Nika shares her message of hope and endurance with education, business, and church groups. Audiences respond to her humorous and heartfelt stories with warmth and enthusiasm. Almost everyone walks away with a renewed sense of purpose.
Join us at the Newly Renovated Civic Center in Holland. Not only do we get to recognize individuals who promote inclusion but also the opportunity to see the New Holland Civic Center.
The Holland Civic Center is located at:
150 W 8th St, Holland, MI.
Michael Brashears, Holland
For many years Michael has been a strong advocate and leading voice for quality of services for persons with significant developmental disabilities and mental illness within the Lakeshore Regional Entity. Dr. Brashears has a passion for helping customers to attain the best possible outcomes; outcomes that matter to individuals; outcomes that lead to rich and full lives.
Jennifer Breen, Marne
Jen Breen began a grassroots effort called Autism Family Network to connect families dealing with the effects of autism after the diagnosis of her child left her feeling disconnected and alone. Through her efforts, Jen has helped hundreds of families realize that they are not alone, there is hope, and help available. Under her direction, Autism Family Network offers Parent Seminars on a variety of topics.
Benjamin Conner, Holland
Benjamin Conner, Ph.D., serves as the Professor of Practical Theology and the creator and Director of the Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry (GDCM) at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. Ben consistently and passionately combines his personal and professional life's work advocating, educating, speaking, leading, writing, serving, envisioning and empowering others so that individuals and groups of multifaceted communities will grow in their awareness and ability to create belonging spaces where people with disabilities can participate, contribute, learn, thrive, serve, and ultimately flourish.
Corene D'Addona, Holland
Corene is a speech language pathologist for Holland Public Schools who is constantly looking for ways to improve success for students with disabilities. Whether it is through writing grants for additional funding or starting new initiatives or developing creative instructional aids, Corene constantly is doing more with her students.
George DeJong, Holland
George has a heart for people and a particular concern for people in the margins, including those with disabilities. As pastor of Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church and Executive Director of "Under the Fig Tree" ministries, George envisioned a Biblical Study Tour for persons with physical and mental disabilities called Heart of God Tour where each participant is accompanied by an adult who serves as a support.
Jeff Elhart, Holland
Jeff has taken the devastating loss of his brother which was due to mental illness, and turned that loss into total awareness throughout the community through his work with the BE NICE program. Further, Jeff played an important role in "Laughter in Sacred Spaces", a free event centered around mental health awareness and removing stigma.
Lori Hastings, Coopersville
Lori along with her husband Dave Hastings have created a nonprofit called Lori's Voice, an all-volunteer nonprofit that helps children with disabilities pay for what insurance does not cover. It helps young kids get out and be as independently as they can be so they can truly get out and make a difference in society.
Derek Koomen, Zeeland
Derek is an optimistic and inspiring presence wherever he goes. He is a hard worker on the family farm and a faithful church volunteer. Derek's story is one living a full and whole life. Whether he's bailing hay or greeting people he's ready to give it his all.
Gray Sanders, Holland
Gray is a student advocate who sees disability as a part of life that does not diminish the worth of anyone. She is learning American Sign Language and frequently utilizes ASL to support those who are Deaf or have hearing loss to participate, contribute, and belong.
Jenna Vipond, Grand Haven
Jenna has built the Momentum Center in Grand Haven into a successful social and recreational program for people with disabilities, mental illness and addictions. Jenna has succeeded in creating a rich integration of people with diverse needs and abilities in a way that celebrates every individual exactly where they are.
The Ability Award began in 2011 as a way to honor Disability Network/ Lakeshore's Founding Director, Ruth Stegeman, who served in the organization's leadership for two decades. During her career with Disability Network/ Lakeshore, Ruth had a strong passion to advocate for inclusive communities for people with disabilities.
The Ability Award was created to honor and perpetuate that spirit by recognizing people in our community who share the same passion and are making progress in the advancement of creating inclusive communities. Each year, as Ability Award recipients are awarded, we hope that the recognition of their efforts will inspire others to take action.