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Atlantic County Celebrates Disability Awareness Month

Atlantic County celebrated October as Disability Awareness Month by presenting the 34th annual Donald J. Sykes Award to two county residents in recognition of their outstanding achievements and contributions to our community today, Tuesday, October 17.

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Each year honorees are nominated by area organizations, family or friends for their positive attitudes, personal accomplishments and their success in enriching the lives of others. The awards presentation is a cooperative effort of the Atlantic County Division of Intergenerational Services and the Atlantic County Disability Advisory Board. Established by the county in 1989, the ceremony was later named in memory of Donald J. Sykes, a longtime community advocate and former chairman of the county’s Disabled Citizens Advisory Board. This year’s honorees were Andrew Scheffey of Margate and Mike Bersani of Linwood. Also, in memoriam, a video tribute was played to honor the life and passing of Joe Brown.

 

In 1967, while stationed in Germany, Joe became permanently injured in a car accident. During a long hospitalization and rehab for over 1 ½ years, he came to realize that "negativity is not something I would allow to enter…I was given more than a second chance…" Joe saw how other veterans coped with their situations and the importance of volunteers. He lived his life with a spirit of positivity and volunteerism. Joe was one of the creators of the “Field of Dreams” in Absecon among many other things to improve the lives of those with disabilities. Joe and Donald were partners advocating for those with disabilities. County Executive Dennis Levinson welcomed Prosecutor William E. Reynolds to attend to support the program and highlight the work of the Prosecutor’s office with the establishment of the Atlantic County Special Needs Registry and Veterans Response Team.

 

Two initiatives that would be near and dear to the hearts of Donny and Joe. Prosecutor Reynolds stated that “attending this event last year inspired our office to bring awareness to law enforcement and education professionals on the benefits of the special needs registry and how to share information to best interact with those with special needs and disabilities”. The registry was created by Raymond Royster formerly of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office who now works for the State of New Jersey Attorney General. Prosecutor Reynolds stated that, “It is truly humbling to be able to help our community, especially those with special needs, to have a better relationship with law enforcement. The creation of the Special Needs Registry enables First Responders to have information before entering a home or situation that can be life saving for the person in need who may not have the ability to communicate.”

 

The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office would like to extend our gratitude to the Sykes Family and Brown Family who have been integral in the advocacy for and the continuation of Joe and Donny’s work. Please visit www.acpo.org for more information about the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office. Please visit https://www.acpo.org/special-needs-registry for more information regarding the Special Needs Registry.

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