May 2023 in Review

“May was a very busy month for me.

Initially, I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Stone, the Mayor of Beavercreek, in early May. A couple of days later, I went to Mayor Stone’s First Thursday event. While there, I had a chance to meet members of the Greene County Board of Commissioners, Beavercreek City Council members, and many others. Each one of the mayor’s networking events benefits a nonprofit. 4 Paws for Ability was the featured nonprofit that evening. 4 Paws is a nonprofit in Xenia, Ohio, that provides service dogs to people with disabilities. Seeing services at the event was difficult because I had recently made the tough decision to rehome my service dog, Schein. Long story short, he has an ongoing health issue that worsened, and I could no longer care for him properly. The decision was difficult and emotional but was ultimately best for Schein. My husband and I wish for him to be happy and healthy whether he is with us or not. Fortunately, staying busy as Ms. Wheelchair Ohio has helped me through the aftermath of the decision.

A few days after the networking event, I went to a “Dear Legislators” event hosted by the Greene County Developmental Disabilities Board. During the event, other advocates and I shared with one another how the home care crisis has impacted our lives. We also spent some time writing postcards to legislators, asking them to support home- and community-based services by putting enough money in the Ohio budget to be able to raise the wage of home health aides to $20 an hour. A week or so after the “Dear Legislators” event, I had the absolute privilege of testifying to the Ohio Senate Medicaid Committee regarding the importance of funding for home- and community-based services. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to testify to two legislative bodies within the first two months of earning the title of Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023.

[Watch Allison testify to the Ohio Senate Medicaid Committee here:]

A week later, I had the pleasure of speaking to students in kindergarten through sixth grade at Monticello Elementary, which is part of Huber Heights City Schools. I spoke about the importance of embracing differences and accepting others. Honestly, I initially felt like it didn’t go well and that maybe some of the things I said were not understood by the younger students. My worries were unfounded. When it came time for the students to ask me questions, a little girl in the first grade chose to make a comment. She said, “Just because people are different, you shouldn’t make fun of them. That’s mean.” Another little girl found me in the hallway after my speech and asked if she could give me a hug. I am so happy to know that my speech had a positive impact on the kids.

[Watch her speak to elementary students here:]

I had the opportunity to make another speech about half the way through May, when I had the distinct honor of being the keynote speaker at Wood Lane Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities class of 2023 graduation. Wood Lane is a school for individuals with significant, medically complex disabilities. A small number of students graduated yesterday so I expected the ceremony to be small, but I was very wrong. Wood Lane went all out and put together a beautiful ceremony for just a small number of students. The students were made to feel important and appreciated during the ceremony, which was very touching. They even took some time to remember and recognize the families of two students who passed away. I was given very few details about the school and students beforehand and had no parameters for my speech. I was nervous that my words might be wrong or might not fit the occasion properly but decided to write what I would want to hear if I were in the shoes of a graduate or the family member of a graduate. Fortunately, many people told me that my speech was awesome and fit the occasion perfectly. I was so happy and relieved to hear that. Being a part of the ceremony yesterday was amazing and truly my honor.

Lauren Walter, the manager of Participant Direction, otherwise known as Self-Direction, at The Ohio Department of Aging was the featured speaker at a Breaking Silences meeting near the end of May. Lauren spoke specifically about the Passport waiver, which is a waiver specifically for individuals with disabilities who are 60 and older. She spoke about the efforts being made to make it easier for individuals on the Passport waiver to self-direct their care. Improvements included changing language in Ohio law codes to make them more understandable, removing useless and seemingly obsolete forms from required paperwork, and streamlining as well as shortening the Passport provider application process. While there is still a long way to go, and only time will tell in terms of how the changes that have been made actually work out, I was still so pleased to hear about them. Consumers on any and all Ohio Department of Medicaid or Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities waivers should be given the opportunity to self-direct their care to the fullest of their ability. While Lauren could only speak to the Passport waiver, I am hopeful that the changes being made will improve the level of self-direction that consumers on the Passport waiver have to the point where Ohio decides to also improve self-direction for individuals on other waivers.

A fundraiser was held at Texas Roadhouse toward the end of May to benefit Ms. Wheelchair Ohio and my efforts as a titleholder. I cannot thank the Texas Roadhouse located in Fairborn, Ohio enough for the willingness to host the fundraiser. It was well attended, and the food was delicious. I am sure that the funds donated will help me get to the 2024 Ms. Wheelchair America competition.

I closed out May by attending meetings of the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council and the council’s Education and Outreach Committee. It was a very long day but well worth it. I loved hearing about all of the advocacy work that members of the council and the council itself are Bennett doing regarding funding for Centers for Independent Living, funding for the home health crisis, youth leadership, and much more. I am not a member of the council yet, but I felt very welcome. I greatly appreciated being able to contribute to the discussion. I have some experience creating and marketing youth leadership programs. The council seemed to appreciate my input regarding that as well as my expertise regarding outreach.  I feel very fortunate to have the title of Ms. Wheelchair Ohio and be in a position where I can help spread awareness of and help further the work of the council. Follow and “like” @Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023 Allison Boot on Facebook or mwoh2023_AllisonBoot on Insta for more updates.”