When I was a college student in upstate New York,‭ ‬a friend invited me to check out a Thursday night recreational program for people with disabilities.‭ ‬Volunteers would spend one-on-one time with someone with a disability,‭ ‬doing things like bowling or playing basketball.‭

Eventually,‭ ‬I was paired with an adult named Robert.‭ ‬And what I learned from the time I spent with Robert,‭ ‬is that people‭ ‬with challenges,‭ ‬are just like you and me.‭ ‬Robert wanted to have fun and be free to make decisions in his life and do the things he liked to do.‭ ‬Things like where to live and where to work.

Little did I know that those Thursday nights would lead me to a lifetime of service.‭ ‬And I am so grateful it did.‭ ‬Gandhi said,‭ “‬The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.‭” ‬That saying rings true for me.‭ ‬For thirty-seven years I have been assisting and supporting people with disabilities to achieve their fullest potential.

Currently,‭ ‬I am the president and CEO of the ARC of Martin County and St.‭ ‬Lucie County.‭ ‬I have been in this role for‭ ‬19‭ ‬years.‭ ‬ARC stands for‭ “‬Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged‭” ‬and our mission is to empower children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their fullest potential through residential,‭ ‬vocational,‭ ‬educational,‭ ‬behavioral,‭ ‬and other healthcare-related services.

Over the years,‭ ‬I have worked with both private and public sectors building residential homes and vocational training programs for people with disabilities to live and work competitively within their communities.‭ ‬These places give them independence and allow them to rely less on government subsidies.‭ ‬Thousands of people have benefited from these programs which enabled them to make worthy contributions to their communities.

I share this with you to highlight the opportunities we all have to make a life-changing impact within our communities and to encourage others to lend a helping hand.‭ ‬The last few years have been tough on all of us.‭ ‬Our lives have been turned upside down.‭ ‬Many people lost loved ones to the pandemic.‭ ‬Others lost jobs and businesses creating financial stress and turmoil.

I lost my son,‭ ‬Nicholas,‭ ‬two years ago.‭ ‬He had been bravely living with his own disability.‭ ‬Losing him has made me more aware and focused on helping others.‭ ‬Families who have loved ones with special needs do not always know where to turn for support.‭ ‬That’s what ARC does.‭ ‬It helps children,‭ ‬adults,‭ ‬and families overcome their challenges and find solutions to their problems.‭

ARC is just one agency that could use a helping hand.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬we need monetary donations to deal with higher inflationary costs,‭ ‬just like all of you.‭ ‬But we also need people with passion and heart.‭ ‬We need volunteers and future leaders with skills and talents who can help with a variety of things like driving,‭ ‬training,‭ ‬or assisting at fundraising events.

Donating your time by helping a neighbor may not solve all your problems,‭ ‬but I guarantee it will make you feel better.‭ ‬Instead of scrolling through social media posts or watching the news or another reality TV show,‭ ‬try helping someone else who really needs you.‭ ‬That is a powerful opportunity and a rewarding one.

Winston Churchill said,‭ “‬We make a living by what we get.‭ ‬We make a life by what we give.‭”

Imagine replacing anger with compassion.‭ ‬Impatience with empathy.‭ ‬Anxiety with reassurance.‭ ‬Doubt with belief.‭ ‬We all have the power within us.

Please consider reaching out to a not-for-profit like ARC and see what you can do to help.‭ ‬Bring your family or a friend.‭ ‬I’m so grateful my friend in college invited me to get involved.‭ ‬It changed my life forever.

Keith Muniz is‭ ‬the president and CEO of the ARC of Martin County and St.‭ ‬Lucie County.‭ ‬The ARC,‭ (‬Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged‭) ‬is a‭ ‬501‭(‬c‭)(‬3‭) ‬not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering children and adults with I/DD through residential,‭ ‬vocational,‭ ‬educational,‭ ‬behavioral,‭ ‬and other healthcare services.‭ ‬For more information about ARC visit‭ ‬www.arcmc.org or call‭ ‬772-283-2525.

Send via Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Text


Please Enter Your Comment
Please Enter Your Name Here