All I can say is... WOW!
As I expected, the 9th annual "ADA Day at the Zoo" event was a rousing success. With almost perfect weather, and nearly all of the 100 expected vendors attending, there was plenty to see and do... and to learn.
My wife and I arrived shortly after opening at 10 am -- and I'm glad we arrived when we did. The main parking lot was already almost full (we got lucky and found one of the few remaining "permit only" spaces near the main gate) and I watched in awe as several buses loaded with kids arrived only seconds behind us. It was going to be a busy and crowded day at the zoo.
I was pleased to note the large number of scooters and wheelchairs gathered nearby as we all made our way toward the admissions gate. The success of an event such as this depends greatly on drawing a large crowd, and so far, it was looking good. Wearing my official "Buckeye Barrier Busters tee-shirt" and with business cards firmly in hand (well okay, in my wife's purse) we crossed the bridge and headed toward the first cluster of vendors.
The purpose of this event for me was to introduce myself to the other attendees and hopefully introduce as many people as possible to my now officially launched organization, BuckeyeBarrierBusters.org and of course, this Disability Awareness Blog. To my joy, I found most of the vendors to be very positive and complementary about my efforts and message. I know I made a few new friends, and I hope to keep in touch with them now that they know where to find me.
To mention all of them in today's posting would be almost impossible, but I did collect at least ten pounds worth of handouts and business cards. Expect to see the results of that collection in future blogs. But, before parting for this week, I do want to make mention of a few people I found of special interest.
One young woman, Kimberlie Sherman of Breaking Barriers, was especially memorable. I wish I had half her energy. As a professional Disability Consultant, she specializes in helping folks to find programs and resources specific to their disability -- and not just locally, but nationally. If you haven't had much luck with winding your way through the system, give her a try. I'm sure she'll do her very best to help you out.
Another very nice lady I met that day was Kay Bennett of The Arc of Lucas County. They offer support, education and advocacy for people with developmental disabilities, and have been doing so for over fifty years. Kudos, Kay -- you and your fine group are doing an excellent job!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Steven Kiessling, the executive director of Camp Courageous. Since 1963, this fine organization has been providing "the outdoor experience" to our area's special needs children. Steven was nice enough to extend a personal invitation for me to come out and see their camp for myself, and I just might do that. I'll even bring the marshmallows, Steve! :)
As I said, these were only three of the many friendly and committed people I met last monday, and I'll certainly introduce you to a few more in the coming weeks. In closing, I had a great time at the ADA Zoo Day this year, and I'm already making plans to attend next year. I hope you're doing the same.