Awards Program

The Arc Tennessee annually recognizes people who have made significant contributions to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Award winners are honored at an Awards Banquet the evening before the TN Disability MegaConference. Here are our 2017 winners. Check back in January for our 2018 call for nominations.

Direct Support Professional Above & Beyond
Patricia Peek
Patricia works for Lorri through the TennCare CHOICES program. Lorri self-directs her services and Patricia is a live-in companion. They have been together for four years but Patricia has been in the field over 10 years. Their adoration for each other and their connection to one another is remarkable and Patricia’s tenure of working continuously four years in a 24/7 position is also remarkable. They are a dynamic duo!  In addition to tending to Lorri’s needs, Patricia is a close friend and confidant. She is truly loving and respects Lorri. She empowers Lorri to be as independent as possible, which is what Lorri wants. Lorri is the boss! Patricia has also been Lorri’s best advocate and advisor on personal relationships and has protected her from harm on several occasions by confronting those who tried to take advantage of Lorri. Patricia was by Lorri’s side through the most heartbreaking time of Lorri’s life when she and her fiancé broke up. Patricia always fights for Lorri’s inclusion in community activities and for her civil rights. Their relationship is truly a partnership!

Chapter Excellence
The Arc Williamson County
The Arc Williamson County is a role model for all local chapters.  Not only do they provide outstanding supports to people with IDD and their families, they are the “go to” organization for connecting people to resources in their communities. Under the leadership of Sharon Bottorff, executive director, this chapter is always willing to partner with other chapters on events, trainings and services. When asked this past year to partner with The Arc TN to provide Future Planning services for aging caregivers, Sharon jumped at the chance to take the training and immediately held workshops, counseled families and helped them navigate The Arc’s Center for Future Planning website. This chapter does it all!

Inclusive Employer
Germantown Municipal School District
Through The Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South’s Supported Employment program, Germantown Municipal School District created a teaching assistant position. John T. applied for the position, went through the interview process and got the job! He works at Farmington Elementary School performing numerous duties. GMSC was very willing to include an individual with an intellectual disability on their team and has provided an inclusive job environment, a competitive wage, and a position that showcases the abilities of individuals with Down syndrome.

Public Awareness
Leisa Hammett
Leisa is a fierce advocate for her daughter, Grace. During the past six months, she has done the most to raise public awareness of the devastating impact the proposed changes to the federal Medicaid program would have on people with IDD. Nonstop, for months, she has called legislators, attended town hall meetings, participated in public awareness videos and posted information on social media and her blog. All this work grabbed the attention of national newspapers where she was interviewed and asked to share her story. It is family stories that have an impact on shaping public policy. Though her cause is deeply personal, she steps out beyond her own personal needs to focus on the more global picture and it is that ability that contributes to her effectiveness at increasing public awareness.

Exemplary Educator
Jan Lincoln
Jan’s interest in and commitment to the education of individuals with learning differences began early with her sister Laura, who had Down syndrome. Jan has a BS and MS in Special Education. She has taught resource, inclusion, biology and transition. She is certified in work-based learning and has taught teachers statewide on how to modify curriculum for students on an IEP.  She works exceptionally hard at making sure her students and their families have services and supports in place when school life ends and goes the extra mile to support her students in all their endeavors.  She stays in touch with many of them after they exit school. Jan has always been an avid supporter of The Arc. As a high school student, she led Youth-Arc for three years, has served on the board of The Arc Williamson County, chaired Waves’ Human Rights Committee and was recognized by the Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group as a Hometown Hero for her contributions to the Franklin community on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

Agency of Distinction
Achilles International, Nashville
Achilles, a non-profit organization, welcomes all people with disabilities who want to participate in mainstream athletics. They embody the spirit of inclusion by partnering athletes with and without disabilities, welcoming all to the wonderful world of running! Athletes can walk, run, use a wheelchair, ride a handcycle, use orthotics or prosthesis to participate in mainstream running events. Volunteers are an integral part of this organization and come from all walks of life. Participants of the local chapter meet regularly. They host a community run, the Hope & Possibility, every year where athletes of all abilities, from elite runners to walkers and rollers, are welcome to this community-unifying event!

Promising Young Leader
Catland Freeze
As the sister of an individual with autism, Cat is an outstanding young woman who has been very involved in his care and advocacy. This 17-year-old fashion designer’s clothing for people with disabilities was featured at two charity events in New York City, Heart with a Cause for the Down Syndrome Association and Autism Speaks; and they were shown at Fashion is for Everybody in Nashville where models with various disabilities were featured.  She promotes inclusion and full participation!

