The Persons with Disabilities Program hosted the 2009 Disabilities Luncheon on Oct. 22 to recognize members of Team Hill who overcome disabilities to meet the Air Force's mission and to honor those who go out of their way to help those with disabilities in their workplace.
During the luncheon, themed "Putting ability to work for you," awards were given to recognize a select few individuals who embodied the latter concept throughout the past fiscal year.
The Persons with Disabilities Support Award was given to members of Team Hill who provided outstanding support in helping a worker with a disability and nominated by the disabled employee. Award winners were: Derek Larkin, 524th Electronics Maintenance Squadron; Vic Johansen and Merry Stowell, both of the 75th Civil Engineer Group; Robert Byrns, 309th Maintenance Squadron; Andrea Rathbun, Sharon Stuckman, Kathleen French, Mary Sawley and Lynette Sanders, all of the Ogden Air Logistics Center; and Debbie Potts, 309th Maintenance Wing.
The Outstanding Employees with Disabilities Awards were given to employees who overcome a disability and excel at their job. Awardees were Gregory Terry, 531st Commodities Maintenance Squadron and David Olsen, 524th EMXS.
The 75th Air Base Wing was awarded the Persons with Disabilities Outstanding Organization Award for its active participation in the Workforce Recruitment Program which has trained students with disabilities to perform various jobs on base for the past two years. Additionally, all major facilities within the organizations of the 75th ABW accommodate those with special needs by featuring ramps and handicap-accessible doors. A previous participant of the Workforce Recruitment Program said of the wing, "We commend the 75th Air Base Wing for the outstanding support shown to the disabilities program. It is wonderful to realize that we still have people who care enough about their fellow man to use a few resources to help when needed."
Highlighting the luncheon were guest speakers Kim Peek, a mega-savant who inspired the character Dustin Hoffman played in the 1988 movie "Rain Man," and his father, Fran.
After spending time with Kim to research his character, Hoffman asked Fran to promise that he'd take Kim out into the world. In the fall of 1989 after "Rain Man" won four Oscars, Kim made his first public appearance at the Jordan School District to speak in front of 500 junior high school kids. Since then, Kim and his father have traveled the world to create awareness and respect for people with disabilities and special needs.
"We were told when he was 9 months old to put him in an institution and forget about him," Fran said. "When he was 6 years old, (doctors) wanted to give him a lobotomy."
When Kim was growing up, children with special needs were not allowed to attend public schools, so Fran helped author the Handicapped Children's Early Education Assistance Act of 1968 that opened more opportunities for children with special needs.
Kim learned how to read at age 2 and now reads a page within eight-to-10 seconds while reading both the left and right pages of a book simultaneously and recalls the contents of more than 12,000 books.
Fran said NASA has been studying him for the past 4 years and determined Kim has a condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum that prevents the selection and reorganization of stored information. "We maintain about 45 percent of our memory and Kim maintains 98.7 (percent of his) because he does not have the filtering system," his father said.
The studies that NASA has performed on Kim contributed to projects involving laser technology used for medical instruments and satellites.
Since emerging into the social spotlight, Kim has had 22 TV documentaries made about him and has spoken to more than five million people around the world to share his message about the treatment of those who are considered to be different.
"Learning to recognize and to respect differences in others and treating them like you want them to treat you will make this a better world," Kim said.
After fielding questions from the audience about geography, sports figures and little-known historical dates, Fran asked his son what he knew about Hill Air Force Base.
"I know that you've been around for 67 years, first as an auxiliary then you merged with Wendover and that it is the greatest thing for you to be together," Kim said in reference to the Utah Test and Training Range, the largest overland safety footprint for the military.
Throughout the question-and-answer portion of the talk, Kim also shared his original jokes with the audience.
"He's been developing a sense of humor in the past few years," said his father.