DELMAR, NY (07/15/2014)(readMedia)-- Two ambitious journeys that began from opposite ends of New York state concluded July 11 with an inspiring noon ceremony at the Capitol steps in Albany, NY.
The ceremony, organized by NYSARC, Inc., the largest non-profit organization in the United States supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families, celebrates the Organization's 65th Anniversary. The event was preceded by a march including over 1200 people comprised of people with I/DD and their families, NYSARC Chapters, and NYSARC leaders from Jennings Landing in the Corning Preserve up State Street.
Twelve days ago, renowned entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and advocate for people with disabilities John Robinson embarked from Tonawanda, NY on Journey Along the Erie Canal II, an inspiring 365-mile bicycle ride across upstate New York via the scenic and historic Erie Canalway Trail. Throughout the trip, several NYSARC Chapters conducted morning start ceremonies and afternoon welcoming events for Robinson and his colleagues, friends, family members and supporters. At each event, the hosting NYSARC Chapter affixed a small flag to a larger ceremonial flag.
Simultaneously, several downstate NYSARC Chapters began a similar journey called Together to Albany by bicycle, on foot and by other means starting at Montauk Point State Park Lighthouse at the tip of Long Island. Passed from Chapter to Chapter, with each affixing their own small flag, the Together to Albany ceremonial flag traveled west to New York City and then north through the Hudson River Valley. Along the way, NYSARC Chapters conducted flag hand-off ceremonies at key bridges spanning the Hudson River.
Robinson, members of his organization Our Ability, family members, friends, and supporters arrived at Jennings Landing in the Corning Preserve at 10:30 am. More than 1200 people comprised of people with I/DD and their families, NYSARC Chapters from across the state, and NYSARC leaders then marched across the footbridge over I-787 and up State Street to the Capitol steps. Flag bearers representing all 62 counties where 54 NYSARC Chapters provide supports and services. Christian Brothers Academy's Color Guard greeted the marchers upon their arrival at the Capitol steps.
Following a flag ceremony with each county flag bearer, representatives from Journey Along the Erie Canal II and Together to Albany placed their respective flags at the Capitol steps.
Robinson's company, Our Ability, partnered with NYSARC, the New York State Canal Corporation, New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID), the Disability Education Forum of New York, Inc., and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to make Journey Along the Erie Canal II possible. Representatives from partner organizations made brief remarks. Confirmed elected officials also speaking include Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara, and Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk.
As Journey II made its way across New York, numerous advocacy groups and organizations supporting the rights of people with disabilities joined Robinson and Our Ability co-founder Doug Hamlin for parts of the trip. Our Ability chronicled the ride providing daily video, blog, and social media updates with NYSID serving as the exclusive video sponsor.
John Robinson said, "We originally conceived Journey Along the Erie Canal as a one-time event to raise awareness of the ability within all of us. But based on the enthusiastic support and participation we've now received the past two summers along our route, we owe it to the more than 1 million New Yorkers with disabilities to continue and expand this tradition every summer."
Marc N. Brandt, Executive Director, NYSARC, Inc., said, "NYSARC, through its Chapters, has a remarkable 65-year history of successful advocacy at all levels of government, high-quality services, unique opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and ongoing support for families. Today's event serves as a strong reminder of the collective strength and determination of our Organization. John is a remarkable ambassador who reminds us we all have abilities to celebrate. There truly is much to celebrate today."
John A. Schuppenhauer, Esq., President, NYSARC, Inc., said, "As America's largest non-profit organization supporting people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families, NYSARC is committed to their individual fulfillment. John's undeniable determination and spirit is truly an inspiration to all of us in the NYSARC Family. The Organization is proud to have supported John along his route to Albany as part of our 65th Anniversary Celebration."
Richard Swierat, Executive Director, Arc of Westchester, and Together to Albany organizer, said, "NYSARC Chapters representing the Organization's Southern Region joined with our upstate New York colleagues in celebrating NYSARC's 65th Anniversary with a number of collaborative events. Our Chapters celebrated our historical vision of one family of service and mission with events that represent the talents and commitment of families and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our regions. We are excited to be part of this historical celebration and to show our continuous commitment to our families and the people we serve."
"I want to congratulate John and everyone who participated on a job well done," said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. "As one of the most historic and scenic features of New York State, the Erie Canal and Canalway Trail belong to us all, and as such, is the perfect backdrop for showing the world that no matter who you are, everyone has abilities that should be valued. We are proud to sponsor this Journey for the second straight year and look forward to working with John and everyone at Our Ability again in the future."
Bob Radliff, Director of Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, said: "Our Ability's Journey Along The Erie Canal II provides powerful inspiration to us all. We are proud to help Our Ability increase awareness of those with different abilities and improve accessibility throughout the 524-mile Corridor. Their Journey will surely catalyze additional actions to further enhance and link our incredible system of trails and vibrant communities."
"At NYSID, our mission is to provide opportunities for employment, an important focus for all New Yorkers –– with or without disabilities," said President and CEO of NYSID Ron Romano. "This year, we are proud to celebrate NYSARC's 65th anniversary, and we commend them for providing advocacy and support for New Yorkers with disabilities and their families. In conjunction with this important milestone, we salute John Robinson and his family for raising awareness of accessible tourism in our state, yet another aspect of a fully inclusive life."
Born as a congenital amputee without full arms and legs, Robinson overcame countless obstacles to become a successful businessman, family man and inspirational speaker. He founded Our Ability with Hamlin, a 28-year veteran of the software industry who is also disabled as a result from an accident, as a way of helping to mentor and inspire people with disabilities through positive video stories.
Robinson was inspired to undertake the first Journey Along the Erie Canal by his wife, Andrea, and two children after receiving a three-wheeled, hand-operated bicycle as a donation. His family helped him learn how to ride and then train for the statewide journey. Hamlin joined Robinson in 2013 and saw what the ride symbolized. He once again rode alongside Robinson on his own specialized bicycle.
Additional sponsorship has been provided by SEFCU, Price Chopper, Cargill, MVP, Realty USA and Albany Medical Center.
For Events during the Journey Along the Erie Canal: http://info.ourability.com/Journey_Along_Erie_Canal
And, to support Journey Along the Erie Canal – DONATE or REGISTER here: http://journey.ourability.com/
NYSARC, Inc. is the largest non-profit organization in the United States supporting people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families. The 54 Chapters comprising the family-led NYSARC provide services in every county in New York State. The Organization supports over 60,000 individuals, employs 30,000 and has a membership of more than 102,000. For more information, please visit www.nysarc.org.
To follow daily posts, visit Facebook.com/NYSARCInc or on Twitter at @NYSARCInc.
More than three-quarters of the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail from Buffalo to Albany is now completed. For more information, please visit www.ptny.org/canalway.
The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles, the waterways link the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes, Niagara River and Lake Erie with communities rich in history and culture. For more information about the New York State Canal System, vacation opportunities and events call 1-800-4CANAL4 or visit www.canals.ny.gov.
Like Canals on Facebook at NYS Canal Corporation
Follow Canals on Twitter at @NYSCanalCorp