Gov. John Bel Edwards, First Lady Donna Edwards and the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs honored the winners of the 2019 Governor's Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities (GOLD) Awards and the 2019 Inclusive Art Contest in a ceremony at the Old State Capitol.
One of those honorees is William Romero, a young man from Youngsville who has fibrous displaysia, an uncommon bone disorder in which scar-like tissue develops in place of normal bone. This irregular tissue can weaken the affected bone and cause it to deform or fracture.
Romero will be recognized as the Youth of the Year. He says his work is important.
"I think its very important for me to continue working with people with disabilities, because there is a general misunderstanding when it comes to people with disabilities, and a lot of it is completely accidental," Romero said.
Romero said he recently went to a program for youth in Baton Rouge, and many of those students had "major misunderstandings about the disabled, their treatment and seeing them truly as people, which is something I want to continue to raise awareness for."
It's important to look past the disability, he said.
"I hope that everyone can see that a disability doesn't disable someone, in fact it ables them to really change the world and make an impact for people who have been forgotten by society," he said.
Another local resident honored with an award was Ali Hebert of Lafayette, who was given the Patsy Barrett Memorial Award for her work with mental illness. Hebert is an advocate for mental health awareness and wants to break the stigma when it comes to mental illness.
"The more we talk about it, the more open we are to receiving help. Just picking up on each other's cues, like if you need help a certain way that might work for me, and vice versa. Just sharing those little tricks to help live a day-to-day live," said Hebert.
The Brooks family of Youngsville was honored as Family of the Year.
The GOLD Awards recognize extraordinary individuals and organizations that have contributed their time and talents to benefit the lives of persons with disabilities in Louisiana.
"Every year, the GOLD Awards honor Louisianans who dedicate their time and energy to making our state a more inclusive place to live," said Gov. Edwards. "It's important to recognize the hard work these honorees are doing every day to move Louisiana forward."
The Inclusive Art Contest enables participants to increase awareness of the importance of inclusion in today's society through artistic expression. This year's contest theme was "Living, Learning, and Loving Together!"
Gov. Edwards provided the opening remarks at the GOLD Awards and First Lady Donna Edwards presented the awards to each Inclusive Art Contest winner and congratulated them on their achievement.
The winners are as follows:
2019 GOLD Award Recipients
Distinguished Merit Award
Tom Barnes of Metairie
Patsy Barrett Memorial Award
Ali Hebert of Lafayette
Ken Vince Memorial Award
Jeff Arseneaux of Abita Springs
Educator of the Year Award
Sondra Mullen of New Orleans
Youth of the Year Award
William Romero of Youngsville
Family of the Year Award
The Brooks Family of Thibodaux
Volunteer of the Year Award
Pittre Walker of Shreveport
Employer of the Year Award
Lenny Martinsen of New Orleans
Direct Support Professional of the Year Award
William Jackson of Kentwood
Service Animal of the Year Award
Annie Frannie Corkern of Amite
Elected Official of the Year Award
Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge