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MRDD month focuses on what people are

Many people look at "Johnny" and see a young boy suffering from developmental disabilities and mental retardation. They see a boy who can't take care of himself, who can't read well, who cannot live a "normal" life.

Those same people might as well be blind. What they fail to see is that "Johnny" laughs like any other child, smiles like any other child, loves like any other child and that not being exactly like every other child is what makes him just as special.

OK, "Johnny" is not a real person but their are dozens of "Johnnys" and "Joanies" across Lawrence County who should be judged not on their disabilities but on their abilities.

Throughout March the Lawrence County Board of MRDD will observe MRDD Awareness Month to help open people's eyes and make them become more knowledgeable with the men, women and children who have disabilities. The entire focus is on changing attitudes, changing perceptions so that any stigmas are removed.

We applaud this effort and hope that everyone embraces this crusade to turn this 31-day recognition into a 365-day event to help understand and appreciate those who are different - yet still the same.

But the board needs your help.

All month, the MRDD Board will manage an ongoing food drive as well as joining with the Ironton Lions Club in the Eye Glasses for Sight Project which will collect used glasses and frames for those in need. Glasses and cans will be collected at all the events planned for the month and once again the board has some fun events that the community should get involved in.

On March 14, the 5th Annual March Madness Basketball Event bounces onto the court as the students of Open Door School will challenge the alumni. In the second part of the doubleheader, the consumers from Tri-State Industries will show up a team of local media all-stars. Ladies and gentlemen, this is worth a can of food or two just to see some of The Tribune's finest embarrass themselves.

Taste buds will be singing - and maybe singed - as the area's best chefs

congregate at TSI to pit secret recipes against one another at the 6th Annual Chili Fest for MRDD Awareness on March 19th. Besides heaping bowls of chili, the event will offer up live music, local crafts and more.

The annual MRDD "At the Movies" will take place March 21, with a showing of the film "Door to Door," which tells the true story of a man with cerebral palsy and his successes. The film will be shown at Ohio University Southern as part of the Family Life Conference.

All these events have one goal: Helping the community to follow the MRDD motto and "Think ability first." So, put your thinking cap on and come see that "Johnny" is just one of the children.