In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the stories of the four champions we will be honoring at our Leading by Example gala on March 27. We will be recognizing several special people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are making a difference: teaching the next generation of doctors; advocating at the State House for much-needed services and funding; and educating the community. You can follow along with these stories right here.
Angelina White is a daredevil. A competitive racer, she has so far taken part in over a dozen 5K road races with one of her best friends, Jess, and she displays all of her medals proudly in her home. She has raced in both 90-degree weather and freezing cold weather, and she has traveled all across the state to quench her need for speed. When asked why she likes racing so much, she proudly proclaims that she “loves to go fast,” and that she “always beats Jess by 2 seconds.”
Angelina is a 25-year-old young woman with cerebral palsy. She relies upon the use of a wheelchair for her daily living, and her adventures in road racing are no exception to this fact. Her best friend Jess got her involved in road racing and always accompanies her, pushing her in her chair as she runs. Jess was a former staff support person for Angelina. While they have always been friends, their time together used to be dependent upon when Jess was clocking in and clocking out for the day. Angelina characterizes what they used to share together as primarily staff time and car time.
Now, however, the time they spend together is quality time. As a result of The Arc of Massachusetts facilitated program Widening the Circle, also known as Pathways to Friendship, Angelina and Jess are able to spend real time together, forging a deeper and genuine friendship. Widening the Circle explores the benefits of relationships between people with and without disabilities and provides information on engaging in and sustaining those relationships. Angelina and Jess have found plenty of ways to sustain their own friendship, through their racing activities; brunches in the city with shared friends; shopping trips; and more.
When asked about the importance of friendship, Angelina said that she would “always make time for [her] friends [because] friends can actually make you feel better.” Expanding on that further, Angelina revealed that she was once in the hospital in Boston for six weeks. Jess, who lived in the area, visited her every single day. Angelina told her that she didn’t have to come and see her every day. Jess’s response? “I know I don’t have to come see you. But I want to.”
Angelina is incredibly proud of their teamwork over the years, noting that, “It doesn’t matter that we don’t come in first. It just matters that we still do it. We’re still spending quality time together and finishing the race.” While her racing chair is currently in need of repair, she looks forward to the day that she and Jess can get back out there. In the future, she hopes to use a GoPro camera to livestream her races, so that the world can quite literally begin to see things from her point of view.
Angelina also is a talented artist, frequently painting with one of her current support staff members, BAMSI’s Katie Driscoll. Angelina and Katie have made numerous presentations on the importance of friendships at statewide conferences, including a conference for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) on Cape Cod; a Brockton Area Multi Services Inc. (BAMSI) leadership conference; an Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP) conference; and a presentation for the Providers’ Council. Angelina serves on the Advisory Board at BAMSI, a position that allows her to influence policy and systems change, and contribute articles to their publications. She also takes part in training and education videos for board members about what self-advocates want in friends and staff members.
When Angelina looks to the future, the sky is quite literally the limit. She wants to go back to school in order to obtain a degree in public speaking, and she wants to write a book about her life, so that people can learn they can do whatever they want to do. And true to her daredevil nature, she also hopes one day to be able to go skydiving.
Written by Katerina Daley, Development and Digital Media Associate
The Arc of Massachusetts 2019 gala, Leading by Example, will be held on March 27. To learn more, purchase tickets, or become a sponsor, please visit the official gala webpage.