10/23/11 — Celebrating those who don't see limitations

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Celebrating those who don't see limitations

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 23, 2011 1:50 AM

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Those receiving awards include, from left, Ashley Price of Johnston Ambulance Service, Employer of the Year; Jeff Whitener, Committee Member of the Year; Tyrone Starkie, Employee of the Year; Mayor Al King; Linda Jones, Mayor's Trophy; County Commission Chairman J.D. Evans; and Lindsey Grimes of Sam's Club, Most Accessible Business.

Hidden by the crowd, Tyrone Starkie headed to the front of the Herman Park Center to receive his award.

Having just been named the Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities Employee of the Year, he was all smiles. Some onlookers wiped their eyes as the crowd's applause roared into a standing ovation.

There, receiving his award in front of the hundreds gathered, Starkie looked out on a standing crowd doing something he could not.

Confined to a wheelchair, Starkie has spent the whole of his 29 years proving that was the only limitation he would abide by, graduating from Eastern Wayne High in 2001 and going on to earn three degrees.

Starkie has had limited mobility his entire life due to muscular dystrophy, but has earned bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology along with an associate degree in human services, and now works as an achievement coach at Wayne Community College, where he helps students struggling with classes and other issues.

"They feel discouraged, like they have too much work," he said following the ceremony. "And I like to sit them down and tell them, 'In spite of what you're going through in the moment, you have to persevere.'"

And perseverance could be Starkie's middle name.

"My will power might be a little stronger than some, but all you need is a little bit of hunger and a little bit of time to achieve your goals," he said.

Also receiving awards at the annual awards ceremony and banquet were Ashley Price on behalf of Johnston Ambulance Service for Employer of the Year, Lindsey Grimes on behalf of Sam's Club for Most Accessible Business, Jeff Whitener for Committee Member of the Year and Linda Jones for the Mayor's Trophy.

But the awards ceremony wasn't only to honor those who have contributed to the county's accessibility for disabled people, but also to recognize how far the state has come in recognizing the need to take care of its special needs population.

John Chance, the director of the Wayne Opportunity Center, was the keynote speaker and spoke of the history of special needs health care and support, from Dorothea Dix, who proposed the idea for a state hospital in 1848, to today's community leaders who continue to further the cause.

The Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities meets on the third Thursday of every month at 11:30 a.m. in the large conference room on the second floor of the City Hall Annex at 200 N. Center St.