DOWNEY - Every year Yolanda Chavez drafts as many people as she can to walk for independence."In my kitchen, I have a large save the date to remind everyone," said Chavez who's been busy the last few weeks organizing a group of 30 family and friends to participate in this year's Arc Walk. "I wish we could do it twice a year. We do our part to support them, but I wish we could do more." Chavez is just one of The Arc's many loyal champions who is gearing up for the 16th annual Arc Walk for Independence, which is expected to draw nearly 4,000 people this Saturday in support of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 1997, the Arc Walk for Independence has raised funds and awareness for The Arc's various educational and occupational programs by inviting community members to walk either a one or three-mile route around Stonewood Center. Since 2008, Yolanda and her husband Ruben Chavez have walked with their son, Raymond Cadenez, who has received job training and other vital resources at The Arc - Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which offers its consumers several programs to help initiate and sustain their full inclusion and participation in all aspects of community life. "This organization, I can't stop talking about it because I see the benefits," said Yolanda, 65, tearfully. "I get emotional because what happens to all these young adults when their parents are gone. Arc teaches them to defend themselves." For 30-year-old Cadenez, The Arc provides him the opportunity to experience the world from outside of his Downey home. "You learn a lot of things - bus safety, employment preparation, interviewing, job search, customer service. I like it, you learn to handle 8 hours of work through job training," said Cadenez, who's currently enrolled in The Arc's employment program and is actively searching for a job. "This is our fifth Arc Walk. You meet a lot of people, walk, talk and learn from a lot of different people - it's real good." "This is good for all the community not just Downey, but the surrounding communities," added Ruben Chavez, 67. "It's helping everyone in the community. Get involved - help out." Starting at 8 a.m. on March 24, registered walkers who donate $10 to The Arc will set out on the course, walking for independence. Beginning at Acapulco Restaurant and Cantina, the 3-mile walk travels west on Firestone Boulevard to Lakewood Boulevard, up to Florence Avenue, around to Woodruff Avenue and back to Firestone. The Arc has seen its annual event grow from just 250 walkers in 1997 to nearly 4,000 last year. Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe will return this year as the host sponsor of the event along with special guests actress Lauren Potter from the hit show "Glee," Master of Ceremonies Phillip Palmer of KABC Los Angeles, the Laker girls, and the Norwalk All-Star Marching Band. Acapulco Restaurant will serve breakfast burritos to all paid participants. Dozens of local companies have also banded together to support the annual fundraiser including Tredway, Lumsdaine & Doyle, Penske Toyota, Wescom Credit Union, Century 21 My Real Estate Co., Albertsons, and Coca-Cola. "We're going on 16 years of educating people, teaching the value of every single human being," said Kevin MacDonald, chief executive director of The Arc, located at 12049 Woodruff Ave. "The message is extending out beyond here, it's a regional thing and I'm very proud of our staff, every board member and our chair Betty Morse." As in previous years, MacDonald is hopeful members of the community will once again open their hearts, making this year's walk yet another success. "Make a small effort," said MacDonald. "Join us for two hours on Saturday morning for a celebration of life and hope."
********** Published: March 22, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 49