What a night to remember! It was truly overwhelming to see so many people come out to support and celebrate DSACC’s 20thanniversary on March 2, 2019. With close to 300 guests, it was our largest gala ever! We danced, we laughed, some cried… it was incredible.
Congratulations to those we honored that evening. We cannot show our gratitude enough to our Sweetheart Honoree, Keith Bennett and Valley Type & Design. They play a major role behind the scenes in our marketing and outreach- keeping our printed materials looking great and often teaching Jenn how to create it correctly.
Congratulations to Ava Fernandes and her family who were our Pioneer Award recipients. It was a bit of a surprise for the Fernandes family (we told them only Ava was getting an award), but this family does so much for promoting awareness and acceptance of all abilities in the Tulare community, as well as donating much of their time and resources to helping DSACC reach out and connect with others in the area… we had to recognize their outstanding efforts with this new annual award.
Congratulations to Dr. Michael and Denise Allshouse, our Founders Award recipients. They have given so much of their hearts into creating this organization and making it sustainable. There are people in this world who inspire and push us to be better people, who have a vision and a passion to create something wonderful and the Allshouse’s are those people.
They have touched so many lives and watched so many of our babies grow up; often from just days into this world. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with families sharing in all depths of grief- whether it be out of fear of the unknown or for the loss of a child. They have cheered alongside us in celebration, and fought alongside us during challenges that seemed impossible. They have fought fiercely to create a community that accepts, appreciates and includes our loved ones with Down syndrome. We are honored to carry on their legacy. Thank you Mike & Denise.
And of course we have cannot forget our amazing Sweetheart Ambassador Honoree, Jim McMillan. Jim is 35 years young and has been living independently with the same roommate and her family for approximately 7 years visiting his parents Gary & Sandi McMillan on the weekends.
While attending Central High School, Jim was known as “Mac” around campus. “Jimmy was a legend at Central High” says former teacher Tod Tompkins. “He was featured on the school’s weekly TV show every Friday giving the weather for the weekend… he would have staff and students laughing all day. He competed in Special Olympic events- thrived in swimming. It was a pleasure being his teacher and his friends. One of my personal all-time favorites” continued Tompkins.
Through a fortunate meeting during his time at Central School Districts Adult Transition Program, Jim met Jami Hamel De La Cerda who was then a teacher. Hamel De La Cerda went on to open her own center- Diamond Learning Center (DLC) were Jim became the very first client/student and their lifelong friendship was sealed. Jim not only attends DLC programs but is a Student Store manager. He works part-time, earning minimum wage and is responsible for filing the fridge and monitoring supplies, managing his own time card and is supported by the wonderful classes and staff at DLC.
Jim has been an advocate and volunteer for DSACC and out in the community forever it seems- he and his fellow ATP classmates helped assemble “Buddy Bags” for the first awareness walk this organization hosted in 2001! Jim is a regular presenter at Fresno Pacific University and Fresno State where he shares his life experiences with teachers in training.
His work out in the community is truly inspiring and awesome. Congratulations Jim McMillan!