2001 Caravan for Disability Awareness ~ San Antonio, Texas to Washington, DC

10 Years Later ~ Congratulations Everyone for Continuing this Tradition!


Copyright 2001 by Wheel Me On...
Revised 2010; 2011 Copyright by Wheel Me On...

Disability Awareness 2001
April 23rd ~ April 25th

Opening Ceremonies


Seated left to right facing audience:
Larry Tyrone Hughes, Julia Hollenbeck, Dave Gorman, Kirk Bauer, Bill Van Horne, Andy Imparato, and David Williamson.

At eleven o'clock in the morning the Opening Ceremony for the Disability Awareness Program began. Larry Tyrone Hughes, the 1996 Paralympic Discus Gold Medalist, introduced Wayne Miller who sang "The National Anthem" for the program to begin.

Mr. Miller, an amputee with one leg, came to the front of the Speaker's table in a wheelchair and turned to face the audience. As I sat next to him and listened to the intensity of his voice while singing a second song, "God Bless the USA ", with words meaning so much to all of us, my eyes could not help but well with tears. I glanced at the people in front of me and realized there were very few dry eyes.

Suddenly, near the end of the song, Wayne Miller stood up on his one good leg to sing the last phrase. A gasp from the audience and from myself could be heard as the dramatic scene unfolded.


Larry introduced the speakers and one by one, each of them gave us encouraging words on our rights of disability, sporting activities, and the acknowledgment of knowing our struggles. Numerous questions directed about work and the disabled rose from the audience that filled the large room. Dave W. Gorman, Executive Director of Disabled American Veterans (DAV); Andrew J. Imparato, President of the Association of American People with Disabilities (AAPD); David R. Williamson, President of America's Athletes with Disabilities; Bill Van Horne, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin, United States of America; and Kirk Bauer, Executive Director of Disabled Sports, USA (DS/USA), were all featured speakers for the Wheel Me On... Disability Awareness Program 2001.

David W. Gorman lost both legs in combat during the Vietnam conflict and was appointed as the Executive Director of the DAV at the Washington Headquarters office in 1995. Mr. Gorman enjoys a reputation as one of the nation's foremost experts on the VA's massive nationwide medical system. Due to his comprehensive understanding of the VA's inner workings, he has been asked to sit on numerous VA and Congressionally chartered advisory committees, as well as many ad hock groups, seeking ways to better serve America's veterans. We were indeed proud to have his presence and hear his words of advice and wisdom as the first speaker to begin our program.

The second speaker was Andrew J. Imparato who joined AAPD as it's first full-time President and CEO in November, 1999. AAPD is a national organization working to promote political and economic empowerment for the more than 56 million children and adults with disabilities in the United States. Mr. Imparato is an attorney with a psychiatric disability who has devoted his career to promoting the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act in a number of government and advocacy jobs in Washington, DC and Boston, Massachusetts. He was also the inspiration for the story of "John...A Gallery of Art" posted elsewhere on this web site. I had the opportunity to first meet Andy at the kick-off for the Spirit of the ADA Torch Relay in Houston, Texas for the Tenth Anniversary of ADA in 2000 and it was a delight to finally be able to introduce him to my son.

On the sporting front, David R. Williamson gave an inspiring short lecture on sporting activities for the disabled. Mr. Williamson had competed in wheelchair sports and Paralympic competitions for twenty years and during that time, he amassed 42 international gold medals, 8 world records, several Pan American records, and was the United States National Champion in the wheelchair slalom event seven times in eight years. At the height of his career, he was considered one of the top three male wheelchair athletes in the world. His following gave all of us great inspiration to conquer whatever goals we personally wished to achieve.

Bill Van Horne began his legislative duties for Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin in May of 2000. He is responsible for judiciary; legal matters; foreign affairs; human rights; trade; Social Security; and disabilities for the Honorable Congressman. Mr. Van Horne's presentation brought an array of interesting questions from the audience and true to his expertise, he dutifully answered as many questions as time would permit enlightening and satisfying the attendees.

As Kirk Bauer approached the microphone, a hush fell over the audience as they intently listened to hear what he had to say. Mr. Bauer had devoted 30 years to Disabled Sports USA. The first twelve years as a volunteer and the last eighteen years as their executive director. He knew firsthand the challenges of disability having lost a leg while serving in combat in Vietnam in 1969. His accomplishments with the DS/USA's organization includes turning it into more than 80 chapters nationwide, serving over 60,000 people annually. Mr. Bauer, as well as the earlier speakers, congratulated and encouraged the efforts of Wheel Me On... to bring forth the awareness to the world.

