COLUMBUS —Over 400 guests attended the Developmental Services, Inc., 44th annual awards banquet last week in Columbus.

Consumer Achievement Award

Whitney Fleagle, the daughter of Emily and Darwin Fleagle of Loogootee, was named the recipient of the Consumer Achievement Award.

For the Fleagle family, the day five years ago that Whitney was born into their lives, they knew there would be significant challenges ahead for their beautiful blue-eyed infant daughter. But they also knew that her very existence was a miracle. Although the pregnancy was perfect, complications at birth kept Whitney from even breathing for several minutes. Whitney’s mother Emily says that her daughter’s survival was a miracle. However, Whitney was diagnosed shortly thereafter with Cerebral Palsy.

“She was definitely a fighter,” said Emily Fleagle about those scary moments in the delivery room. “Whitney spent time in the Natal Intensive Care Unit, but she was able to come home with us.”

Hailing from Pennsylvania, the Fleagles moved with their daughters — four-year-old Whitney and one-year-old Cambrie to Loogootee, in 2018. Whitney enrolled in DSI’s KidStuff preschool in Loogootee where she received physical, cognitive and speech therapies as well as opportunities to interact and with other children through play and learning activities. The family converted its one-car garage into a therapy room and stocked it with adaptive games, toys and learning equipment so that Whitney could work on skills she would need for future independence in school and in day-to-day life.

Whitney graduated from KidStuff Preschool and successfully transitioned to kindergarten this year. There she’s able to continue with many of the same proven therapies, activities and methods for learning.

Of course, Emily is Whitney’s biggest advocate and cheerleader, especially when it comes to inclusion. She is passionate about Whitney being included and having friends as well as the same opportunities as her peers.

To further ensure Whitney’s successful transition to kindergarten and beyond, the Fleagles became very involved in social media and even started a blog on Facebook – “Praying for Whitney – Whitney’s Journey.” The family says they hope to help others by sharing things that they have learned by posting a pictures, videos and tips.

Whitney and her family are also key movers of the Run, Rock & Roll fundraiser in Loogootee. This year’s second annual event raised more than $1,000 for DSI preschool programs as well as awareness for the organization.

One can bet their expanding network of friends will find plenty of inspiration from Whitney and her family. Although they anticipate many challenges ahead of them, the Fleagles find comfort in their faith and in the wisdom they have acquired during their journey together as a family.

“We love life and want others to know there is lots of joy even though life isn’t always easy,” said Emily.

Volunteer and Service Award

Washington’s Brad Tredway was the recipient of the Volunteer and Service Award. He has been a stalwart of DSI special events since the organization’s merger with Four Rivers nearly three years ago.

Tredway always comes early to do some heavy lifting during setup at the DSI Golf Classic, D-Vine Wine and Beer Festival, the Client Formal Dance and the DSI Walk, Run & Ride 5K. Even better, he stays late for the less glamorous cleanup detail.

He can also be a calming influence when the situation calls for it.

“I think Brad’s easy-going manner is a comfort right before a big event starts because most of us are experiencing a few butterflies,” said one DSI staffer of the honoree. “He’s also one of the first to arrive and the last to leave and you can count on him to do just about anything to help. He’s got a good sense of humor too and that’s something that’s always appreciated.”

Tredway is also a donor and makes regular sponsorship contributions to fundraising events through his privately-owned business “Lawn Lords.”

Direct Support Professional Award

Pam Land, recipient of the Direct Support Professional Award, came to Four Rivers Resource Services 11 years ago with an extensive background in manufacturing – not social services.

However, a manufacturing government contract brought Land to the agency to provide production income for services and skills training for clients.

“After the contract expired, Pam decided to stay with us,” said a co-worker. “After many years in industry, I think Pam found her true calling helping people with disabilities become more independent.”

Although she had never worked with clients before, Land quickly proved to be a natural talent.

Her co-workers say her temperament, patience and ability to communicate and take initiative have resulted in some very creative learning opportunities for DSI clients.

For example, Land is great at integrating Holiday themes into fun learning exercises for the clients. For Halloween, she cleverly constructed a miniature golf course as a recreational activity.

As for her reliability and work ethic, that’s never been a concern because she never misses a day and is thorough with her documentation – certainly two under-rated but critical attributes.

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