- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - They are stories that need to be told.

That’s the idea behind the book “Facing Disabilities in East Central Indiana,” which tells the stories of some of the people at Hillcroft Services.

Through a partnership between The Facing Project and Hillcroft Services, 20 local writers collected stories from the first-person perspectives of parents, caregivers and those with disabilities.

In addition, three local photographers captured some of the individuals on film for the first time. The memories, photos and experiences were compiled into the book.

“While not all of the storytellers we feature are capable of verbalizing their own stories, they all have unique voices and personalities,” Kelsey Timmerman, co-founder of the Facing Project with J.R. Jamison, told The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/1ozhnSd ). “We charged our writers with capturing the voice of each individual. So the storytellers are given a voice, and the writers are given the unique opportunity to walk in another’s shoes.”

Those stories will come to life Saturday on the main stage at Muncie Civic Theatre.

Timmerman said 19 stories from the book and a skit will be performed, beginning at 6 p.m. Three of the monologues will be read in their entirety and parts of all of the others will be read, he added. The event is free and open to the public.

Adapted from the book, this performance event will be a night of celebration and reflection, Timmerman said. Attendees will receive a free copy of the book. In addition to the monologues, there will be a special performance by local vocalist Jennifer Stanley, as well as an autograph signing with the storytellers.

“We hope the audience connects with the rich voices and life experiences that our storytellers share,” Timmerman said. “We also hope they learn about the great services Hillcroft offers to allow individuals with disabilities to live life to its fullest extent.”

This is the 16th Facing Project to occur in the country; the third in Muncie. The first project in Muncie, Facing Poverty, occurred in 2012. Facing Autism followed in 2013.

“We approached Hillcroft because we thought their clients would have important stories to tell,” Timmerman said. “They loved the idea and partnered on the project.”

Brenda Williamson, vice president of marketing and development for Hillcroft Service, said these stories and the event will provide a new voice to the conversation about what it means to live with a disability.

“Our clients are our No. 1 priority, and we know how extraordinary they are,” she said in a statement. “We are delighted to partner with The Facing Project to share their stories with the Muncie community to help others understand that a disability does not limit the way in which one can live an amazing life.”

Adam J. Kuban, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at Ball State University, was one of the writers for the project. He helped Jim Benadum write his story.

Benadum, a Special Olympics gold medalist in bocce, tells of one of many tournament trips in the book.

“I have a mild intellectual disability; I struggle with my short-term memory,” he says in the book. “While playing bocce, I can sometimes forget who threw last. At this particular tournament, the organizers also changed the routine: They wanted competitors to leave the court after each frame, or round, and I would continue to forget that part.

“Sometimes, as with this most recent incident, I can get mad at myself for not remembering what they wanted. My memory disability can also frustrate me: In my 40+ years, I have learned to write down the most important things. That helps me cope with it. I also need to repeat things time and again in order for them to stick. But it is all there - I just need time and strategy to retrieve the information.”

Timmerman said the Disabilities project “was one of the harder projects we’ve worked on only because many of the storytellers had to have the assistance of multiple people in their lives to help tell their stories.

“But the final product will blow your mind - the stories are rich and eye-opening.”


Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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