The people we serve at ADEC are constantly breaking out of their comfort zone to accomplish great things and discover their true potential.

On Thursday afternoon, nearly 300 people gathered at Elkhart’s Lerner Theatre to celebrate five individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to celebrate their achievements, whether in the art studio or in the workplace.

Indiana’s Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch joined the Annual Celebration to deliver a keynote, speaking about the importance of agencies like ADEC in ensuring people with disabilities enjoy the same rights and quality of life as their peers.

“We want to continue to ensure that our friends with disabilities are just our friends with different abilities,” she said. “They have the same dreams and hopes and desires as every other Hoosier. They want to have a job and have friends and love and be loved and be successful in life.”

Learn more about ADEC’s 2019 award winners below.

Creative Spirit: Alex Kennedy

Many of the people we serve at ADEC find art to be both fun and therapeutic — and many of them are incredibly talented artists. The Creative Spirit award goes to the client who embodies the purpose of ADEC’s vocational program — expressing oneself, discovering joy and exercising untapped creative potential.

ADEC’s 2019 Creative Spirit Award was given to Alex Kennedy.

Alex has attended Day Service at Bristol for about two years, and he enthusiastically joins in all the vocational activities that are offered, from painting to pottery. He enjoys showing off his creations.

His creativity and curiousity expanded into the gardening group at Bristol this past summer.

Alex asked one day, “Does an eggplant grow eggs?” Which is a great question!

So Alex went to Kruse Garden Shop, found eggplant seeds and planted them. He helped shepherd it through the growing season and was so excited to find a big eggplant begin to form (although there were no eggs attached!) He checked it every day for ripeness and when it was ready to be picked, he delivered it to the baking room. He helped look up a good recipe and helped the staff prepare ratatouille, which was enjoyed by the rest of the clients at Day Service at Bristol.

Viv Blakeslee, who submitted the nomination, said: “Alex is always up for a new adventure and his enthusiasm is contagious.”

Heart of the Game: Marvin Harris

The people we serve here at ADEC have a busier social life than the average person. On any given evening, you can find our clients performing at karaoke night, bowling strikes at the local alley or shooting three-pointers during a Silver Bullets basketball game.  The Heart of the Game award goes to the client who demonstrates sportsmanship on and off the court.

ADEC’s 2019 Heart of the Game Award was given to Marvin Harris.

Marvin works hard… but he plays even harder. He has been with ADEC for 5 years, and since moving into an ADEC group home, his social life has exploded. He can’t go anywhere in public without running into new and old friends. Although Marvin has had challenges in his own life, he enjoys lifting the spirits of others and being the life of the party.

His calendar is constantly booked with things like Music and Movement night, bowling, Silver Bullets basketball, Aktion Club, Ceramics and Project Promise. When he’s not attending an ADEC event, you can see him cruising around downtown Goshen or strolling through the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Becky Curtis, ADEC’s Activity Coordinator, said of Marvin: “He’s just so charismatic. His smile and attitude are infectious. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood around Marvin. He has more energy than should even be possible.”

Weekday Warrior: Aja Hill

Each year, ADEC helps close to 300 individuals with disabilities find and maintain jobs that give them a paycheck and a sense of purpose.

ADEC’s Weekday Warrior award goes to a client who works hard and appreciates the value of employment. This year, that individual was Aja Hill.

Aja was nominated for the award by her employment consultant, Brandi Brockwell.

Aja had a rocky start in ADEC’s Community Employment Program, starting with two job trials that did not work out. After adjusting her attitude a bit, Aja started to open up more and be open to new things and new people. She worked her way through job discovery, situational assessments, job shadows and eventually placement.

Aja now works for Green Bridge Growers, where she helps out on the farm as an agriculture assistant and performs duties such as feeding fish, testing PH levels in the tanks, planting organic vegetables and flowers and preparing orders for customers.

Aja has been on the job for more than a year and enjoys good conversation, making people laugh and helping others.

In her nomination, Brandi said of Aja: “Aja has blossomed because people believed in her and helped guide her to her bright successful future. And she blossomed because she believed in herself. Nothing in this world could have prepared me for the piece of my heart this woman stole with her perseverance and strength when I started working with her.”

World Changer: Tony Hall

The people we serve at ADEC show compassion, kindness and empathy every day — even when the world is not so kind to them. They may receive services, but they are often eager to serve others. 

Our World Changer award goes to a client who loves to make a difference in their community and in their worlds. This year, the winner is Tony Hall.

Three separate ADEC employees nominated Tony for the World Changer award this year. They all had the same things to say about Tony: That there is nothing he won’t do to help someone in need.

MedFlex Stephanie DeBlase says Tony is always the first to offer help with cleaning, cooking, laundry and grocery shopping. He is always willing to share his property or his time and ask nothing in return.

Stephanie says of Tony: “He is generous and kind to all he meets. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a negative word come out of his mouth.”

Dare to Dream: Cheryl Lashmit

Many of the people we serve at ADEC are dreamers.

They dare to dream of all the possibilities their lives have to offer and they do whatever it takes to reach their full potential. Finally, we present ADEC’s signature honor: The Dare to Dream award. This award goes to the client who models determination, persistence, perseverance and a positive attitude in spite of obstacles. This person clearly enjoys life and doesn’t waste a single opportunity to seize the day.

ADEC’s 2019 Dare to Dream Winner is Cheryl Lashmit.

Cheryl was nominated for this award by staff at ADEC’s Heather Lake Group Home, where she has lived for nearly a decade.

Cheryl may not be able to speak, but her smile lights up a room. She speaks through her eyes and the way she looks at the people she loves. She is a light that everyone deserves a chance to meet. As a child, she was not afraid to share her faith with anyone she met. Cheryl is a strong individual with a quiet and soothing spirit. She continues to defy the odds with her medical diagnosis and enjoys showing medical professionals that they do NOT know everything. As she has gotten older, her ability to speak verbally has decreased – but Cheryl still has a lot to say with her smiles and joyous laughter.