Last week was the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) Buddy Walk on Washington: the time we set aside to go an tell our stories on Capitol Hill. We also celebrate and give awards. This year I had the tremendous honor and privilege of giving one of the NDSS Ambassador of the Year Awards to Sherri Harnish.
This is my award speech for Sherri:
BWW Ambassador of the Year Harnish
Ordinary. Throughout history ordinary people have done the extra-ordinary to save lives, to further civilizations and to effect change. When I think of the NDSS Ambassador program, I think of how the National Down Syndrome Society has taken seemingly ordinary people and challenged them to do the extra-ordinary. Of course the extra-ordinary happens when these ordinary people build relationships with legislators on the federal level, on the state level and on the local level. The impact is powerful. The impact is things like Passing the ABLE Act!
Truly the impact is more than that and nowhere is that more evident than in the life and through the contributions of our next NDSS Down Syndrome Ambassador of the Year, Sherri Harnish of Nebraska. Through her “trade” of photo journalism Sherri Harnish shares beauty. Her family’s story, her husband Joe, her daughter McKenzie, and her daughter Macy’s lives are all captured and shared through the beauty of photography. In sharing her family she shares the amazing world of five-year old Macy, who happened to be born with one of those extra chromosomes.
Personally, I find myself drawn to Sherri’s photos because of her use of color and fun. They are whimsical. They make me want to know more about Macy, about individuals with Down syndrome. Sherri says that she believes Macy’s story can best be told directly from Macy. She says she is grateful that she is able to utilize the power of Macy’s own voice to effect change for herself, and others just like her. In sharing Macy’s life and their family’s journey through the medium of photography, she has impacted not just her local area but the nation.
One of the most impactful messages sent to Congress as we marched to pass the ABLE Act was Macy’s Message to Congress. With a mere 40,000 YouTube hits, Sherri captures Macy asking Congress to “Pwease Pass the ABLE Act Now.” Who could say no? Macy says, “I am Awesome. And my future is bright and full of potential.” Sherri, because of your efforts, your work, your advocacy, the future of many people with Down syndrome is brighter and full of more potential.
Sherri, I think you are awesome. It is my great honor and privilege to present to you this year’s NDSS Down Syndrome Ambassador of the Year Award.”
Back in December a group of ambassadors, including Sherri, were on the Hill for the historic House ABLE Act vote. My friend Joe and I were sitting and chatting and he said, “Do you remember when we were like them?” I knew exactly what he meant. Optimism and hope oozing from the Sherri’s, Brad’s, Kelly’s and others. Of course I remember when our children were younger and we hoped for someone to introduce something like the ABLE Act and now they have and we have ABLE as the law of the land. We are still optimistic, but we’ve been disillusioned by some things. We reflected on this for a minute and then we went on to talking about employment. There is still much to do.
For now thought, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come and envision where we will go. And if you don’t believe that Macy and Rachel, Peyton, Eric, Ryan and so many more are awesome and that they have bright futures and full of potential – well then you have not listened to Macy! Check it out.
Sherri, and family, thank you for your beautiful, whimsical part in this journey!