Next week promises to be a busy week for many at ADEC. The annual Direct Support Professionals of Indiana (DSPIN) Conference takes place in Indianapolis, running concurrently with a Self-Advocates of Indiana (SAI) Conference. ADEC staff and consumers are contributing significantly to both events. Read on to learn more about the exciting things happening for the ADEC family next week.

Nate Griffey Runs for Office

“Big John asked me to run for his place this year,” ADEC consumer Nate Griffey says when he talks with people about his candidacy as a Self-Advocates of Indiana (SAI) board member for Region Two.

Nate attended the statewide SAI picnic in August with a group from ADEC, including current SAI board member Ritchie Mann. Ritchie took Nate under his wing for the picnic, introducing him to everyone and making sure people knew Nate had been handpicked by Big John Ellinger. The group’s Sergeant at Arms responded to this endorsement saying, “If Big John says you’re in, you’re in.”

Big John served on SAI’s board for many years and participated in advocacy on a statewide level. He graduated from a policy class and fostered close relationships with prolific Indiana citizens such as John Dickerson, former executive director of The Arc of Indiana. He has made a lasting impression of advocacy in the state of Indiana.

When Big John’s cancer came out of remission earlier this year, he hoped to make a quick rebound and run for re-election in the fall. However, his treatment has been slow and painful. Even now, he’s having difficulty recovering from an intensive bone marrow transplant in Indianapolis. When it came time to talk about re-election, ADEC Activities Coordinator Becky Curtis called Big John to get his honest opinion.

“I wanted it to be his decision,” Becky explained. “I just said, ‘I need your help, and I need to know what you want to do.’”

Big John took a few days to think it over and called back saying, “I’ve thought about it, and my brother and I talked about it. I’d like Nate Griffey to run in my place.”

The next day, Becky facilitated a conference call between Big John and Nate. Big John asked Nate if he’d run in his place and told Nate with a chuckle, “You have some really big shoes to fill.” Big John wears a size 17 shoe. They ended the call with Big John saying, “If you need anything, I’m here for you.”

Nate took this seriously. He had been interested in becoming more of a leader, and with Big John’s blessing, he began campaigning for the board member seat. He makes sure people know he’s running because Big John asked him.

All of this work and planning will come down to the election on Wednesday, September 16, in Indianapolis. The self-advocates will split into their regional groups  from 2 to 3:30 p.m. so each candidate can give a short speech to his or her constituents. The ballots will be counted on site, and the winner announced.

Nate has been working with Becky on his speech so he can be sure to remember the main points. The speech goes like this,

Hi, I am Nathan Griffey from Goshen Power for Independence. Big John and Ritchie asked me to run for Region #2 opening. I have been a part of Power for Independence for 5 years. I have a good support system. Please vote for me, I promise to do my best.

Nate’s group home staff members are excited to support him in this new endeavor. They took him on a shopping trip so he could have a nice outfit for the day of the conference, as well as a shirt and tie to change into for the election period.

If Nate wins, he will end the day by attending his first SAI board meeting for a working dinner. He’s already looking forward to the fun times. At basketball on Wednesday, he said, “This time next week, we’ll be sitting at the swimming pool while they’re doing basketball skills.”

ADEC Leads Workshop for Self-Advocates

SAI board member and ADEC consumer Ritchie Mann will work with Becky Curtis to lead a workshop for self-advocates at the SAI Conference on Wednesday, September 16. Ritchie, with the help of Nate Griffey, will be calling Leadership Bingo.

This session is back by popular demand after Ritchie and Big John led the group in Leadership Bingo at the last SAI Conference in 2013. The game was developed by a Minnesota advocates group several years ago, and Becky has found it to be a teaching tool in the Power for Independence groups hosted by ADEC.

“When [the clients are] playing it, they’re playing to have fun, as BINGO,” Becky explained. “They don’t realize they’re learning something . . . After we finish playing, I always ask, ‘What did you learn today?’ They’ll say things like ‘Listen!’, ‘Don’t bully.’ It’s a teaching way for them to get some information that might stick, in a fun way.”

The game is themed with important lessons on leadership – Basic quotes, Important skills, Not what we need, Getting started, Outstanding leader – BINGO. When Ritchie and Becky lead the game, participants always get into it, calling out examples and excitedly sharing the lessons they’ve learned relating to the leadership concepts in question.

Every SAI board member who will be attending the conference has already signed up to participate in the workshop, with 35 people registered in total.

Middlebury Day Makes DSPIN T-Shirts

Middlebury Day has been hard at work making custom shirts for the DSPIN Conference. DSPIN’s mission is to “Support empowered lives for ourselves and those we serve through education, self-awareness and collaborative action.” DSPIN members work hard to shape public policy on such issues as professional development, commensurate wages and opportunities for advancement.

The staff and consumers enjoyed making the shirts for the conference two years ago and were excited to get the call again this year.

The Middlebury t-shirt program has grown over the past year. Learning to operate the computer program and participate in the t-shirt process from start to finish has become a yearly goal for several clients.

Patty holding a DSPIN T-shirt

Patty shows off a DSPIN T-shirt.

“So instead of them just hitting a few buttons, they’re actually doing the whole process,” explained Margaret Cook, Middlebury Day Team Manager. “They’re laying it out, hitting the cut button, making sure it’s right. And they do really, really good with it.”

Nate Griffey, a participant at Middlebury Day, has taken special ownership over the process, working with the shirts from beginning to end.

“We say, ‘Nate, we need your help today,’” Margaret said with smile. “He’s really good with the small, intricate pieces. He’s really the only person who has the skills for [this part of the process]. During his morning break, he’ll come in, pick up an X-Acto knife and work on it.”

The shirts are on sale for $10 each. DSPs attending the conference will receive a free t-shirt. To order a shirt, contact Becky Curtis by phone (574) 522-7725 or (574) 903-5494, or email, [email protected]. Be sure to include your size when ordering by email.

Article by Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist

Photo by Rod Tackett | Communications Specialist