APRIL 11 – All Aboard The Arc! rode its way to success on Sunday. Six hundred riders from eight regions of the state
(Merrimac Valley, Cape Cod, Pioneer Valley, Central Mass., Norfolk County, Middlesex County, South Shore and Greater Brockton) raised more than $230,000 to increase awareness of The Arc, an organization that provides support and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across Massachusetts.
The money raised was a collaborative effort, drawing on the grass-roots support of individuals as well as corporate sponsors. To earn seats on the buses, riders had to collect a minimum of $600; several businesses, through their donations, paid for the buses, refreshments and other costs associated with the event.
The fundraiser was unique in utilizing a caravan of buses to transport people with disabilities and their families, donors and other supporters to the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in downtown Worcester for a central rally celebrating the abilities of people with disabilities.
Among those addressing the audience were: U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass.; and former New England Patriots linebacker Steve Nelson and former Baltimore Colts and Boston College lineman Dan Sullivan, who spoke movingly about being a parent of a child with a disability. Jane Boulet Caplice, of the statewide committee, and self-advocate Karen Norton, of the South Norfolk County Arc also addressed the audience.
Another celebrity participating in the event was longtime TV personality Rex Trailer, whose “wagon train” effort in 1961 served as an inspiration
for the All Aboard! bus journey. That year, Trailer, at the time the host of the popular children’s TV program “Boomtown,” led a caravan of horse-drawn wagons from Greenfield to the State House in Boston to highlight the important advocacy work performed by The Arc on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill.
Joining in the festivities were musicians, dancers and other performers from throughout the disability community, including the Rainbow Players from Empowerment Through the Arts; the South Shore Conservatory Community Voices; The Arc of the South Shore’s dance troupe, Team Disco; and pianist Melissa Sullivan of Newton.
Dan Rea, host of “NightSide” on WBZ radio, served as the master of ceremonies, rousing the audience and guiding them
through the program of speakers and performers.
Team Disco, from The Arc of the South Shore closed the event to a standing ovation. Their performance featured dance routines to smash disco hits of the 70’s including YMCA and Macho Man, by the Village People, as well as Abba’s Dancing Queen, Donna Summer’s Dancing Queen and Its Raining Men, by The Weather Girls.
“The support shown by the All Aboard! participants today and our sponsors will help us to keep on keeping on with our work, which is especially challenging these days in the face of reductions in publicly funded programs for people with disabilities,” said Leo Sarkissian, The Arc of Massachusetts’ executive director, as the event drew to a close. “We look forward to enlisting still more donors to get on the bus with us next year so that we can continue to give voice to the needs of the people we serve.”
For nearly 60 years, The Arc of Massachusetts, which now boasts 19 chapters across the state, has advocated for and assisted tens of thousands of children and adults statewide who have autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The efforts of The Arc have helped build inclusive communities for people with disabilities where they can find personal fulfillment in their schools, workplaces and residences.
In today’s fiscal environment events such as All Aboard the Arc! Become even more important, the need for additional funds and awareness rise as available government funding decreases. This decrease seriously hampers the ability of organizations like The Arc to continue to provide top quality programs and advocacy for our most vulnerable citizens. Those who wish to support the work of The Arc of the South Shore can visit www.arcsouthshore.org and make a gift online or contact The Arc directly at their N. Weymouth office.
The Arc of the South Shore would like to thank some of the generous sponsors who helped to make the event a success including Towne & Co. Architects, Roche Brothers, EMD Serono, S-Bank, and Margarita’s.