Community Service
Doria Panvini
For many years, Doria has made a huge difference through her work on The Arc TN’s Public Policy Committee. Tirelessly volunteering, she keeps members informed on the status of bills and leads the committee in taking actions to support or oppose legislation. Her expertise and experience is renowned among those on the committee. In additional to countless hours spent in sessions, legislative committee hearings, reading bills, leading the monthly and weekly meetings, she attends board meetings and works on special projects.  She is dependable and The Arc team can always count on her to bake cookies for events, work at fundraisers, proofread materials and share her extensive knowledge of Tennessee’s service delivery system. She has spent her time and intelligence to better others’ lives.

Work Initiative
Taegan Martin
When Taegan entered the Lipscomb University IDEAL program, she knew that she wanted to work with children as a career and chose classes related to childcare. She decided that she wanted to be a Teacher’s Aide. Since she had graduated from High Hopes inclusive preschool 20 years ago, a position there was her top choice. After some phone conversations and meetings, she interviewed and every teacher requested to have her as their aide! She was hired onto their team as a part-time employee. Taegan works with children just like her and she serves as an inspiration to the staff, students and parents. She contributes in more ways than one can imagine and hopes that her career with them is a long and happy one!

The Ruth Roberts Memorial
This award, in memory of Ruth Roberts, Merry Jensen’s sister, honors a sibling of a person with a disability.
Diane Giddens
Diane’s advocacy began in 1985 when her brother began attending Waves’ Franklin Day Program. Since then, she has worked hard to empower individuals with IDD and their families and has established countless relations in Williamson County. Although her brother passed away in 2007, she has remained passionate about meeting the needs of people with disabilities in the communities in which they were raised. She has served on Waves’ board of directors and as board president, leading the organization through significant changes in leadership. She is always the first to volunteer, willing to do anything. She has gone above and beyond creating opportunities for people with IDD to experience community events such as the Williamson County Fair.

Chad Hilton
Chad is one determined young man and always has been. At only six months old, the youngest ever, he participated in The Arc Cumberland County’s Special Olympics. He graduated from Stone Memorial High School in 2009 and finished his education at the Transition Academy in 2011. He is an avid bowler and a determined team member in The Arc Structured Athletics League. He serves on The Arc Cumberland County’s Recreation Advisory Committee, is a regular volunteer at Tootsie Roll drives and is faithful in his attendance at Oaklawn Baptist Church.  He works at Joshua Pet Treat Bakery where he mentors new comers by showing them exactly what they need to do and the order of operations.   But, the true evidence of Chad’s steely determination is manifested in the manner he tackled the diagnosis of diabetes late last year. He set some goals and administers his own management program by doing his own finger sticks, taking medication once a day, making wise food choices, limiting food portions, walking, lifting weights and riding a stationary bicycle daily.  He has lost over 35 pounds and his blood sugar numbers are within normal therapeutic range! He is an inspiration for others.

The Arc Tennessee Staff Values Award - Respect
Adelicia Company, Kyle Jonas & Ben Saunders
Adelicia recently produced four public awareness videos for The Arc TN: Because of The Arc, Don’t Cut Our Lifeline, Using Our Voices and Alternatives to Conservatorship. They offered The Arc affordable rates and their expertise on how each script could be shot was great. Their communication on scheduling and project updates was remarkable but their passion to work with people with IDD and their families was “off the hook.” Their respect for people with IDD was evident throughout the entire process. They groomed and coached everyone to help them feel relaxed in front of the camera and to be the best stars they could be in every scene shot. We could not be more pleased and proud of our finished products. This awesome partnership has enabled The Arc TN to enhance our visibility and increase public awareness of our accomplishments in fulfilling our mission. The videos can be seen on our website.

The Arc Tennessee Staff Values Award - Integrity
Laura Berry
Laura is the program supervisor for Jobs for Best Buddies and this past winter was named Best Buddies International Jobs Supervisor of the Year. Laura partners with The Arc TN on Job Club, a group that meets monthly to learn employment and social skills.  Laura has a constant pursuit of principle, honesty and the belief in the dignity of all people.  She is friendly and passionate; every individual is important to her. She has helped Job Club grow by finding meeting places and helping create a full curriculum of job topics as well as fun community activities.  She has ensured the smooth production of Job Club by being reliable, dependable and open minded. She enjoys letting others take the lead and calmly encourages everyone to be the best that they can be, even when things get difficult.  Laura makes people feel good!  The Arc’s partnership with Best Buddies and Laura is greatly appreciated.  She is truly an angel who is loved by all who know her!

Congratulations to all our award winners!