Friday, August 26, 2011


InclusionFest featuring Wheel-A-Thon

For the past year I've been working with a team of people from accessABILITY's staff and board, as well as volunteers from organizations like the RHI Sports Program and Noble of Indiana to create a new event called InclusionFest! InclusionFest gets it's roots from accessABILITY's past, when the organization was still known as the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living (IRCIL for short). (You can see why we changed the name.) The original InclusionFest wasn't held in Marion County and took a great deal of work to present. Due to limited resources and lack of community support, IRCIL transitioned the event into the Wheel-A-Thon, which has been held for the past two years at the UIndy fitness center. The Wheel-A-Thon was a fun, educational event, but the setting wasn't ideal. We needed a new event that would reflect the mission of accessABILITY. Everyone on our board, and staff, loved the concept of a festival celebrating inclusion, built around the strengths and talents of people with disabilities. So, that's what we set out to create!

This year, InclusionFest, which is a free event, will take place on Saturday, September 17th, at Christian Park (4200 English Avenue, Indianapolis, IN) from 10am to 4pm. The event will begin with the Wheel-A-Thon, which will be outdoors in the park, and will include fun "pit stop challenges". Various Musician's will perform throughout the day to provide a little energy for those of us going around the track and to entertain others as they visit the many different vendors who will be displaying their artwork, services, products, etc. People who come to InclusionFest will have the opportunity to help create a community art project that will be displayed at accessABILITY's office, enjoy several different demonstrations (some of which will be "hands on" activities), or attend workshops.

We will have several demonstrations from the Rehab Hospital of Indiana's Sports programs including Wheelchair Tennis, Power (wheelchair) Soccer, Beepball-Baseball (for people who are blind or have severe visual impairments), and Quad Rugby. We will also feature demonstrations on assistive technology, service dogs, adaptive vehicles, self defense, and wheelchair ballroom dancing! In addition to the demonstrations, we are hosting workshops on Financial Literacy, Caregiver Support, and Accessible and Affordable Housing. For the smaller children who don't find all of that stuff interesting, there will be a kids area with clowns, face painting, and other fun kids activities. It's going to be a big day!

I have to keep reminding myself that this is the "first year" for this new version of InclusionFest. As September 17th draws closer I keep getting nervous about how it's going to go. (Somehow I became the Chair of the planning committee, even though I don't remember being asked, so I feel somewhat responsible for it's future.) How are we going to overcome the advertising hurdle? Will the community show up to support this event? We've had a difficult time drawing other disability related support organizations to have a presence at the event. If it is well attended hopefully more will be interested in supporting InclusionFest next year. It is our hope that this will become Indiana's premier disability awareness event, which is a big goal, but if people come, I think it has a chance of becoming just that.

Adding to the pressure I've put on myself is the fact that the Wheel-A-Thon is accessABILITY's only major fundraiser for the year. Will we raise enough money to cover the cost of InclusionFest and support the free services that accessABILITY provides to people with disabilities throughout Indiana? If you're interested in sponsoring my Wheel-A-Thon team, Rebellion on Wheels, click here, then click on "Sponsor Our Team". Any donation, no matter how large or small will be a tremendous help. If you would like to join my team, help raise funds, and participate in the Wheel-A-Thon, click on the same link, and then select "Join Our Team". Last year, through many of your donations to the Wheel-A-Thon, I was able to raise $1600.00 for accessABILITY. This year I've set my goal at $2000.00. With only about two weeks left I'm now just over 50% of the goal. Can you help? All donations are tax deductible.

To be honest, I'm hesitant to ask friends, family, and even perfect strangers to donate to a cause I believe in. (I don't want to be that guy.) However, accessABILITY does provide vital services for all people with any type of disability in central Indiana at no cost to the consumer, and they need financial support. I've come to understand that if I don't give you the opportunity to make a donation, then I am making the decision for you, and that's not fair. Regardless of whether you are willing to make a donation at this time, or not, I do hope that you keep InclusionFest in mind and can join us at Christian Park on September 17th!

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