When the Phillie Phanatic attended one of the Arc of Chester County’s annual summer Achievement Walks, the children, some of whom used walkers or were in wheelchairs, eagerly gathered about him with their families.
But one medically fragile boy could not attend the picnic outdoors and meet the Phillie Phanatic because of his condition. When he heard this, the Phanatic arranged a private session indoors with the little boy and his family.
Amy Koegler of Phoenixville witnessed this simple act of kindness, and she has never forgotten it.
“His favorite character in the whole wide world was the Phillie Phanatic,” she said. “It was a moving and rewarding moment.”
The Arc of Chester County was established in 1952 in order to offer programs, services, and opportunities for children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. At the time of its founding, parents of children with disabilities were advised to place their children in institutions.
“They had a minimal value of life and no value in society,” said Anne Bernstein, the director of Early Intervention and Social Work Services at The Arc.
Ruth Wood, along with a group of other parents of children with disabilities, was instrumental in spearheading both The Arc and advocacy awareness for the rights, needs and abilities of Chester County residents with disabilities and their families.
On June 19, Amy Koegler and her mother, Joanne, of Radnor, received the Ruth Wood Philanthropic Award at The Arc. This award is presented to those who have “exemplified commitment, dedication, and ardent support” to The Arc through “outstanding philanthropic leadership with a proven record of years of generosity and support of Arc programs and services.”
“I felt enormously privileged to get the award, and I was very honored that I got it with my daughter,” Joanne said.
“Amy Koegler is the most compassionate person I have met,” Bernstein said. “She gives of herself, and she has a passion for all things living. She acts on the passion and goes beyond caring.”
Koegler first discovered The Arc through United Way’s Emerging Leaders Program more than 10 years ago and instantly fell in love with The Arc and its mission.
“Every organization says ‘we’re the best,’ but after I researched and took a tour, it was clear that The Arc was the best,” Koegler said. “The Arc really serves both individuals and their families with disabilities in all aspects of their lives.”
After her passion for The Arc kindled into flame, Amy Koegler recruited her mother to aid in advocacy awareness for The Arc’s programs. Both Amy and Joanne Koegler have been able to use their company connections through Aetna Health Insurance and Prudential Fox & Roach, respectively, to draw the community together in support of The Arc. Amy Koegler has also served on various committees at The Arc, as well as two terms as president of the Board of Directors.
“Value has permeated the whole organization,” said Leslie Rahling, The Arc’s development and communications associate. “People like the Koeglers are how we fund it and maintain that spirit.”
“Amy is here at every event,” Bernstein said.
According to Koegler, The Arc’s mission involves “putting to the forefront the importance of people — individuals just like you or me — not having a disability define you.”
The Arc’s supporters were instrumental in urging the removal of the “R” word, retardation, from Pennsylvania’s official legislative vocabulary and public policy, replacing it with people-first language. Instead of referring to someone as a disabled person or a handicapped person, The Arc encourages saying a person with a disability.
“It’s not identifying a person as 100 percent disabled,” Rahling said. “The Arc is about finding what their abilities and strengths are — everyone has them.”
The Arc accomplishes these goals by working with people with disabilities and their families from birth through adulthood and by building connections and investing in relationships with them.
The Arc offers a First Step Early Intervention home program for newborns to 3-year-olds, community-based classrooms at The Arc for children, recreational service, and program services for adults, through partnership with community employers, geared towards aiding them in their pursuit for an independent and fulfilling life. For more information, visit The Arc’s website at www.arcofchestercounty.org/
Rahling’s own daughter enrolled in these programs, and working at The Arc provides an avenue for Rahling “to come full-circle.”
“Having a family member who has an intellectual or developmental disability is a challenging journey for any family,” Rahling said. “The Arc is truly a partner on that journey, by providing the information and services that are needed at every step along the way.”
Whenever Joanne Koegler goes to Wegmans, it brings her joy to see employees there from The Arc. “They take such pride in their jobs and themselves,” she said.
“Whether I’m going to a meeting, or an event, or I volunteer, I get inspired by the energy that surrounds the people there,” Amy Koegler said. “Their accomplishments and their smiles are contagious. The Arc is not a place like the institutions with a sad, hopeless sense. You feel you can conquer the world.”
Information from the Daily Local News, www.dailylocal.com