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2013 Award Winners
Our 2013 finalists have broken barriers and add great value to our community. Following are small samples of their accomplishments.

Volunteer Awards

Zac Slay1st Place: Zac Slay decided early in his life to not let his disability define him. He became a role model bringing together people of all abilities and helping to break down barriers and insecurities that existed. He takes advantage of opportunities to show that anything is possible.

Runner-up: Patrick Scherer volunteers at several community organizations including First Baptist Church Covington where his love of others is evidenced in his willingness to serve.

Runner-up: Everett Waguespack’s courteous manner and obvious joy help break down the walls that many put up because they don’t know how to respond to a person with disabilities.

Employee Awards

Matthew Cole1st Place: Matthew Cole, a U. S. Marine was wounded in action on his second tour in Iraq. Working to overcome his own limitations, he began to see people as “abled”, not "disabled". Matt has become a valuable employee for the LA Dept of Veteran Affairs encouraging other veterans.

Runner-up: Laura Garrity lost her eyesight at an age when most young adults are gaining independence. At STARC, she shows people that their strengths are greater than a disability.

Runner-up: Eric Penton serves as a substitute school janitor where his positive, upbeat and giving attitude changes people. Without even realizing it, he is a wonderful teacher.

Artist Awards

Patrick Lera1st Place: Patrick Lera, a photographer with Tourette’s syndrome, has created art which explores and explains how Tourette’s is manifested in his life. He has overcome his disability, earning a Master’s in Fine Arts, and working extensively in the art community.

Runner-up: Zachary Aversa has a very diverse portfolio: music, visual arts, and theater. He shows that a disability doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying the arts and sharing them.

Runner-up: Bonnie Fenerty has been dancing for 18 years becoming a class assistant. She teaches more than dance. She teaches each person deserves the chance to do what they love.

Caregiver Awards

Beulah Kelly1st Place: Beulah Kelley’s definition of “caregiver” for people with disabilities includes finding paying jobs, mentoring and helping them problem solve and make reasonable choices. She also organizes activities to include more individuals than the ones she works with daily.

Runner-up: Rene Brown makes sure students with disabilities have the time they need to learn. Using best practices in education, she puts these practices in place for all students.

Runner-up: Minor Helmer’s acceptance and interaction with people with disabilities is a contagious example. She works to ensure they learn positive social interaction.

Educator Awards

John Wondergem1st Place: John Wondergem teaches there are no limits for a person who believes in them self. He and his wife, Julie, serve as Foster Parents and adopted four children. He formed WonderGym for people with disabilities and even donated a kidney for a young man.

Runner-up: Leslie Domingues uses teaching and music experiences to bring music alive to children of all abilities. She also volunteers extensively for Mental Health organizations.

Runner-up: Cindy Thiele, organized the “Stand by Me Club” for children with and without disabilities and helps educate all students about the abilities of children with disabilities.

Medical Awards

Dr. Aaron Karlin1st Place: Dr. Aaron Karlin, a pediatric rehabilitation physician in LA and MS doesn't stop caring for children with disabilities at the clinic. Hearing about their needs, he brought together people to form ACCESS, which helps families obtain needed equipment.

Runner-up: Innovative Suit Therapy is a unique program using equipment that provides a physical therapy which increases strength and flexibility. The center also hires people with disabilities.

Runner-up: Dr. Gilo Kawasaki makes personal sacrifices for his patients at the Slidell Veterans’ clinic. The say he works to improve their quality of life and treats them with dignity.