Disability Awareness Week

by STA 8th grader, Julia D

Throughout the last week of November, members of The Joseph Maley Foundation came to St. Thomas to put on a program to teach about kids of all different disabilities.

The Joseph Maley Foundation, a non-profit organization, helps serve children of all abilities. The foundation started in 2008, by the parents of a child named Joseph Maley. Joseph possessed a variety of different disabilities and wanted to teach people about them. His parents started a program at St. Monica’s school to teach students about different disabilities. When Joseph passed away from leukemia, his parents started a foundation in his name. They wanted to continue serving children and teaching others about people’s differences. The Joseph Maley Foundation affects many lives, including Julie Friedman, a member of the organization who comes to help give presentations. “I have a child with a disability, my youngest. I have 4 children, and my youngest has a chromosome abnormality. [This program] has helped me in our journey as a family because I’ve been able to meet all the different speakers who have differences in their lives,” Friedman stated. “It helps me become more aware of what others are going through as well.”

The program that The Joseph Maley Foundation put on at St. Thomas lasted a little less than a week. During this week, each class did something different. The 8th grade class experienced an hour of living with a disability.  They split into groups, where everybody except one person in each group obtained a disability. Then, everyone went on a scavenger hunt around the school. Maggie Gonzalez, an 8th grader, took on the disability of Cerebral Palsy, a disease that affects body movement and muscle coordination. “I did not need a lot of help specifically with going around the school,” Maggie stated. “I had a walker to help me, but without that, I could not have walked at all. My group often had to wait for me because my brace prevented me from walking very fast.” Maggie Timpe also experienced this simulation. “Since I was the one without a disability in my group, I had to help everyone else.” She said that she helped assist those in need.

This program and organization makes a difference in many people’s lives. Mrs. Friedman said, “I do think I see this program making a difference in schools. I think I see it with adults even more than kids because this program wasn’t in schools before. Adults who don’t have people with differences in their lives don’t have an understanding of what it is like. If we can help teach their children, the children help teach the parents.” Mrs. Friedman said that during Disability Awareness Week, she likes seeing kids ask all sorts of questions. She said that she likes watching the students learn about people and their differences.

Maggie Gonzalez said that she enjoyed taking on a disability. “I was able to experience just a glimpse of what it is like to have a disability. I am more empathetic because of this experience.”

“I enjoyed Disability Awareness Week because I had fun seeing what it was like to be with someone who has a disability.” stated Maggie Timpe. “This week is important because it educates people on what it is like to live with a disability and how we can help them make their lives better. It showed me that people with disabilities are still people, just like us.”