Michael Shendrick (left), JobSource Client of the Year, and David Evans, an Amazing Client of the Year recipient, meet after the Opportunity Enterprises Celebration of Achievement program at Strongbow Inn. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Also honored during the Opportunity Enterprises Celebration of Achievement program were: Debra Samahon, Jeanne Baird Volunteer of the Year Award; Recycled Granite, Business of the Year; White Castle restaurants, Community Employer of the Year; Michael Shendrick, Amazing JobSource Client Award; and David Evans, Amazing Client Award.
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Updated: April 21, 2013 6:07AM
Opportunity Enterprises has meant the world to Cynthia Nichols.
In an emotional speech that left her and those at OE’s annual Celebration of Achievement fighting to control their emotions, Nichols detailed how important the agency and its services have been for her three young children, all of whom have autism.
She noticed her daughter Charley, now 5, wasn’t talking. After an evaluation by OE, Charley was enrolled in the agency’s All About Kids program.
“Charley has made tremendous strides — amazing strides. I can’t believe where she’s at today,” said Nichols, who lives in Washington Township.
By the time her son Joseph, now 3, began to show the same delays, Nichols was pregnant with her daughter Chandler, who is now 18 months old. She was gripped by fear.
“What was I to do? That’s when the women of Opportunity Enterprises really took over,” she said through tears during the program, held March 7 at Strongbow Inn.
As she cared for Chandler, then an infant, the staff at OE made appointments for Joseph. When people told Nichols she was amazing, she said it was because they didn’t know about the support she was receiving.
“It wasn’t me. It was because I had amazing people behind me the whole time,” she said.
When Chandler was diagnosed with autism as well, Nichols turned to her faith and the Bible as she questioned why this was happening to her children.
“I just didn’t know and I couldn’t see. I didn’t have a perspective yet on how this could be good and why God chose my children. I was really down,” she said, adding her faith led her to believe that God had a plan for her and she should keep moving forward.
The program was full of other triumphs and tears. Kyle Ribar was recognized with the Jessica Wolfe Outstanding Direct Service Professional Award for his work with consumer Ben Spurr, who himself received an Amazing Client Award. Ribar has worked tirelessly with Spurr, who has made tremendous behavioral strides because of the one-on-one relationship the two share.
Direct service professional Nancy Cook nominated Carl Rice Jr. for an Amazing Client Award.
“I wanted to nominate Carl because he and his family are my heroes,” Cook said, adding Rice, 66, was born before services for people with disabilities and special education were available. “He and his family are the pioneers who paved the way for all of us.”