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Arc Celebrates Year of Advocacy and Victory

Despite the chancy weather, nearly 200 children and adults with disabilities, their families, friends and providers attended the annual Arc of Northern Virginia picnic at Van Dyck Park in the City of Fairfax, Saturday.

The sun came out just in time for a picnic lunch provided by Harris Teeter with music by Petey's Band and an awards ceremony hosted by Nancy Mercer, executive director of Arc.

Accepting an award for his longtime support of the Patriot Cup challenge and Arc was Rep. Tom Davis (R-11). Also honored for her work in the legislature was State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) who spoke of the battle in Richmond for an increase in Medicaid waiver funding. Howell said she decided to ask for funding for all of the 1,440 people waiting for slots, rather than settle for the usual handful, noting "It was your faces and voices that made me think that way. You came to the public hearings."

Mercer said that Arc was also recognizing State Sen. Dick Saslow (D-35) and State Del. Ken Plum (D-36) for their help in getting funding although the two could not be at the picnic.

SEVERAL CITIZENS were honored for their work. Nick and Frank Stephens produced a public service announcement encouraging those with disabilities to register to vote. Nick Stephens wrote the script and Frank Stephens acted in it. Frank Stephens also received an award for acting as emcee in Arc's annual awards ceremony and is nationally known for his advocacy before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Stephens spoke to the board urging them to continue to fund post-high school vocational training, transportation training and other services for those with disabilities.

Rick Hodges of Arlington was honored as a parent advocate, Amber and Victoria Valentine as field advocates, and Pat Vincent as a provider.

Members of the media were also honored for accurate and fair coverage and, as Mercer put it, "The media did a wonderful job of putting people first."

Peggy Fox of Channel 9 News was honored for her coverage of state issues, Julie Carey of Channel 4 for coverage of the graduation issue in Fairfax County and David Cho of the Washington Post for covering Frank Stephens. Ken Moore and Mary Anne Weber of the Connection Newspapers were recognized for the coverage of the march to Richmond and Ric Edelstein for his financial advice.

While the Stephens brothers were honored for their "get out the vote" announcement, the League of Women Voters was also at the picnic to register voters and distribute information about local government officials.