By Megan Rule | Staff Writer
The sixth annual Walk-N-Roll Celebration in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month took place at 10 a.m. Friday at Heritage Square Park.
The walk wasn’t a 5K type event, but rather a free gathering for people to come together and learn about the opportunities for people with disabilities to find jobs. The event was put on by a collaboration with the Heart of Texas Workforce and local vendors, complete with free food, music and the live broadcast from 94.5 The Beat. The resource fair featured more than 30 vendors participating and giving out information about their organizations, including Coca Cola and Frito Lay.
“I think it’s really important to make Central Texas people aware of the disabilities and support it year after year,” said DJ Batman of 94.5 The Beat, the official DJ of Baylor volleyball and Baylor basketball. “Our station is happy to continue to do it; as long as they do an event, we’ll be here to do it.”
According to Hobbs, chairman of the walk, the event began as White Cane Day to bring awareness to those who are blind and require a cane. The event then expanded to include people with additional disabilities. Hobbs worked on the event last year as a committee person and this year agreed to take it on as chairperson.
“Either you can walk with disabilities or you can roll with the wheelchair,” Hobbs said. “We enhanced the name and included more people with disabilities.”
Hobbs also said he was excited as this was the first year with a job fair on site. There were more than 10 employers on the site of the walk to interview people and help them find jobs if necessary.
“Any opportunity we have to create awareness about the productivity and contribution of people with disabilities to the surrounding community is a blessing,” said Kelly Yarbrough, co-chair of the Waco Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities.
The event is not a fundraiser. According to Yarbrough, the ultimate goal of the committee is to support full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of the community. Walk-N-Roll was put on in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month to do just that. Partners of the event combined their efforts to create this specific awareness day to celebrate the month and recognize the efforts of employers to “integrate people with disabilities into their workforce,” Yarbrough said.
Elite Therapy Center was one of many sponsors for Friday’s event. Karen Oakley, marketing director for the Elite Therapy Center, said the center focuses on collaboration with patients and the people involved in their life.
“We strive to support local groups and celebrate the National Disability Employment Awareness Month through this great event,” Oakley said. “We look forward to meeting many who are seeking information about our services or are benefactors of speech, physical and occupational therapies.”