As Larry Tyrone Hughes introduced me as the founder of Wheel Me On..., I thought it only fitting to tell the story of how it all began. The room full of people appeared attentive and listened carefully to the story and I could not help but notice my son in the back of the room who obviously remembered the happening. It pleased me to realize that in all actuality, Wheel Me On... was successfully reaching out to others as what the original goal was intended.

Unbeknown to the first thirteen registrants of the Wheel Me On... Disability 2001 Program, there were thirteen Participation Certificates prepared (in recognition of the thirteen stripes in our American flag) for these first attendees.

The most meaningful photos below show William S. Dillow, Director of Administrations of Wheel Me On... shyly walking back to his seat after receiving his certificate, my eldest son thanking me affectionately, and inherited grandson, Justin McMillen, unexpectedly marching up to guide Jim Harris, a Wheel Me On... member (who is blind) to receive his certificate and return him to his seat (drawing a round of applause from the audience).

Near the end of the program, Dana Jackson, from the Department of Justice in Washington, DC was called to the panel following the end of my presentation. To the surprise of myself and the rest of the Wheel Me On... entourage, we were presented with a certificate proclaiming April 16th as the Wheel Me On Caravan For Disabilities Awareness 2001:


Left to Right: Dana Jackson, Larry Tyrone Hughes, and Julia Hollenbeck

~ Above Photography by Mike Perrone ~


A PROCLAMATION BY THE MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

WHEREAS, on April 16, 2001, Wheel Me On Caravan for Disabilities Awareness 2001, began it's journey from San Antonio, Texas, to the Nation's Capital; and

WHEREAS, an average of one in ten persons in the world today is either mentally or physically disabled; and

WHEREAS, people with severe, lifelong disabilities, live and work in our communities as productive citizens, neighbors and friends; and

WHEREAS, there is more to be done to promote effective measures for the prevention of disability, for rehabilitation and for the realization of the goals of full participation of disabled persons in social and economic opportunities:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, THE MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, do hereby proclaim April 16, 2001, as "WHEEL ME ON CARAVAN FOR DISABILITIES AWARENESS 2001" in Washington, D.C.

Anthony A. Williams
Mayor, District of Columbia


A Tribute for Awareness

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Our pilgrimage to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial to pay our respects to this great American President followed a buffet and visiting among friends. This was not a small trek for the caravan of people that gathered in front of the monument that depicted our former President sitting in his wheelchair at the entrance of the memorial. The memorial itself covered seven acres of land and as we gathered near the newest sculpture of President Roosevelt it became obvious to me each individual there had their own thoughts and feelings.

Silently I watched the people go to the statue to have a photo taken next to it and watched parents taking photos of their children sitting on the President's lap; in my mind, I would like to believe this President would have approved and adored these children. My attention diverted when I discovered Wheel Me On... member, Richard Treanor, Attorney at Law, arrived to join us as per the itinerary sent to him and it was indeed a pleasure to see this wonderful gentleman who was there long before the beginning of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, Richard Treanor had set in words "The Story of Civil Rights for Disabled People" in his book, "We Overcame" in 1993 and is one of the more fascinating stories I've read.

We provided the Park Ranger Office with a copy of our authorization from the Department of Interior, National Parks Service to leave the bouquet for the three day event and returned to the new monument. One of the Wheel Me On... members summoned a Ranger to accompany us and confirm permission of leaving the official FDR Wheel Me On... bouquet. When the Ranger saw our bouquet he glanced over at the dozens of people waiting to approach the new statue of President Roosevelt and recommended we place the bouquet at the original sculpture.

Our group gathered together as John Musgraves and Mike Perrone ran ahead to take video and photograph our group as we followed along with the Ranger. The walk to this monument was in and around a maze of large cut stone walls, each depicting a part of FDR's presidency and philosophy. The inscription on the wall in the photo below on the left reads, "The only limit of our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith." My personal favorite, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" is shown in the center.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial honors a man who was far ahead of his time. While he suffered from poliomyelitis and hid a severe balance difficulty he did not let it slow him down, nor did he allow it to become an asset with politics. In fact, this man, who was the President of the United States for three full terms, hid his disability from the public's view. Indeed, he had aides on each side support him when he traveled or presented speeches while standing. Sometimes he walked with the aid of a cane, but was seldom seen in public with it. President Roosevelt believed that he contracted polio from water and while attending a therapeutic treatment center exclaimed, "The water put me where I am, and the water has to put me back." It was only fitting to find beautiful cascading waterfalls within this astounding maze.

There are very few photographs of President Roosevelt in a wheelchair and yet, this was his main source of mobility when he was not in public's view. His office chair had small casters on the legs to allow him mobility and he actually designed his own wheelchair. Mrs. Roosevelt played an important role in her husband's life and in respecting his wishes to conceal his paralysis. At the same time, she was angelic as she visited the sick and injured soldiers during World War II. Right, wrong, or indifferent, FDR's concealment of his polio did not help those of us, who today want to be a part of society. Unjustifiably it only caused the seed of stigma to grow, but overall much of that changed following the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, by President George W. Bush and continues to improve.

