Arc Walk matriarch leads by example

DOWNEY – Raising money for the Arc of Southeast Los Angeles County is nothing new for Wanda Reyes. In fact, if the 79-year-old mother and grandmother could find a way to raise more, she would.
“Some people say, ‘I wouldn’t think about asking my family and neighbors for money,’ but you’ve got to,” said Reyes. “I don’t know what I’d do without Arc. Between Robin and the Arc – I’m alive.”
It was nearly 30 years ago when Reyes first brought her daughter Robin Terry to Arc, the 55-year-old organization, which provides vital services and training for over 400 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Today, Reyes and Robin, now 51, can be found weekly at Arc; however, next Saturday during the annual Arc Walk for Independence they will represent just one of the many families that rely upon the organization to help teach, train, employ and encourage their loved ones.
“The Walk is really important. We’re thankful for Arc. I go to people and ask them to sponsor me,” said Reyes, who turns 80 this May. “Give – hey, I’ll take a dollar. But most people give me 10 or 15 dollars. Think about Robin, think about these kids. Come down and look around, you’ll feel in your heart that you did something good.”
Kevin MacDonald, executive director of the Arc, believes that it’s the families of Arc consumers that make all the difference.
“Our service has to be for the whole family,” said MacDonald. “We know a little bit of what they do, but we don’t know what it takes for them to get to the Walk. Our families continue to fight and the Arc Walk growth is spurred by every one of these family members.”
Since 1997, the Arc Walk for Independence has raised funds and awareness for Arc’s many programs by inviting community members to travel either a one or three-mile walking course around Stonewood Center. Starting at 8 a.m. on March 26, registered walkers who donated $10 to the Arc will set out on the course, walking for independence.
“Come and share a morning of hope,” said MacDonald. “We’re going full-steam ahead. We’ve received tremendous support from our sponsors, Supervisor [Don] Knabe and a number of corporations who are giving. We encourage everyone to bring someone new, help us celebrate.”
Starting 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 more than 3,300 last year. MacDonald expects the Walk to inch closer to 4,000 walkers this year.
In addition to host sponsor Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, the Laker Girls will also be in attendance, along with Master of Ceremonies Phillip Palmer of KABC Los Angeles and the Norwalk All Star Marching Band. Acapulco Restaurant will serve breakfast burritos to all paid participants.
Tredway, Lumsdaine & Doyle, Coca-Cola, Wescom Credit Union, Century 21 My Real Estate Co., Sempra Energy and Stonewood Center are just some of the dozens of companies banding together to support the annual fundraiser.
Although Reyes admits that she can’t do as much as she used to do, she hopes that others will pick up the mantle and help keep the doors of Arc open.
“If it wasn’t for Robin – I wouldn’t get up in the morning. She’s the light of my life,” said Reyes, who’s still soliciting friends for donations. “I just think that if you want to feel good about yourself, you’ll come out and walk. Think about the families that are out there to celebrate their kids…show compassion for their families.”

Published: March 17, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 48