Jose Antonio (Tony) Galvez has not only benefitted from the services provided through The Division of Rehabilitation Services vocationally, socially and independently, he has also used these skills to help others. His story is one that signifies how one person can impact the lives of so many.
Tony first began receiving services from the Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation (DHS-DRS) in 2006. The 23-year-old, who has Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy, was interested in becoming an Accountant. Working through the Division's Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Tony started taking college computer courses.
Later that year Tony's health declined and was unable to continue with his college courses. He was referred to DRS's Home Services Program where he began receiving services that aided him in maintaining activities in his as independently as possible.
While at home, Tony decided to focus on a plan that would allow him to continue using his computer skills that he had acquired in college. That plan included becoming an active member with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and helping to raise money to help support the association and to help fund research, cures and clinics for people with neuromuscular dystrophy. "[The computer classes] were very helpful," Tony said. "They opened up a lot of opportunities for me to learn how to use the computer and helped me to be able to do a lot of things that I planned to do."
Tony's first fundraiser - a car show in Oswego - was a great success, helping to raise $3500.00 for MDA. From there, Tony, who uses a wheelchair, participated with his family in a Muscular Dystrophy walk where they raised $2,000.00. He said he wanted to prove that the boundaries of his life extend beyond his wheelchair.
"People that can walk don't value life the way I do because I've been through a lot," he said. "So I say 'go big or go home'."
Tony's mantra proved especially true with his most recent fundraiser in Aurora, a dance to benefit MDA that was his biggest event yet. Tony arranged for a banquet hall to provide free space and for six bands to perform pro bono. He made flyers and posters and ordered 600 tickets to sell. With the help of family and friends and Facebook, he sold out the event, raising more than $9,000 for the MDA.
The event was such a hit that he plans to do it again.
"It was a very emotional day, and people came up to me and gave me a lot of respect because I did it all by myself," he said.
Tony credits HSP with helping him gain the confidence to pull off his events. His counselor, Sarah Mickelson, said she has seen tremendous growth in Tony, who also receives the support of a personal assistant provided by the program.
"When I first met Tony he was friendly and outgoing, but unsure of his abilities and future goals. Since receiving our services, I have noticed positive changes in Tony's level of independence and confidence. His passion for advocacy and fundraising has enabled him to connect more with his community and reach his true capabilities," Mickelson said. "I am here for him for anything he needs and he has great family support. But he has been able to do a lot of this on his own."
Through his fundraisers, Tony said he hopes to be able to help others who are disabled live full, active lives.
"You shouldn't let your physical or mental condition stop you from reaching your goals," Tony said. "Any path is available to you if you set your mind to it."
For more information about services that assist people with disabilities to live independently, see the Home Services Program.
To learn more, call 1-877-761-9780 Voice, 1-866-264-2149 TTY, (312) 957-4881 VP, or read about DRS's Services. Refer yourself or someone else for services using the online Rehabilitation Services Web Referral.