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Champions of Inclusion Award

Nominations are due November 10th.

Overview and Description

The Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities established the Champions of Inclusion award to recognize and honor individuals, organizations, and businesses that exemplify the Council's vision that all Hoosiers are treated with respect and live in an accessible and inclusive community of their choosing. Whether it is through innovative ideas or a lifetime of advocacy, the Champions of Inclusion Award recipient has contributed to making a positive difference for people with disabilities.

Eligibility and Selection

Nominees for this award can be a person with a disability, a parent of a child with a disability or a professional who has dedicated their lives to disability rights activism. Community organizations, businesses, or schools can also be nominated for innovative programs that are fully inclusive, accessible or otherwise exemplify the Council’s mission. Nominees will be residents of or organizations based in Indiana. If selected, the award recipient and up to two additional guests will be invited to attend the awards luncheon. Additionally, the award recipient will be offered a scholarship to attend the full conference. The scholarship includes registration fees, parking, and double occupancy overnight hotel accommodations for award recipients living outside of the Indianapolis area.


Nominees will demonstrate achievement in the broad community of people with disabilities or within their area of disability interest. They will be innovative in their approach to disability inclusion, effective in their advocacy efforts, and sustainable in their approach to change. Nominations will show the candidates history of achievement, describe any barriers or challenges overcome, how people with disabilities lead or were involved in the process, and any outreach that was accomplished.

Nomination Process

The nomination form can be completed online at and are due by November 10th. Supportive documentation, such as photos, newspaper articles or media clips, or letters of support should be emailed to Kate Barrow at by clicking on the email address. The Council will notify the recipient and the nominating individual by email prior to the conference.

Previous Distinguished Leadership Award Recipients

2012Donald Tinsley, IndianapolisPerson with a Disability 
 Linda Hankins, AvonParent of a Child with a Disability
2011Alan L. Spaulding, MontpelierPerson with a Disability 
 Maureen Greer, IndianapolisParent of a Child with a Disability
2010Linda Muckway, MunciePerson with a Disability 
 Mary Jo Paladino, GrangerParent of a Child with a Disability
2009Amy Borgmann, GreenfeldParent of a Child with a Disability
 Karen Vaughn, IndianapolisPerson with a Disability 
2008Sylvia Jackson, MiddleburyPerson with a Disability 
 Ruth Kimberly, VincennesParent of a Child with a Disability
 Bruce Van Dusen, Indianapolis Person with a Disability 
2007Sharon Byrket, IndianapolisPerson with a Disability 
 Alice Tinsley, IndianapolisParent of a Child with a Disability
2006Verna “Marty” Neidigh, BremenPerson with a Disability
 Darcus Nimms, IndianapolisPerson with a Disability
 Donna Gore Olsen, IndianapolisParent of a Child with a Disability
2005David Scott, IndianapolisPerson with a Disability

2012 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipient

Donald Tinsley Sr., Indianapolis

Donald Tinxley SrDonald has been a lifelong champion for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other disabilities. While working as an engineering technician, he also became an ordained minister, leading deaf ministries at two local churches. He later became associate program director for the Indiana Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services and was the co-founder of Indy Signetic Group, training certified minority interpreters. More than a decade of Donald’s life has been spent championing volunteer efforts, such as chairing Relay Indiana’s Advisory Committee, becoming the first African-American president of the Indiana Association of the Deaf (IAD), serving as founder and president of the Indianapolis Chapter of Black Deaf Advocates, and graduating from Partners in Policymaking in 1994. Donald’s contributions have been recognized with the National Association of the Deaf Robert Greenmun Memorial Award and the IAD Richard Kennedy Award, among others.  Aileen Vasquez, IAD president, says "Donald has used his knowledge, skills and advocacy to help others overcome their own bias and fear of letting themselves be held back…Donald is a role model for others to look up to. "

