DAN PIPER AWARD RECIPIENT: SEAN ADAMS
Twenty-one-year-old Sean Adams was nominated for the Dan Piper Award by Blessed by Downs, the NDSS Southeast Louisiana Affiliate. Sean, from LaRose, LA, became interested in sign language in middle school, inspired by a Helen Keller lesson and taught himself with signing videos and books. He received his award for volunteering hours at graduation. He went to prom and rode the bus with his date and his many friends. He joined Special Olympics in the summer of 2012 in swimming. He practiced daily for about an hour to achieve his goals, and at the state meet he took home one gold in butterfly, three silver in freestyle, back stroke and relay and one bronze in relay.
Today, Sean is a Junior Leader for his church youth group, he also helps with summer camps and retreats. On Monday, Sean assists the youth pastor with organizing the weeks work, every Wednesday at church he helps young children learn about the bible. On Tuesday, Sean works at the local elementary school. His jobs at the school vary from helping in the classrooms, the library, sorting mail, breakfast duty, he also helps in the front office. On Friday, Sean works for a local boat company in their grocery store where he stocks, sorts and packs groceries for offshore boats.
Sean also wrote a book about having Down syndrome and being happy with his life despite all the many challenges. Sean titled his book “I’M HAPPY TO BE ME.”
Sean wants to continue to advocate for himself and others like him.