By Kodey Toney
Giving It All
As Thanksgiving flies by, I have so much to be thankful for this year. While this is going to be my typical thank you column, it's a little different this year. I have to give thanks for something special.
Last week I received a phone call from a mentor of mine. Ann Trudgeon from the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council called to let me know that I had won the TARC Parent Advocate of the Year award.
Let me start by saying what an honor it is to be a part of this. It is a state-wide award that spotlights people who have dedicated so much of their time to help others with disabilities.
I was told by Ann once to not be so humble when talking about all the advocacy work that I do, but it's hard, because I know that I'm not the only reason behind this success.
This award is not what advocacy is about. As I've always said, I'm just a dad trying to help my son, and in turn try to help others. I usually say that I'm just trying to do what I wish others would have done for me and my family when we first learned of Konner's diagnosis. However, over time I have had some great help along the way. They are the reason I've been able to do so well, and the reason I am receiving this award.
My wife, Jennifer, deserves this award more than I do. That is the simple truth. She is the brains behind all that I do, I'm just the mouth and the vehicle that delivers it to the masses. She's usually at home taking care of the boys while I go out to help others. The things that she does with her kids at school alone deserves recognition.
Konner is the true reason for this award. None of this would exist if it were not for him. He is the inspiration, the meaning, and my constant drive.
Kruz is the yen to the yang in my life as s father. He shows me the other side of the coin. He keeps my life interesting, and helps me stay on my toes.
Our families help us continue to go out and do the things we do by helping watch the boys and give us support.
I have had so many mentors in the advocacy world. They have paved the way, and shown me how to be the most helpful and tactful while helping others. I jokingly say that Joe'l Farrar is to blame for all of this. She showed me how to advocate for Konner first, saw something in me that she believed could do something to help others, and introduced me to the Partners in Policymaking program so that I could help others.
That is where I met the ladies from the ODDC. Ann Trudgeon, Jen Randle, Erin Taylor, and Diana McCalment gave me the tutelage I needed to think I could take over the world, or at least eastern Oklahoma.
Wanda Felty of the Center for Learning and Leadership with her ties in eastern Oklahoma has taken me under her wing and helped prep me to be an affective advocate.
The ladies at the Oklahoma Family Network have given me an opportunity to help others in this area with so many tools. Joni Bruce and Heather Pike in particular help, especially with encouragement.
The Oklahoma Disability Law Center and Wrightslaw has helped give me the knowledge needed to get services for so many in this area. Kayla Bower, RoseAnn Duplan, Joy Turner, and Melissa Sublett, along with Pete and Pam Wright have been a fountain of knowledge.
I know I've missed some, and there are so many before me like Donna and Tim Sims, Karen Nolen, Christi Taylor, and Francis Walls who paved the way. I have so much respect for these parents.
Last is the drive behind the Pervasive Parenting Center, the board of directors. These are the people who make my dreams as an advocate a reality. Jen, Jay Falkner, Sherry Dotts, Amber Gonzalez, Shelley Johnson, Tamra Brown, Sandie Rutherford, Linda Callaway, Ashley McDaniel, Heather Loyd, and special consultants Brian Roberts and Janissa Jackson.
Everyday I pray that God uses me to help others and to do His will. He never disappoints. He is the real reason for this.