It was a star-studded evening on November 3, as the Clermont County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCDD) celebrated a night of recognition for those unsung heroes who go above and beyond to support people with disabilities in our community.
The sixth annual CCDD Good Fortune Recognition Dinner honored people in nine categories that span a lifetime of age ranges. The dinner’s name was created in 2014 because it is CCDD’s “good fortune” to have the chance to work with so many amazing people in the Clermont County community.
CCDD Superintendent Dan Ottke welcomed the crowd. Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Dr. Greg Sojka, former dean of UC Clermont College and current UC professor. Sojka expressed the importance of giving back to your community and how those honored during the award ceremony were some of the best at doing just that.
“There is a saying that says ‘those who can, do; those that can do more, volunteer.’ We are fortunate to have so many of these people who do great things for people with developmental disabilities in our community,” said Sojka.
Providers were recognized for delivering exemplary services to individuals by caring for their personal needs, connecting individuals to social aspects in the community, and coaching them to learn skills that will help establish their typical daily routine. Those receiving agency Provider of the Year Awards were Homefront Nursing and Pine Ridge/Pine Village.
Kathy Lee of Franklin Township is an independent provider who received the Individual Provider of the Year Award. Lee not only serves individuals as a provider but also volunteers on various committees within the agency and assists with fundraisers throughout the year.
Self-Advocate of the Year was awarded to Ben Blizzard of Batavia, who is currently working on obtaining a job in the community and speaks up about the kind of job he wants. Blizzard is a leader to his peers and encourages them to work their hardest. He inspires his friends and urges them to apply for community employment. He serves on the Southwest Ohio Developmental Center’s Human Rights Committee where he has become a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves.
Jean Houston of Union Township received the Advocate of the Year award. Houston has worked tirelessly with families of those with special needs over the years, to ensure they receive proper resources. In 1999, she helped create Families Connected of Clermont County and has since helped the group to become a 501c3 nonprofit agency. She has spent her life advocating for others and working with families, helping them learn how to advocate for their own children and guiding them through a sometimes complicated educational system.
Foster Parent of the Year was presented to Candice McConnaughey of Miami Township. McConnaughey has a family of her own and encouraged them to open their doors to a one-year-old little boy with a lot of respiratory needs. She has become his voice and advocates for the important care he needs. Her go-to quote is, “It’s not about me; it’s about what is best for him.”
Two employers were chosen for Business of the Year. Home Depot on Ohio Pike was honored because they have not only hired individuals from CCDD this year, but have offered to attend special meetings to assist the individuals with learning their jobs. They are always willing to offer assistance for the advancement of individuals served by offering suggestions and implementing decisions for the individuals to succeed. Home Depot employees work hard to implement accommodations when needed and make suggestions so the accommodations ensure success for everyone.
Angel’s Rest Animal Sanctuary and Thrift Store was also recognized as Business of the Year. Their business provides solutions to the immediate needs of animals that are without a home. They have hired individuals from CCDD to work in the thift shop as well as their animal sanctuary. This has given a lot of experience to those who wouldn’t normally have the chance to work with animals or customers.
Volunteers were recognized in the following areas: board members, activity volunteers, and levy committee members. Brady Barnhill was recognized for stabilizing a sign at the Thomas A. Wildey School for his Eagle Scout Project. The sign was stabilized with creek rock that was taken from the Wildey Farm in New Richmond.
The Southern Ohio Coon Hunters Club and Clermont County Juvenile Probation received the Volunteer of the Year Award for planning the Fishing with a Friend event for CCDD over the past several years. This event pairs individuals from CCDD with kids who are completing probation hours in a fun day of fishing. The Coon Hunters Club on Elmwood Road in Stonelick Township allows both groups to fish in their lake, paying for the lake to be stocked as well as supplying fishing poles and bait for the day. Robert Dobbs accepted the award on behalf of the Southern Ohio Coon Hunters Club; Doug Young and Nikki Nicodemus represented Clermont County Juvenile Probation.
Three awards were given in the Friends of DD Category. Two of them were instrumental in assisting a family to purchase a van. Rhonda Baker approached CCDD with an accessible van to sell; Lysa Meyer from the Haunnah Meyer Memorial Fund approached CCDD with possible funds to assist with purchasing the van. When it was all said and done, Meyer and her team assisted the family with $1,000 from a fundraiser with the FC Cincinnati soccer team which helped them purchase the van from Baker.
Eastgate Lanes of Loveland was honored with the Friends of DD Award for supporting CCDD and their Spring and Fall Bowling Leagues. Over 80 people from CCDD participate on this league, and the staff at Eastgate Lanes go out of their way to make it a great experience for everyone involved. They build friendships, congratulate people whenever strikes are made, and provide a safe atmosphere where everyone feels right at home.
County Commissioner Bob Proud, Treasurer J. Robert True, Sheriff Tim Rodenberg, and the Honorable Judge Thomas Herman were recognized for their service to CCDD over the years. All four officials will end their terms in office on December 31, 2016. Although three of them could not be in attendance, Proud stopped by at the end of the event.
“Thank you to these leaders who have been advocates for people with disabilities in our community,” said Superintendent Ottke.
The CCDD Community Leader of the Year award was presented to Pierce Township Trustee Bob Pautke. Pautke is a leader not only in Pierce Township, but in the Clermont County community as a whole. He has been instrumental in training leaders through the Clermont Chamber Foundation’s LEAD Clermont classes, but took them to new levels in 2016 when he hosted a LEAD Clermont class day at CCDD and included discussions with individuals who have disabilities.
“What a great evening spent honoring Clermont County’s finest who make our community a great place to live, work, and play,” said Dr. Sojka.
For more information about the CCDD Good Fortune Dinner or services provided by CCDD, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (513) 732-4921.