Linda Hankins, Avon

Linda HawkinsDisability advocate Linda Hankins has been forging new paths for over 30 years. When her son, David, was born with Down syndrome in 1981, there were no services in her county until he turned age three. So, Linda joined the Special Kids Can’t Wait Coalition, advocating for – and achieving – the creation of the First Steps Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. She and other advocates also created the first statewide network of families with children with disabilities – About Special Kids (ASK). Linda saw the need for in-hospital assistance for parents of newborns with disabilities, and she invented the role of parent liaison at Riley Hospital for Children. Since then, she has also served Riley as the coordinator for the Preschool Assistance Project in Developmental Pediatrics. Linda’s volunteer involvement is staggering, with board and leadership positions for Down Syndrome Support Association of Central Indiana, Indiana Covering Kids and Families, Sycamore Services, Arc of Indiana and the national Council on Child Advocacy, to name just a few. Her colleagues characterize her as "an unstoppable force" and a "voice not to be denied".

2011 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipient

Alan L. Spaulding, Montpelier Alan Spaulding

Alan has been an advocate for people with disabilities for more than 20 years and, in 1992, he was part of the first graduating class of Indiana’s Partners in Policymaking Academy. His tireless advocacy work hasn’t stopped since. Alan founded the Differently-Abled Citizens in Action (DACIA) advocacy group for Marion, Blackford and Delaware counties, as well helped start Future Choices, Muncie’s independent living center and assisted in planning an accessible affordable apartment building there. He also advocated for the Medicaid Buy in law and led the effort to create and pass legislation in Indiana for new protections for service animals. Over the past years Alan has lent his expertise to numerous local and statewide advocacy organizations and governor appointed bodies including 11 years as a commissioner with Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services and 15 years on the board of Indiana’s former Technology Act Program known as ATTAIN. Currently he is a founding member and board member of the Alliance for Community Inclusion which oversees the Fifth Freedom Network and nominated Alan for this award.

Maureen Greer, Indianapolis Maureen Greer

Holding leadership roles in a total of 36 state and national boards and task forces, Maureen’s involvement is nothing short of incredible. For years, she has passionately advocated on behalf of herself and other parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs in Indiana. In addition to generously giving of her leadership talents, she has authored more than 15 publications and presented at more than 130 statewide and national conferences and exhibitions, focusing on prenatal and early childhood development and family support. In her role as the first coordinator for Indiana First Steps program she obtained national recognition for one of the best programs in the nation at the time. Maureen has provided assistance to numerous families and has delivered family-centered training to hundreds of physicians at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, one of the state’s largest hospitals. Maureen has also had significant national impact on disability awareness and issues by serving on President Obama’s disability policy committee during his 2008 presidential campaign.

2010 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipient

Linda A. Muckway, Muncie Linda Muckway

"Determined," "unwavering" and "leader" are just a few words that describe Linda Muckway. For more than 25 years Linda has dedicated her life to achieving equality for people with disabilities. She provides free information and referral services to others with disabilities and is an active advocate, graduating from the Council's Partners in Policymaking Program in 1995. Transportation, home care and community accessibility are issues Linda is passionate about. She was instrumental in improving accessible public transportation in her hometown, including accessible.

Click here to watch Linda's interview

Mary Jo Paladino, Granger

Linda Muckway

Helping children with disabilities achieve independence and inclusion is Mary Jo Paladino’s passion in life. As the mother of six children, three of whom have disabilities, Mary Jo is always thinking of new ideas to help families navigate the complex systems of care for children with disabilities. She spent 10 years as project director for the Indiana Transition Initiative for Young Children and Families, providing training and support for a statewide transition system for children birth to third grade. Mary Jo consults with the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana University School of Medicine on a Community Integrated Systems of Services grant. As a Family Voices Indiana volunteer for almost 15 years, Mary Jo has been involved in numerous advocacy efforts. She is described as a “quiet leader who advocates at every opportunity and enjoys watching the success of individuals with disabilities and their accomplishments.” Mary Jo has inspired countless parents to push for appropriate supports to ensure the full inclusion of children with disabilities in their local communities.

