When Beth Danielson sees the butterfly on the poster for this year’s Gala of Wines, she remembers the late Matt Schuman, who was a sports reporter for The Greeley Tribune and an advocate for people with disabilities.
“The designer added a butterfly in honor of Matt and the others (with disabilities) we’ve lost over the years,” said Danielson, executive director for Connections for Independent Living. “It’s a nice little touch. When I look at this year’s poster. I will be reminded of Matt.”
Each year, the disability-resource organization awards a local group the Matt Schuman Memorial Award for Disability Access and Community Inclusion at the annual Gala of Wines.
This year the award will go to the High Plains Library District during the Gala of Wines from 6-9 p.m. tonight at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley.
The library district will receive the award for its ongoing partnership with Connections for Independent Living, Danielson said.
The library created and supports a computer lab and bookmobile, which are housed at Connections for Independent Living.
The lab has four computers with disability software and typing tutorials that are maintained by the library IT staff, and outreach staff provides computer tutoring and bookmobile services.
“We want the people we serve to have access to the local library and this is a great way to teach them about the programs and services,” Danielson said. “For the cost of an iPad, they can have access to assistive technologies which use to cost $30,000. It’s really opening doors for people.”
Danielson said the award has been named after Schuman since its first year, when they presented it to him and The Tribune for an in-depth series on disability access and community inclusion.
Schuman, who was born with muscular dystrophy, worked with Connections for Independent Living as a volunteer peer mentor, and later served on the organization’s governing board.
After Schuman’s death in August 2013, the organization added “memorial” to the title of the award in his memory.
“Matt was always involved,” Danielson said. “I’ve been here since ’97 and, until Matt passed away, I was never without his involvement and assistance. He was a friend to me.”
Last year, the organization awarded the Kress Cinema & Lounge with the award.
Danielson said in other years the award has gone to service clubs, companies, retailers and restaurants that make efforts to help people with disabilities live more independent and self-sufficient lives.
Each year, Connections for Independent Living reaches out to the people it serves to get ideas for a group or organization that deserves the award that year. The list is taken to the committee who puts on the Gala of Wines to make the final decision.
“We don’t make decisions without involving those with disabilities,” Danielson said. “We reach out to our consumers, support groups and all people with disabilities to recognize some entity for contributing to people with disabilities having good access in the community. There are still many physical barriers as well as attitudinal barriers to overcome.”