Onehunga woman fosters inclusive culture for people of all ages with disabilities
Kerrie O’Hara (38) makes a difference in the lives of hundreds of young Aucklanders who live with disabilities.
The Onehunga woman has been selected as a finalist in the Making a Difference category in the 2015 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of Kiwis with a disability and those who support them.
Kerrie owns and operates Janet McVeagh Recreation (JMR), which provides outings and activities for people with disabilities. JMR was started by Kerrie alongside Janet McVeagh in 2002. Tragically Janet passed away from cancer just two years later and Kerrie took over the company at her request.
After such a sad event, Kerrie launched herself into a role filled with fun and laughter. With help from her partner Sarah and a team of volunteers (including students from Onehunga High School) JMR takes groups for dancing, trampolining, boccia, arts and crafts, roadtrips, hot pools, go-karting and much more.
JMR has a steadfast acceptance policy, meaning Kerrie and her team cater for all people with all disabilities. She’ll provide whatever support they need to take part and ensures all activities and trips away are wheelchair accessible.
Whether five-years-old or 35-years-old, Kerrie displays an outstanding level of devotion to each person participating in her programmes. She provides just the right mix of support and freedom that every young person should enjoy. Those that are 18 years, or older, even get the odd trip to the pub.
“Everybody deserves a chance to make friends and to be out in the community having fun,” she says.
But it’s not just fun Kerrie provides. She fosters respect, companionship and more often than not genuine friendship.
In recent years Kerrie has become particularly passionate about helping young people with disabilities transition from living at home to going flatting. She has had a number of young people stay with her while they adjust to a more independent life.
For Kerrie it’s all about integration. Brimming with patience and acceptance, Kerrie and JMR prove there’s no reason for people with disabilities to be isolated from the community.
Kerrie will find out if she has won at a black-tie gala on World Disability Day, December 3 at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre.
There are eight categories in the 2015 Attitude Awards: Courage in Sport, Spirit of Attitude, Making a Difference, Artistic Achievement, Youth, Junior, the Attitude ACC Employer Award and Sport Performer of the Year. The overall winner of the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is selected from the category winners and a People’s Choice winner and Hall of Fame inductee are also announced on the night.
Attitude Awards Trustee Dan Buckingham, a member of the elite national wheelchair rugby team the Wheel Blacks, says: “It’s always an exciting time here at Attitude as we find out who the finalists are and count down to the big night. The Awards reflect what Attitude is all about – sharing stories that prove people with disabilities can overcome adversity and achieve greatness, whether that be big or small.”
“We thank our fantastic family of sponsors who allow us to present the Attitude Awards year on year. Collectively we are changing people’s view of what is achievable when someone lives with a disability.”
Dan encourages everyone to visit AttitudeLive.com in early November to see short films of the finalists and to vote for the person most deserving of the ‘People’s Choice Award’.
The Making a Difference Award is sponsored by the Ministry of Health. Jill Lane, Director, National Services Purchasing at the Ministry of Health says the Ministry is pleased to once again sponsor the Attitude Awards.
“The nominees for this award in previous years have been inspiring in the work they do to support people with a disability to enjoy and enhance their lives in a variety of ways.”
Other sponsors supporting the Awards include: ACC, Westpac, Drake Medox, Barfoot & Thompson, IHC Foundation, Air New Zealand, Lion Foundation, Invacare and the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust.
Chief Executive of ACC Scott Pickering says ACC is proud to be principal sponsor of the awards for the eighth year, including sponsorship of the Attitude ACC Employer Award and the Attitude ACC Supreme Award.
“The Attitude Awards shine a light on New Zealand’s unsung heroes. At ACC we’re delighted to support the Awards and to acknowledge New Zealanders who live life to the fullest, achieve their goals, and provide role models to our community.”
For tickets to the Attitude Awards gala evening on December 3 contact Sue Wales-Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 09 378 1564.
Watch previous Awards footage at www.AttitudeLive.com