Run. Walk. Stroll. And even roll. February 28 marks the 6th Annual emb(race)® event benefitting Stand Among Friends, which will bring both able bodied and disabled members of the community together for a morning of racing, walking and celebrating. Shawn Friedkin, who received the Reeve Foundation Award this past year, founded Stand Among Friends in 1997 and has been making a difference for people with disabilities ever since. Shawn joined the Modernizing Medicine team for lunch a few weeks ago and we had the chance to learn bit more about his inspirational story and the upcoming emb(race).
Question: Briefly describe how and why you started Stand Among Friends to someone who hasn’t heard your story or doesn’t know about the organization.
Shawn: I started Stand Among Friends (SAF) in 1997, five years after my accident so that I could help others who found themselves dealing with a debilitating disorder or disability and needed help with everyday issues. It was my way of paying it forward.
Q: What are some of your favorite success stories since starting Stand Among Friends?
S: In 19 years we have so many success stories. We had a young FAU graduate who despite being legally blind received her degree in graphic design. We were able to work with her in many areas including job placement, assistive technology, peer mentoring and worked with her to develop a portfolio of work. She has been successfully employed for several years as a graphic designer.
We helped another individual who was on the autism spectrum. He had graduated from Lynn University and was unable to find a job and he had decided that he really wanted to work for Verizon. We developed a plan to help him achieve his goal, and then worked with him to step by step to make his goal a reality. He was hired by Verizon and became one of their top sales associates and was even offered an assistant manager position.
Q: What are your words of advice to those who may be facing a new disability or challenge?
S: My best advice is to take things one day at a time. It’s important to become as educated as possible because you need to be your own advocate. The good news is that there are many great people and organizations that will help you each step of the way.
Q: This is the 6th year for the emb(race), so what are you most looking forward to? And how has this event grown over the past six years?
S: I’m always excited for the day to come. It’s such an uplifting and positive experience for everyone. The emb(race) has brought individuals together, both able bodied and disabled, and that is truly what the event is all about. We need to change people’s perceptions of the abilities of people with disabilities so that we can create more opportunities for us all to participate in our communities as a vibrant member of society. I invite everyone to come out as a community to literally and figuratively cross the finish line.
Q: What are your goals for Stand Among Friends in 2016?
S: We just received a large grant to expand our peer-mentoring program to both the community and professionals who serve individuals with disabilities, and we’re excited to implement this new expanded program. We are also working on several other grants to expand our services to reach more individuals with disabilities, not just in our community, but across the country as well.
Q: What is your daily mantra/words to live by?
S: Anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard enough to achieve it. The word “can’t” is not part of my vocabulary.
Q: If someone wants to get involved with Stand Among Friends, what are some of the ways they could give back and how would they go about becoming involved?
S: The emb(race) is a great way to learn more about what we do and the community we serve. Once your eyes are opened, I suggest contacting our office to see what you might be able to bring to the table to help us meet our mission.
We also had the opportunity to hear what some of our own employees shared about their personal experience with the organization and race.
“The emb(race) event is a great way to come together, learn about, and embrace, diversity in our community. ” Mihai, Sr. Director of Mobile Development
“As someone that ran this race last year I can tell you that it is an amazing race. Shawn is such a wonderful host and it is so much fun to see the range of entrants and abilities. I’m 100% behind the event and registered as soon as I saw that Modernizing Medicine set up a team again. The race happens right here on the FAU campus, so it doesn’t get much more local than that. It’s a great race, don’t miss it!” – Adam, Chief Architect Platform
To learn more about Stand Among Friends visit their website and register here to join Team Modernizing Medicine for the emb(race) event. Be sure to follow Stand Among Friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn for more updates. And we’ll see you at the finish line on February 28.