DOWNEY - As the Arc of Southeast Los Angeles County prepares for its 14th annual Arc Walk for Independence, Arc participants enthusiastically gear up for tomorrow's event, which is expected to bring out thousands in support of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.For Matthew Paulson, who started participating at the Arc in 1997, the Arc Walk allows people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience support from the broader community. "It's a morning of hope," said Paulson, who displayed his excitement this week by wearing classic Arc Walk t-shirts every day. "It's a chance to see the community be involved." Five days a week, consumers, like Paulson, attend basic education classes, receive job training and utilize other vital resources at the 54-year-old organization, which offers its participants several programs to help support their full inclusion and participation in all aspects of the community. Warren High graduate Jiovanni Tavera came to the Arc in 2002 and couldn't single out just one thing he liked most about the Arc. "I like everything - all of my friends, all of the fun we have," said Tavera wearing an Arc Walk shirt from 2006. "The Arc Walk shows people that there are jobs for us too - it shows them that we can help. We have different needs, but we deserve respect." For Arc of Southeast Los Angeles County, the Arc Walk for Independence raises funds and awareness for its many programs by inviting community members to travel either a one or three-mile walking course. Starting at 8 a.m., registered walkers who donated $10 to the Arc will set out on the course, walking for independence. "The staff that works with our participants day to day will tell you that it could be called the Arc Walk towards Independence," said Executive Director Kevin MacDonald with a smile. "It's one person at a time, one step at a time - They might be small, but we celebrate them like they're big. We're thrilled with the little successes." Successes like Arc participant Marvin Newby who rides the bus from his home in Carson to work in the food services program at the Arc. Currently, Newby is an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and serves on the Arc's board of directors. "He's my boss now," said MacDonald with a laugh. The Arc has seen its annual event grow from 220 walkers in 1997 to more than 3,100 in 2009. This year, host sponsor Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe will be joined by the Laker Girls, the Norwalk All Star Marching Band, and Master of Ceremonies Phillip Palmer of KABC Los Angeles. Acapulco Restaurant will also serve breakfast burritos to all paid participants. MacDonald is confident that community members will open their hearts and make this year's walk a success. "It's one morning in the whole year where the community can come and say they care about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," MacDonald said. "When you give help, you give hope - it is a morning of hope and a celebration of these successes."
********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49