“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. See the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens. And when it happens, it lasts.”– John Wooden

By Steve Germani
ADEC staff

Running 26 miles is an ambitious goal. I’m in the process of learning how much effort and commitment it takes to successfully accomplish such an ambitious goal. I run four or five days each week. My “short” runs are rarely shorter than 4 miles. I’m at a point in my training where my “long” runs are not going to be any shorter than 13 miles. And, I’m running anywhere from 24 to 32 miles each week – with the mileage incrementally increasing as the marathon date (October 13) nears.

When I first began training for this marathon in February, I would become winded and out of breath after two or three miles. Now it’s August and I can run 10 to 12 miles without much fatigue. I still have a long way to go, but I try to remind myself how far I’ve traveled in the past six months. Running eight or nine miles today is easier for me than running two or three miles was in February or March. That’s because I’ve been committed to my training program and working toward my goal of running 26 miles in Chicago this October. A goal such as this doesn’t happen overnight. It only takes place through hard work and a belief in accomplishing the goal – no matter how insurmountable the goal may seem at times.

Melody Cooper of Indianapolis certainly understands this concept. Melody is the President of the Self-Advocates of Indiana and an Employment Advocate for the Arc of Indiana. She is gainfully employed and lives in her own home in Indianapolis with her husband, Joe. Like all people, and especially those living with a disability, Melody dreamed of being an active, contributing member of her community. Achieving her dreams and living the life she enjoys today certainly didn’t happen overnight. She worked incredibly hard along the way. Melody made an effort to acquire the skills and confidence she needed to accomplish every goal she set for herself, every step of the way.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyOiFoTsdKA&w=560&h=315]

It is briefly noted in the video above that Melody has worked most of her life to reach her current destination. As if overcoming her disabilities wasn’t challenging enough, she had to develop self-confidence and a belief in her abilities despite people all around her doubting her and even ridiculing her. It can’t be overstated that she had to overcome each of these obstacles one step at a time. It was a big moment for her to establish a bank account for herself; by herself. Gaining work experience at Goodwill of Central Indiana helped her build the skills and work ethic needed to land employment at Meijer in Indianapolis. She continues to grow because she is always setting the bar for herself incrementally higher.

I believe Melody’s story is an important story to take note of, and the Arc of Indiana has done a fantastic job of telling her story – along with many others – in the Pathways to Employment video series. We’re all uniquely different. This is also true within the world experienced by people with disabilities. Each person with a disability’s journey to securing employment in the community is different. The one thing that always remains the same is that accomplishing ambitious goals, such as community employment, is not possible without perseverance, persistence and working toward the goal one step at a time.

UPDATE: ADEC’s phenomenal Employment Services team has successfully found sponsors for 21 of my 26 miles! We have less than two months left to locate five more sponsors. It would be fantastic if we could exceed our goal of 26 jobs. However, just to be clear; I do NOT intend to exceed my goal of running 26 miles!