The award is named for Craig Smith, a tireless advocate and supporter for people with intellectual disabilities. He was a founding chairperson of Mass Advocates Standing Strong, a trainer in self-advocacy and advised the Department of Developmental Services on policies and programs including the promotion of self-determination for people who use the Department's supports.
Marie Saldi is a passionate advocate for others and ambassador for inclusion and accessibility. After receiving the Barbara Wilensky Gopen Memorial Fellowship in 2014, Marie chose as her project to research and identify the need for more, better integrated accessible playgrounds across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Her statewide tour of currently accessible playgrounds resulted in the creation of a Blog listing those playgrounds visited in the South Shore area that were deemed accessible and information on creating accessibility and integration at play areas currently non accessible. Her blog address : https://accessibilityinshouthshorema.wordpress.com/
She also created a brochure to publicize her knowledge/research on the subject of Accessible Playgrounds and has become a sought after public speaker on the subject - speaking to various groups such as United Way donor companies, DDS Citizen' s Advisory Board Sponsored Legislative Breakfasts and most recently the DDS Social Role Valorization Leadership Series. Her powerful presentations elicit comments of "captivating,"inspirational", always produce laughter and quite often tears.
Marie often invites local state legislators to visit Archways to hear conversations around the important issues such as Family Support funds, enactment of The Able Act in Massachusetts and transportation needs for people with I/DD and how lack of these inhibits their ability to be more independent. She frequently visits the State House to inform Legislators of the importance and consequences of funding cuts for a variety of programs, especially Turning 22 funding.April 2016 found her in Wachington DC at The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Policy Seminar.
Marie's personal life goal is to operate her own non-profit agency to help those who are homeless. Along with food, clothes and shelter, she envisions offering her guests emotional supports as well as educational opportunities that will help get them home again. She already spearheads an annual Blanket Drive at Archways Enterprises and helps facilitate the "One Warm Coat" drive that this year collected over 200 coats plus hats, mittens, gloves and scarves which are distributed to local homeless shelters and needy families .
This prestigious award is certainly well deserved and validates the exceptional self advocacy this young woman delivers. We congratulate her and wish her every success in continuing to use her voice to advocate and in realizing all her goals. Bravo Marie!