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Rochester community celebrates all abilities

Woman playing basketball
Beret Leone interviewing
International Persons with Disabilities Day

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) -- Our world is made up of billions of people, each of us uniquely made.

December 3 is a day to celebrate those differences with International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The MaxAbility Taskforce of SE Minnesota celebrated early Monday with an event at the Rochester Civic Theatre Company.

It's that  individuality that makes each of us special. But sometimes those differences, can draw us apart. 

"Sometimes our disability community is not always at all of the tables where their voice can be heard," Mayo Clinic Diversity Recruitment Specialist Dawn Kirchner said. "And they don't always have the same access."

Monday's celebration of all abilities gave that voice.

The event aimed to break down barriers and stereotypes. Whether it be through featured artists with disabilities - like James Foster. 

"Artwork for me is like a hobby," Foster said. "It just makes my mind pop. All the things that I do come from my mind and from my heart."

Or putting yourself in someone else's shoes - like giving wheelchair basketball a try.

Others interacted with someone different than them through a "Human Library." The "Human Library" gave different members within the persons with disabilities or diversity community to share their own journey. Library attendees could ask human "books" questions. 

"It makes people less afraid to ask questions because so many times in our diverse world we hesitate and try to play it safe," Kirchner said. "And if we can ask that question that person is willing to share and not be offended. Everybody's got a story to tell."

Stories or "books" ranged. 

Helen Grothe was in an abusive marriage for 11 years. She spoke opening about her struggle and her personal journey to healing. 

"When you get hurt you can see that physical injury, such as losing the tip of my finger," Grothe said. "But nobody can see that internal injury."

Another woman - Laura Oakgrove - spoke about what it was like being blind and raising children. 

"Being a single mom with three kids and being blind.. comes with its own challenges," Oakgrove said. 

Attendees left with a better understanding of the world and the people they share it with. 

"They should leave with some inspiration that they met someone that they have never met before," Kirchner said. "That they walk in someone else's shoes to have a new perspective on how important it is to be inclusive for all abilities."

Monday's event was the third annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebration in Rochester.

Beret Leone

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