It took many years for Congress to finally dedicate a monument depicting this man in a wheelchair which most of society did not even know he used. Enveloped by controversy on its unveiling, the monument for many of us is an inspiration as we realize that even a president of the United States of America who used a wheelchair is now finally, and rightfully, depicted in his natural environment. President Roosevelt probably would have served another term by election, but he passed away as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage during his fourth term of office. One of his most strongest statements was, "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

After his lengthy terms of office, an amendment to the constitution of the United States of America limiting future Presidents to two terms of office resulted from President Roosevelt's popularity, that was believed would have allowed him to continue to serve, regardless of the length of time. President Roosevelt was 39 years old when he contracted Polio. In 1932 he stated his view through Peace and War was, "the Presidency...is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership." Seeing the monument of Franklin D. Roosevelt should be a reminder to each and every one of us that we can do anything we want to do as long as we want to do it badly enough regardless of our challenges to get there.

The Ranger accompanying us assured the basket would be safe and there would be no problem in our leaving it there for the three day event of the Wheel Me On... Caravan for Disability Awareness 2001. As we listened to him explain part of the history of this American hero, the intensity of our group and other passerby joining us was proof in itself of the interest in society for persons with disabilities. Our group included people without disabilities, several using mobility devices, and others with sensory impairments, yet no one felt the stigma that often prevails; we were all there, together as a group. Providing an additional fifty Wheel Me On... tee shirts to those who shared our enthusiasm and interest was really neat.

As we turned the final corner in this maze of history, I saw before me the monument of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only man to serve more than three terms of office as the President of the United States of America. As Larry Tyrone Hughes wheeled on the opposite side of William (Bill) Dillow, who carried our offering of a patriotic bouquet, and I manipulated my wheelchair to the monument, I knew that all of us felt humbled and in awe at the task of delivering the basket. The basket contained artificial red, white, and blue flowers and thirteen American Flags to represent the number of stripes in the flag and the first thirteen people that registered for the program. Twelve flag staffs had the individual name of the member. The thirteenth and largest flag at the top of the decoration represented the sponsors who made this awareness program possible. I gave a presentation about President Roosevelt to a group of approximately sixty people and our caravan of members in front of the monument.

As night began to fall, it was with pride and humility while we posed for the Ranger who accompanied us and took our photos.

Arlington National Cemetery and The Kennedy Grave Sites

Early in the morning a group of us went by caravan to the Arlington National Cemetery. I was pleased to find easy, quick, accessible parking as my anxiety began to mount with memories of the past. Fortunately, with the huge amount of people visiting at the same time, I soon began worrying about the people I was responsible for and asked Heather McMillen to go with me to locate a Guide that would accompany us to the sites.

This decision was probably one of the smartest made during our tour. Not only did we find the people in the head quartering office kind and considerate, but additionally found them to be concerned in our behalf, so much so that in fact, they provided us with a personal guide who led us up the road and shared an abundance of information.

He shared stories about seeing John F. Kennedy, Jr. unexpectedly arriving to visit the grave sites of his parents and family, and recalled seeing him solemnly walking the long road to the top of the hill. I found it sad that John Junior was not buried next to his family. Once arriving at the site, I was surprised to see the changes that had been made since my last visit during the Inauguration of President Reagan.

Though the Eternal Flame still burned for one of our most famous Presidents of the United States, the once green hill was now covered with flag stones and an enclosed walkway for visitors. My memory took me back to my first visit as I recalled standing immediately in front of the original Eternal Flame alongside the roadway in the snow. For me, this was an emotional and dramatic change.

The Tomb of The Unknown Soldiers (The Changing of The Guard)

At one time there were three unknown soldiers buried at the tomb, but now there is only one. With advanced technology, the determination of loved ones, and the approval of the Department of Defense, two soldiers were identified. The soldiers identified were provided with a proper burial elsewhere.

Visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watching the Changing of the Guard is a dramatic display of respect that demands reverence from all. It is a humbling experience to watch the precise movements, hear the clicking of their shoes, and observe the solemnity of the occasion. The Changing of the Guard takes place every half hour and should not be missed when visiting our National Cemetery.

There were many more things that we saw and many that we re-visited, including the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Indeed, the just of the caravan was to visit and pay homage to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and express our gratitude while visiting this memorial that was dedicated to him. For many of us it was not just a tribute of respect, but also the awareness that if a President of the United States can serve nearly four terms of office from a wheelchair, it proves unlimiting success for many of us in our own futures.

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