Kelly Buck, the Director of Marketing & Development of Unity House, Cayuga County asked me to present at their Annual Board & Award Dinner in Auburn, NY. The agency supports six counties in New York State. Their mission is to empower and enrich the lives of people in recovery, coping with a mental illness, and/or diagnosed with developmental disabilities by offering services and support in an inclusive people-centered environment.

Cindy Wilcox, the Board President and Liz Smith the Executive Director, kicked off the evening by saying a few words. Cindy told us about the three pillars of Unity House, Integrity, Honesty and Respect and how it should be applied to everyday life.

Liz talked about her life story and how she came to work for Unity House over 20 years ago when they had to rent out bowling alleys to bring participants to bowl. She spoke about how segregated they were from society. She mentioned the difficulties when she started and how they had to overcome them.

As an introduction, they showed the CBS “On the Road with Steve Hartman” piece about me. I was honored when Liz brought me to the podium to speak. I was the keynote for the dinner, telling my story, my education and how I came into my position with the National Down Syndrome Society and the legislations we are currently working on.  I was honored when I finished to receive a standing ovation and to meet and take pictures with many participants and attendees. That was pretty darn cool!

After my presentation, Kelly Buck introduced the Fred Atkins Community Service award recipient, Don Poole, for his tireless volunteer work. The Open Arms award went to Naomi Bernheim, Cup O’ Jo Café for the helping hand she always is quick to lend. The awardees also received proclamations from their legislator.

The night ended with a raffle drawing for a week stay at Owasco Lake. I was asked to pick the winner, sadly my family and I did not win! I was honored to be their speaker and hope I inspired them as much as Unity House inspired me.