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Lessons from David Trone, Founder of Total Wine & More

David Trone with Fellows sitting and standing around him

David Trone with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 25 – David Trone, the founder and owner of Total Wine & More strode into RespectAbility’s office along with his assistant, Eric. Trone shone coming down the hallway with a bright canary yellow tie and a full head of glistening salt and pepper hair, a little more salt than pepper these days. As Trone made his way to his seat at the head of the table, he personally greeted RespectAbility fellows and staff.

Trone and his brother, Robert, created the largest U.S. alcohol retailer more than 25 years ago. On July 10, 2017, he joined RespectAbility Fellows and staff to share his advice on leadership, philanthropy, service, and his nephew’s struggles with opiate addiction and the impact on his family. Recently, following his nephew’s overdose, Trone published an important and potentially life-saving op-ed on the opioid crisis.

Leadership and emerging leaders have become passions of the Trone brothers in recent years.

“We have to recognize each person’s skills and what they can offer to society,” Trone said. “We are all leaders in different ways, not just the captain of the football team. Each person can offer their own perspective to help move us all together in society as a team.”

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Advice from Bipartisan Policy Center’s Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris with Fellows sitting and standing around him

Calvin Harris with with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 25 – As a native from St. Louis, Missouri, Calvin Harris is no stranger to disability advocacy. Harris’ mother worked in the neuromuscular lab at the Washington University School of Medicine, which created a path for Harris’ passions for disability advocacy. Harris volunteered with disability groups, most notably, serving as a camp counselor for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Camp for Kids, where he befriended many kids with MD.

Calvin Harris smiling and facing the camera with crossed arms and wearing a striped tie color photo

Calvin Harris, RespectAbility Chairman

“The work of RespectAbility is critical to ensuring that my friends from MDA Camp, as well as the 56 million Americans living with a disability, have an opportunity to participate in all aspects of our community,” said Harris, who became the Chair of RespectAbility’s board earlier this month.

As the current senior manager of public affairs at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Harris has not strayed too far from disability advocacy. He was the first treasurer of RespectAbility and continues to embody the spirit of an advocate. As treasurer, Harris oversaw fundraising efforts, approved budgets and ensured the organization was compliant with state laws and regulations. As a new set of board of directors and advisors transitioned earlier this month, it was Harris’ spirit and dedication to ensuring opportunity for people with disabilities that propelled him to become the new chairman of RespectAbility.

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Learning from The Gates Foundation’s Pras Ranaweera

Pras Ranaweera with all the fellows sitting and standing around her

Pras Ranaweera with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 21 – “People love to talk about themselves, but it is more important to listen,” Pras Ranaweera expressed to a room full of energized RespectAbility Fellows.

Ranaweera practiced her sage advice by using the majority of time to hear personal stories and suggestions from the Fellows and staff. She listened to their experiences with inclusion in the public and private school systems. During the sharing session, Ranaweera carefully took notes, demonstrating her commitment to promoting the next generation of leaders – the most treasured part of her work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As the Senior Portfolio Officer of K-12 Education at the Gates Foundation, Ranaweera is able to impact the lives of young people nationally on a daily basis. Prior to her work with the foundation, she served as Chief of Staff for Data and Accountability at D.C Public Schools where she was quickly promoted to Deputy Chief of Assessments. There, she oversaw the district’s assessment portfolio for more than 40,000 students, managed 115 schools’ transition to online PARCC testing, overhauled the district’s student report cards and oversaw the collection and reporting of timely, accurate data on student achievement for the district.

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Conversation with Dana Marlowe of Accessibility Partners

Dana Marlowe with the Respectability fellows standing and sitting around her

Dana Marlowe with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 21 – “Accessibility is the nexus of where people with disabilities interface with technology,” said Dana Marlowe, an architect of inclusion and accessibility. She spoke with the RespectAbility Fellows on July 5, 2017 on the importance of including people with disabilities in technology’s use and development.

In addition to being a member of the RespectAbility Board of Advisors, Marlowe is the principal partner and co-founder of Accessibility Partners LLC, which is an accessibility advocacy and IT consulting firm. They hire people with disabilities to audit a variety of technology products created by their clients to ensure how usable they are to people with disabilities. It’s a productive cycle that empowers people with disabilities at all levels.