2009 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipients

Amy BorgmannAmy Borgmann, Greenfeld

After the birth of her son, who has cerebral palsy, and after meeting other families raising children with special needs, Amy recognized the need to share information and offer support. As a founding member of Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE), Amy has given her time and talents to the organization since 1996. In 2001, she graduated from the Council’s Partners in Policymaking program and in 2003, after Amy’s brother was killed in an accident, she created a memorial golf tournament to honor her brother’s memory and to help FUSE, which was struggling to secure funding. Amy has donated 100 percent of the proceeds from the golf tournament to FUSE — more than $50,000 to date.

Since 1996, Amy has served on the FUSE board of directors, and she recently resigned her position as board president to take on the role of development director for FUSE. Amy was instrumental in FUSE’s selection for a matching endowment program from the local community foundation. Her “whatever it takes” attitude includes setting up facilities for meetings, reviewing and editing publications, and working closely with the executive director.

Amy’s work touches the lives of families in a way that empowers their children to share their individual gifts  with others.

Karen VaughnKaren Vaughn, Indianapolis

A 17-year advocate for people with disabilities, Karen’s advocacy work has included testifying before local legislators, public hearings and congressional subcommittees about issues related to the inclusion of people with disabilities. Her accomplishments include working with others to secure a $2.4 million grant to improve para-transit, acquiring $39.4 million for transitioning individuals from institutions, passing Medicaid Buy-In legislation and developing an Olmstead Plan in Indiana.

After graduating from Partners in Policymaking in 1992, Karen has served on the Metro Advisory Council for Indianapolis Para-transit Services and the Consumer Advisory Council for the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, as well as on the board of directors for the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living, the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities and Indiana Legal Services.

Since 1993, Karen has run her own business, Vaughn & Associates Consulting Services, which uses a trans-disciplinary approach to offer training related to issues of concern for people with disabilities, families, consumers and professionals.

2008 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipients

Sylvia JacksonSylvia Jackson, Middlebury

Sylvia is a lifelong advocate for inclusion for people with disabilities and for community access and accommodation. She is known for her determined sprit and positive attitude. Her advocacy work has had a large impact on Northern Indiana and beyond, especially as a coach and mentor to people with disabilities and families. Her volunteer work as president and founding member of the Disability Resource Network makes her a widely known in the community as the go to person when it comes to finding information and making connections to people and services. Her leadership and commitment have focused on a wide range of causes including transportation, housing, community access, voting, and mental health. As one of her fans stated in a support letter, “In a day and age when we are looking to re-create super heroes, Sylvia is only missing the outfit”.

Ruth KimberlyRuth Kimberly, Vincennes

For more than thirty years Ruth Kimberly has been an advocate for parents and people with disabilities beginning in 1979 with the birth of her son Mickey and the discovery that he had a rare enzyme deficiency condition.  She started a family support group and began to get involved not only helping families, but working with a coalition of other advocates to fight for IDEA and many of the other programs we take for granted today. After the death of her son in 1995, she established the Mickey Kimberly Good IDEA award, given during March Disability Awareness month to an employee of the school system who has gone beyond the requirements of IDEA to ensure that students in special education are included.  Through the years Ruth has worked as an advocate for children in many capacities both paid and unpaid including as a co-founder and now Assistant Director of the ATTIC Independent Living Center in Vincennes. She has provided her expertise to many state, national, and local boards and committees including as a past board member of the Governor’s Council.  In the nomination letter, her colleague Pat Stewart wrote,  “Ruth has earned a great deal of respect for her knowledge and passion for people with disabilities and he willingness to assist/teach others to break down barriers to inclusive communities.”

