Super Dadvocates: Super Dads Making a Difference
Super Dads Making A Difference
Stephen E. Beck, Jr.
It is said that some of the best solutions originate and come from the people; real people with great ideas. Stephen saw a way to make the world a better place and he acted upon it. He fought for, and championed, a way to help others. What he left behind will live forever. With the assistance of his widow, Catherine, we would like for you to meet a man whose work will benefit so many in our community.
PSN: Please tell us about yourself, your family and your child:
CB: Our daughter, Mariae Rose, is a typical teenager. She intends to go to college in the fall and graduate with a degree in nursing. Since the day Mariae Rose was born we have saved what we could to support this goal. In contrast, when our daughter, Natalie, was born we were advised not to create any type of savings in her name. Because Natalie has Down syndrome, she had been tied to a support system that forced individuals with disabilities into a life of poverty in order to remain eligible for federal and state assistance programs. If you were to ask Natalie, she would tell you that after graduation from Saint John Paul the Great High School she is going to college at George Mason University’s Life Program. Prior to this Act we could not save funds to help her achieve this goal. The ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience:ABLE) Act allows families to save for the education now widely available in post-secondary schools for individuals with disabilities. These programs will assist Natalie to obtain both the job and life skills she will need to be more self-sufficient. This Act is not going to solve all of the financial problems of the disability community, but it does provide a major step forward. It allows my family to save money to take care of Natalie, as we have saved money to take care of Mariae Rose.
PSN: Please tell us Stephen’s story ; what you would like the readers to know about him?
CB: Stephen was first and foremost a Father. Stephen was not a professional lobbyist. He was a Dad, happily volunteering and working hard to correct an injustice. He volunteered his time over the (almost) ten years it took to pass this Act. Steve did more than simply voice his opinion; he always framed things in a way that everyone could understand. He inspired others with a quiet confidence. He did not do this alone, but enlisted the help of other self-advocates and their families. He rallied the support of our country’s advocacy groups for individuals with disabilities; groups like Autism Speaks and the National Disability Institute.
PSN: What made him decide to work so diligently to ensure the Down syndrome community (and special needs community, in general) had this “opportunity/savings account” on a national level?
CB: Stephen loved his country. This bill was named after Stephen not only for the work that he did to secure its passage, but also as an acknowledgment of what one person can accomplish. It is symbolic of what our country stands for, and symbolizes how one person can make a difference. This is not so much the Stephen E. Beck, Jr. Act but a Father’s Act, named for a father who stood up for what he believed should happen in our country. Steve saw an inequity in the way that he could save for the future of his two daughters. He used the resources available to him as their father to make a change, and correct a disparity. If not for the gift of our two wonderful daughters, Stephen would never have realized the inequities in our ability to invest in the future of our two children.
PSN: Please share one thing that Stephen learned that has made a big difference in your life (as well as in his life)?
CB: Your time is your most valuable resource. Use it wisely.
PSN: How would you describe his legacy?
CB: Parents have the power to create a change. This is our family’s story. In the future, other fathers or mothers, will come to the Nation’s Capitol with a passion for fairness and the dream of making a better life for their loved ones. Capitol Hill listened to Stephen’s stories and took action. There are other families and self-advocates who have more stories to share. There is more legislation that must
be passed. The Stephen E. Beck Jr. ABLE Act is just the beginning of an effort to allow individuals with challenges to have the same chance to live as fruitful a life as all other citizens in the USA.
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