HARRISONBURG — About three dozen people gathered in front of the Rockingham County Courthouse to celebrate the abilities of disabled people Tuesday afternoon.
Holding homemade signs and calling out their favorite activities, a group comprised largely of intellectually disabled adults rallied together for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which is recognized in March.
Ten disabled people addressed the crowd, calling out where they work, volunteer or enjoy spending their time.
Some signs read “I have a job at Sharp Shopper,” “Proud of who I am,” and “Virginia is for people with disabilities.” Seven people drove down from Good Life, a New Market-based program that supports people with intellectual disabilities, and the rest were affiliated with Pleasant View, an organization that provides homes and programs for those with intellectual disabilities, with a regional office in Timberville.
In an interview before the rally, Pam Miller, Pleasant View’s development director, said staff wanted to give people a chance to advocate for themselves.
“It’s kind of celebrating who they are,” she said, “and letting people know that they have interests and can add to the world or add to the community.”
Donna Jenkins, 53, of Broadway, who works at the courthouse cleaning bathrooms, said after the rally that it was fun and she was happy.
“I love talking to each other,” she said.
Watkins Parrish, 45, of Broadway, works two jobs and most enjoys competing in the Special Olympics, he said.
Deanne Murray, 66, of New Market, said she enjoyed speaking into the microphone, having only used one once before.
Russell Metz Jr., a direct support professional with Good Life, said he wanted people to know that disabled people live full and happy lives.
“They deserve recognition and support,” he said. “That was the main thing to get out today, I feel.”
Nancy Hopkins-Garriss, executive director of Pleasant View, said she wanted the people she works with to understand how valuable they are to the community, regardless of their abilities.
For some, that means volunteering and working, she said, but for others that may mean giving hugs and being kind to one another.
“Sometimes, people look at the people who have an intellectual disability and they look at what’s wrong with them or look at the disability,” she said. “That’s not who they are.”