You’re invited: Come ride the bus with ADEC.

On Oct. 26, we will blow out the candles on our 65th birthday celebration with an evening at the Lerner’s Crystal Ballroom.

Joining us will be keynote speaker Rachel Simon, author of the best-selling novel “Riding the Bus with My Sister,” which was later turned into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Rosie O’Donnell.

Rachel’s sister, Beth — or “Cool Beth,” as she calls herself — is a spirited woman with a developmental disability who spends her days riding the buses in her Pennsylvania city. The book begins when Beth asks Rachel to accompany her on the buses for an entire year.

“Riding the Bus with My Sister” is a reflection on that year, as Rachel gets to know the drivers who serve as Beth’s mentors and the passengers who become her community.

On the surface, the book is a narrative of the journey of Rachel and Beth. But deeper down, it is the story of a social justice and civil rights movement — the same movement that resulted in ADEC being founded 65 years ago by a group of brave families in Elkhart County.

At first, the siblings fight about how Beth lives her life. Rachel struggles to understand why her sister refuses to get — and keep — a job. But over the course of the year, Rachel begins to accept Cool Beth as an independent adult who should have every right to make her own decisions about her life.

“For me, it’s accepting something called self-determination,” Rachel said in an interview with Think Piece Publishing. “It’s a civil rights issue, really. That she has the right to live her own life according to her own choices. If she chooses to ride the bus all the time, I need to accept that, just like I need to accept that my brother is a lawyer or my older sister lives in the Southwest.”

At ADEC, we also believe in self-determination. It is even in our tagline: “Choice and possibility.” ADEC serves more than 1,000 individuals each year, and every one of our clients has the right to make their own choices and discover new possibilities.

Another of Rachel’s books, “The Story of Beautiful Girl,” also aligns with ADEC’s work and mission. The fictional book tells the story of two people in love who escape from an institution. It explores the question of how society can help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live lives with meaning, dignity and respect.

In her keynote speech, Rachel will go back to the days before ADEC was founded, when people with disabilities faced abuse and dehumanization in institutions. She will speak to the value of agencies like ADEC and the direct support professionals who work tirelessly to enhance the lives of the people we serve.

On Oct. 26, we will reflect on the bravery of those families who came together 65 years ago because they wanted something more for their children with disabilities. They dreamed for their children to be a part of their community and to lead a life full of choice and possibility. Join us as we take a look at how the dreams of our founding families have been realized thanks to the incredible people who work for ADEC and the generous community that supports us.

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Rachel Simon is the award-winning author of six books and a nationally recognized public speaker on issues related to diversity and disability. Her titles include the bestsellers The Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding The Bus With My Sister. Both books are frequent selections of book clubs and school reading programs around the country.

Rachel’s work has been adapted for theater, NPR, the Lifetime Channel, and Hallmark Hall of Fame, whose adaptation of Riding The Bus With My Sister starred Rosie O’ Donnell and Andie McDowell, and was directed by Anjelica Huston.