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TuscBDD celebrates 2024 award recipients

| March 28, 2024
Jehred Bennett received TuscBDD's 2024 Diamond Award, presented annually to an individual with developmental disabilities for their bravery and advocacy. (WJER Radio)

2024 TuscBDD Standing Ovation Award winner Bill Fitz (left) with Erickson Farnsworth. (WJER Radio)

NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (March 28, 2024) – The Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities is closing out its yearly DD month celebration after honoring this year’s Better Together Award recipients.

Bill Fitz of New Philadelphia received the Standing Ovation Award, recognizing a parent, guardian, sibling, or someone who has stepped into the role of family for their tireless support of their loved one with disabilities. Chris and Mark Farnsworth nominated him for his dedication to their son Erickson.

“That a person other than yourself or another parent is devoted to your child’s welfare, happiness, and well-being and their love is unconditional and their motives are selfless and they step in and stand in every single time, it’s immeasurable, a gift and a blessing” 

Each year the board also presents its Diamond Award to an individual with developmental disabilities for their bravery and advocacy. That went to Jehred Bennett who participates in the Advocates for Success program and works at the New Philadelphia Fire Station. He was nominated by program leaders and his mother, who had this to say about him:

2024 TuscBDD Better Together Award recipient Jackie Putnam (WJER Radio)

“Jahred does not let his disability hold him back. He knows not to use his disability as an excuse and he also knows he has to try a little harder but is capable of anything he sets his mind to. I nominated Jahred because he is hard-working and always willing to help those in need. He always includes everybody and is willing to go the extra mile for his friends and family.”

The flagship Better Together Award went to longtime Starlight School teacher Jackie Putnam, who came out of retirement to continue helping the students and staff there. Here’s what her colleagues wrote in their nomination letter.

“Rarely does a teacher come along that has such a profound impact in the lives of students. Rarer still does a teacher come along that goes on to successfully teach others how to educate children with disabilities. But it is unheard of for someone to come out of retirement and take the most difficult jobs on the hourly wage of a substitute teacher. For Jackie, teaching isn’t just a profession, it’s a way of life – or maybe more accurately it’s a way of changing others’ lives.”

The awards were presented during a pancake breakfast at Tuscora Park, which received this year’s Ripple Effect Award for helping to show that individuals with disabilities are crucial members of the workforce.

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