I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
What a day. First to get the invitation and then to have to wait through the weekend for the event. In all of my wildest dreams I would have never thought I would be part of a Bill signing, let alone 4 Bills. Looking back, I can honestly say that I, along with many people in that room, was a part of the democratic process in getting legislation passed that I actively advocated for. It makes me feel good to say that what I have done has made a difference.
There are those who are saying that the people in the room were just there as “props”. The people that I knew personally, not one of them were there for show, they were there for the show, signing the pieces of legislation into law. I met many others who were there because they also did their part to ensure this legislation passed.
From my friends from People First, to my friends from Partners in PolicyMaking, to friends and members of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, we were all there because this was important to each and every one of us. It was so important, that one member of the Partners group traveled from Hudson, WI, some 300 miles away, with kids in tow. That is how important this day was for all advocates on disability issues.
We first heard from Secretary Smith of the Department of Health Services. This was followed up by Governor Walker speaking about each bill. He started with the most important one, the lifting of the FamilyCare caps. This was followed by the People First Bill, then the accessible instructional materials Bill and finally the Seclusion and Restraint Bill. The Governor spoke about each Bill individually before signing them. It was a great feeling as a father seeing your son, a part of the group standing with the Governor as he signed these Bills into Law, knowing that he too played a part in their passing.
The Governor was generous with his time. He seemed to take each and every request for a group photo; I don’t think many can say they went away from the event without a picture with the Governor. He posed with my son; he posed with me and my son. He posed with People First and he posed with Partners in PolicyMaking.
The time went by so quick. Before I knew it, it was time to take Tyler to school so he could go off to his weeklong Nature’s Classroom trip with his Middle School classmates.
I am so impressed with my son. From my wife being told shortly after he was born that we should not expect much from him. To a talent agency that claimed to have seen his picture and thought he would be a great model, only to ask me what was wrong with his eyes, and when I told him that he had Down syndrome, the guy said, “we don’t take kids like that”. Being a Catholic man, I told him he had 2 options, leave now or he better be softer on my wife or I would personally throw him out of my house.
Now, he advocates for himself. He has testified before Joint Finance and the Department of Health Services. He has helped put together a PowerPoint presentation for his first Middle School IEP. He has attended protests at sheltered workshops. He attends Disability Advocacy Day and meets his State Legislators. He has now started attending self-determination conferences. Now he is attending Bill signings with the Governor.
What a great young man, I would change nothing about him, as I have said before, he makes me the man that I am today.