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Advice from Political Fundraiser Fran Katz Watson

Fran Watson with Fellows sitting and standing around her

Fran Katz Watson with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 20 – Fran Katz Watson, founder and president of The Katz Watson Group, has known since she was young that she has wanted to change the world. In college, Katz Watson recalls pleading with her political science professor after feeling compelled to move to Washington, D.C., to become involved in politics.

After a summer of interning in D.C., Katz Watson remembers “catching the political bug,” causing her to rearrange her schedule her senior year of college to work 30 hours per week on political campaign fundraising in addition to her college coursework. Some twenty years later, Katz Watson is a leader in her field of donor relations, having worked on political fundraising in the last ten presidential and senatorial election cycles.

Although many people today have become dependent on social media to communicate with others, Katz Watson stresses the importance of still calling and establishing a personal relationship with donors. Katz Watson also believes it is important to meet one-on-one to discuss all facets of a candidate’s motivation to run for office. By getting to know candidates on a personal level, Katz Watson believes she is able to effectively build their donor base to be successful during a campaign.

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Lessons from Judith Creed, Founder of JCHAI

Judith Creed with the fellows sitting and standing around her

RespectAbility Board Members Judith Creed and Linda Burger with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 20 – “What is your story? How did you overcome your struggles?” These were the central questions that Judith Creed, a passionate mother, sought to address during her talk with the RespectAbility Fellows and staff on Monday, July 10.

Creed, a founding member of Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence (JCHAI), brought with her a very unique story of how she overcame adversity as a mother of a child with developmental disabilities. Most importantly, she has challenged many individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities, including her own son, Jonah, to conquer their struggles.

After graduating from Temple University with a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, Creed was committed to treating speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults. Despite her familiarity with working with individuals with disabilities, when she gave birth to her son, she could not help but be overcome with fear and shock. Jonah, who is now 45 years old, was born with significant developmental disabilities.

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Calvin Harris Elected as Chair, Succeeding Donn Weinberg; New Board Member Ronald Glancz, Deeply Seasoned Leader in the Nonprofit Community, Elected Treasurer

New members include cross section of national leaders from Hollywood, public policy, philanthropy, communications and the private sector

Calvin Harris smiling and facing the camera with crossed arms and wearing a striped tie color photo

Calvin Harris, Chair

Rockville, Md., July 19 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, today announced the additions of new members to the boards of directors and advisors, as well as new officers. Notably, Calvin Harris has been elected to be the chair of RespectAbility. He follows co-founder Donn Weinberg, whose impact on RespectAbility and the disability sector has been indispensable.

“We are deeply grateful for Donn Weinberg’s leadership and delighted that he will remain as chair emeritus,” stated RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “ Meanwhile, we are extremely excited for Calvin Harris to assume the role as board chair, as well as the additional high level perspectives and personalities that will join him on RespectAbility’s board of director and advisors.”

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Born This Way Nominated for Six 2017 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

Cast of Born This Way smiling and posing for the camera

Born This Way Cast

Rockville, Md., July 18 – For the cast of Emmy award-winning Born This Way and others with disabilities, acquiring a sense of financial stability is important in being able to live an independent life.

Born This Way, a reality TV show just nominated for six Emmy awards, including again for the 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, which the show won in 2016, is centered on seven young adults with Down syndrome living their day-to-day lives, all while pursuing their passions, following their dreams and defying stigmas. In the final episode of season three, Megan and her mother Kris learn about opening an A Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. ABLE accounts are savings accounts designed specifically for people with disabilities and their families to aid them in financial independence.

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head shot of Leah Daniels-Butler wearing a blue collared blouse

Leah Daniels-Butler

Rockville, Md., July 13 – Leah Daniels-Butler, “Empire” casting director, will be speaking at RespectAbility’s summit From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities.

Daniels-Butler is a casting director and producer most notable for launching the careers of gifted actors like Best Actress Nominee Gaborey Sidebe, star of the Academy Award winning film “Precious,” securing talent for both blockbuster and award-winning films like “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Lee Daniels, The Butler” and as Casting Director for television’s #1 show, “Empire.”

Her ongoing commitment to championing the inclusion and representation of diverse acting casts of color, gender and ability has guided her career path to being appointed a National Board Director for the Casting Society of America, spearheading the CSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


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