Bruce Van Dusen, Indianapolis

Bruce’ life has been dramatically impacted by serious mental illness, schizophrenia. He went through a period of homelessness, stigma, unemployment and substance abuse and has shared information about his life and recovery in a book; Out of Darkness: The Journey to Hope.  Through the book and by telling his personal story at many state and national conferences, he has inspired many others to join him on the road to recovery.  After becoming involved in Peer Advocacy, he realized he wanted to help others with serious mental illnesses, went back to school, and in 1996, began work in the field of mental health services.  Presently Bruce is the Bureau Chief of Consumer and Family Services at the Indiana Division of Mental Heath and Addictions Services.  His experiences have led him to battle stigma and achieve success as a multi level advocate, service provider and now a state employee in a position to make social change. In a support letter, Charles Boyle, Bureau Chief of the Division of Mental Health Services wrote about his devotion to and advocacy for Peer Support Services, and said. “His work will greatly benefit the treatment system as we begin to more fully accept the tremendous advantages that consumers can bring when they begin helping other consumers”

2007 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipients

Sharon Byrket, Indianapolis

Sharon was a lifelong advocate for inclusion for people with disabilities and for community access and accommodation.  She was known for her tenacity and positive attitude. Her advocacy work had a large impact on the Indianapolis community and beyond, especially in regard to access issues, employment and transportation. In addition to being a Disability Resource Specialist for WorkOne, Sharon made time to lend her advocacy efforts to numerous causes, and had taken many leadership roles including serving as a  board member for the Governor’s Council. Her leadership and commitment has been widely recognized as shown by the numerous awards she has received including the Indianapolis Mayor’s 2005 James Pauley Lifetime Service Award.

Alice Tinsley, Indianapolis

Alice spent most of her adult life as a volunteer advocate for children with multiple disabilities. Married in the mid forties, Alice had four children, two who are Deaf and one, now deceased, with multiple disabilities. She was a true pioneer in the disability services arena at a time when there were very few services available. Over the years she became well known by Indiana legislators, state agency heads, and Governors as a persistent voice for disability programs and services. She helped establish programs for children with multiple disabilities at the Deaf School and Blind School and started an organization to help other parents who had nowhere to turn for information. She has been recognized in many ways throughout the years with various awards including the Jefferson Award and even has a building named for her at the Indiana School for the Blind.  After her children became adults, Alice began devoting even more of her time to advocacy and volunteer work including as a member of the Governor’s Council board and later a volunteer at the office. In recognition of her long and illustrious advocacy career Governor Frank O’Bannon personally presented her with a Sagamore of the Wabash, the states highest honor, at the 2002 Council conference.

2006 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipients

Verna “Marty” Neidigh, Bremen

A lifelong advocate for people who are hard of hearing, Marty was well known in the Bremen community as a tireless volunteer and advocate across disabilities. In 1983, she was elected to the first board of trustees for the National Self Help for Hard of Hearing organization and later organized a local chapter.

Darcus Nimms, Indianapolis

The founder of Self Advocates of Indiana in 1990 and former president of Indianapolis Self Advocates, Darcus was a lifelong advocate for people with intellectual disabilities and a real force for change. She was known for speaking out about injustice through telling true stories illustrating advocacy and discrimination issues. She encouraged other self advocates to work toward their dreams, be proud of who they are and band together to help each other.

Donna Gore Olsen, Indianapolis

The founder of the Indiana Parent Information Network (IPIN) in 1987 and its recently retired Executive Director, Donna established IPIN to provide parent-to-parent help in navigating the disability system. Donna is admired for her ability to build bridges and for her success in showing professionals the value of treating parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs as co-experts and full partners. She is now involved in a new initiative for young adults with disabilities transitioning from pediatric to adult medical care.

2005 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipient

David ScottDavid Scott, Indianapolis

A quiet man of many accomplishments, David Scott had a profound impact on the lives of the people who were lucky enough to cross paths with him. David was an anchor in the disability community. His 18 years as an Information and Referral Specialist at the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living was only a fraction of the work that David committed to promoting inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of community life. As a member of the IndyGo Board of Directors, Back Home in Indiana Steering Committee, Medicaid Select Advisory Committee, The Spinal Cord Injury Support Group and CHOICE Task Force, as well as his association with the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities, Citizens Action Coalition and National Spinal Cord Injury Association, he worked tirelessly for equal access for the disenfranchised.