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ARC Walk for Independence is Huge Hit in Downey

: Downey City Councilman Mario Guerra is “all hugs” at the annual ARC Walk in Downey.  Tammye McDuff Photo

Downey City Councilman Mario Guerra is “all hugs” at the annual ARC Walk in Downey. Tammye McDuff Photo

By Tammye McDuff

 Stonewood Shopping Center was host to the ARC Walk for Independence, a 1 mile and 3 mile stride, Saturday March 22, 2014 and it appears to have been more popular than ever.

 This annual event is in support of adults & children with intellectual / developmental disabilities. The first ARC Walk had a meager 200 participants and proudly declares over 5,000 gathered to walk, support and participant this year.

 Founded in 1950, a small group of parents and professionals joined forces to act as voices for a change in conditions of those with intellectual disabilities and its cause.  At the time there were no programs, activities of communities to assist in the care of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The common position for doctors to take, at the time, was to inform the parents the best place for a child with these types of challenges was an institution. The collective desire by these parents and physicians formed the first ARC Foundation in 1956.

 The organization was committed to altering society’s perceptions of children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and to educate other parents regarding their child’s potential. The ARC procured services for children and adults who had been denied education, the right to attend day care and preschools and the right to work.

 Today ARC is the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 850 state and local chapters across the nation. ARC offers 14 different services, from Senior Programs; Programs for people with disabilities; classes and educational programs and a variety of work programs.

 Kevin MacDonald, Executive Director, started as a volunteer at 16, was later hired by the corporation and has been serving the Downey Chapter for over 20 years. “The walk is a community bonding time,” says MacDonald.  When asked why he walks, MacDonald replies “I walk because I believe every individual should be treated with dignity and respect. I walk because people with disabilities have traveled a road that I cannot relate to, but yet I appreciate what they have overcome. Thousand have spent most of their lives in large institutions, but thanks to our efforts can now thrive in accepting communities. This morning is about the abilities of the ARC community, not their disabilities. This is a show of support for those individuals who are working toward their independence. I have committed myself to support and encourage them.”

 ARC Walk for Independence 2014 was hosted by Don Knabe, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Kevin MacDonald, Executive Director of LA /OC ARC. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Alysha Del Valle from ABC7 Eyewitness News. Acapulco Restaurant provided a free breakfast for all paid participants.

 To get involved with ARC, Macdonald requests that you call the office located in Downey or visit the website at www.arcwalk.org. MacDonald responds “We serve over 400 people a day with many different services; you can take a tour of our Downey facility. We want people to hire those with disabilities. The unemployment rate for those with disabilities is 80%. They just need someone to give them a chance.”