Brandon Woolridge

“This is like somebody telling you that you’ve won the lottery!” said Linda Woolridge, when she learned that her son, Brandon, was a 2010 Eric Fund grant award winner.

“This is really going to make a difference!”

James-Cyrus “Brandon” Woolridge is a 16-year-old high school junior from Silver Spring, Md. with high-functioning autism and dysgraphia, which prevents him from being able to write by putting pen to paper. 

But being diagnosed with his condition at age seven did not dampen the passion Brandon has for writing. Described by his mom as “an up-and-coming author of the future,” Brandon, a fan of science fiction and fantasy, loves to use his endless imagination to write his own stories.  But to do so is a physical challenge for Brandon – and his mom. Whether he wishes to write a story or do his homework, Brandon dictates his work to his mother who transcribes it for him. Linda says it is not uncommon for both of them to stay up until midnight each weekday to complete Brandon’s nightly homework,  even though they start right when he gets home from school.

The Eric Fund has granted Brandon his own laptop and software, including a voice recognition program that will allow Brandon to “speak” his homework and stories with the computer transcribing them for him. Brandon has had great success using the software at school, however, since the equipment belongs to the school system, Brandon cannot take it home and he cannot use it once he graduates. Linda is thankful not only for the immediate difference The Eric Fund grant will make to help Brandon pursue his writing and complete his schoolwork, but also for prospects it holds for his future as he pursues a career as a journalist and author. “[The Eric Fund grant] is going to make him more independent and be able to rely on himself more at home and at school. Then it will make college an easy transition.”

2009Nate Nashawardee
Cali Willcockson
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Cali Willcockson was an exceptional child destined for exceptional success as an adult when a devastating automobile accident put that future in jeopardy. 

Cali suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, and her mother suffered severe physical injuries, including a spinal and head injury that left her in a wheelchair and unable to walk. 

This single mother and her daughter lost their income, lost their home, and lost their mobility due to their disabilities. 

Cali’s mom is out of a wheelchair now, but still has physical disabilities and has become a self-advocate. Brain Injury Services has assisted Cali and helped direct her and her mother toward The Eric Fund. Emilia Prokop, who received a laptop and speech software from The Eric Fund in 2007, also encouraged them to apply, because she knew what The Eric Fund had done for her. 

The family is glad they received such encouragement, because Cali was awarded a grant from The Eric Fund for an iPad that will give her a better opportunity to succeed and continue to develop her talent for writing. “You just don’t know how much this will help,” Cali says.

Identified early as a gifted and talented student, Cali excelled in math and science; however, her greatest love is reading and writing. She wrote her first book in the third grade and has won numerous writing, photography and art awards. She also is a talented singer. When the accident happened, Cali was in middle school, and she is now 15 years old and in the 10th grade. 

She is highly intelligent and creative, but the brain injury and illnesses have created some huge struggles for her in school, particularly with writing. She has difficulty writing with a pen or pencil, and had encountered processing difficulties with spelling, skipping words, capitalization and punctuation. She needs audio of text to help her with reading a large body of text and speech to text to help her write a large volume.

“The iPad is the most wonderful tool,” says Cali’s mom, “because it has a multitude of apps that are affordable, and she can use it anywhere, so accessibility is always within her reach. The touch pad means she doesn’t have to scrunch up her fingers to write or use a keyboard. The SoundNote app particularly will allow her to make minimal notes and record lectures so she can fully follow a lecture and go back over it, and it has organization and cognitive apps that specifically meet her needs.” 

Cali’s mom believes the iPad will also put Cali more in control of getting assistance for herself, thus increasing her independence. “There are so many things she can do with the iPad that she wouldn’t be able to do without it,” she explains. “It would take multiple items to meet the needs the iPad serves, and they would be too bulky to carry around everywhere.”

Even after the brain injury Cali was invited to participate in the Northern Virginia Writing Project because of her writing talent, and her mother says of the iPad, “It gives her a way to write on a daily basis so she doesn’t feel like she’s losing that gift.” Cali, who also was selected for the Congressional Young Leaders Global Program and selected for the Global Youth Village as a result of her video, “You Can Make A Difference,” is especially interested in other cultures and hopes to have a global career someday using her writing talent. 

The iPad will help her fulfill this dream and help make such a career possible. As the family noted, it can even be used in other countries. Cali hopes to attend a foreign exchange program, do a collegiate success program and participate in an internship in the near future. This is a young woman who someday could change the world for the better, so we at The Eric Fund are very grateful to have had the opportunity to help change her world for the better.

2011Nate Nashawardee
Emily Scott
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Emily Scott is a funny, engaging 14-year-old girl who was born with a rare chromosomal syndrome called Partial Trisomy 13.

Following up with Emily’s mom Judith to hear how Emily was adjusting to her new device was both interesting and inspiring.
Although Emily’s disability affects her in many ways -- the way she walks, talks, interacts with others, and learns -- her biggest daily hurdle is communication. 

“Emily is vocal, but not intelligible,” Judith said, and went on to explain that this leads many people to very wrongly assume that she is not intelligent. Emily has been frustrated for much of her life, and more so now that she is a teenager, by her inability to talk to those around her. “The iPad,” Judith explained, “is giving Emily the ability to talk like a regular teenager.”

Emily has access to, and skillfully uses a Vantage communication device at school, but as is frequently the case, the device belongs to the school which means Emily cannot use it at home or to socialize outside of school. When she leaves the school, she will lose access to her “voice.”

When her parents learned how the iPad was being used as a communication tool for people with disabilities, they were intrigued. In addition to being more user-friendly than the Vantage, it is also lighter and less clunky for Emily to transport. 

And besides ... it’s “cool!” Emily is learning to use the Touch Chat application (or “app”), also funded by The Eric Fund, to speak for her both inside and outside of school. Her mother explained that just like all young people seem to quickly and fearlessly learn to use iPad apps, Touch Chat is no different for Emily. 

“She is picking it up remarkably quickly and easily,” Judith said. “Probably easier than we are simply because she is not intimidated by it or afraid that she will break it.” She went on to explain that TouchChat is a comprehensive, expressive application that has a wide variety of uses for people with communication disabilities.

“We foresee a time when Emily as an adult may be able to live semi-independently. She may perhaps even be able to hold down a job and will certainly be able to engage with others socially,” Judith said. “Emily loves the iPad and we couldn’t be more pleased. 

The day is coming soon when the iPad and its accessibility apps will be what all people with communication disabilities turn to meet their needs.”

The Eric Fund is thrilled to be able to make Emily Scott a pioneer in this groundbreaking effort!

2011Nate Nashawardee
Anthony Green
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Bob and Denise Green are wonderful advocates for their son, Anthony, who they call Tony. 

Tony, who lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, is deaf and has cerebral palsy, as well as some visual/perceptual difficulties and learning disabilities. Though he graduated from high school in 2007, Tony has been unable to attend college on a regular basis, receive job training or hold down a job, due to a variety of health-related issues – until now. 

The success of a recent surgery has made Tony ready, able and eager to begin a new chapter in his life. When his parents heard about The Eric Fund, they contacted us for assistance because they felt a grant from The Eric Fund would “significantly impact Tony’s ability to move forward, onward and upward!”

We at The Eric Fund agreed and were equally eager to inform Tony that he’d been selected to receive the Panasonic “Toughbook” (a durable laptop that can withstand drops and heavy use) and the Harris Communications interactive software that he’d applied for! The software that Tony received is designed specifically for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing and will enable Tony to interact more easily with the hearing population, which will have a profound impact on Tony’s professional and personal life. The software even allows for translation to Spanish!

When we recently spoke with Tony’s dad, Bob, they were together moving through the learning curve associated with the use of any new piece of technology. “Tony absolutely loves the technology,” Bob said.

“We look at this as a singular opportunity for our son to transition from a rather confined world to the larger community as an effective, independent, viable person,” said Bob. “Tony is highly motivated to obtain employment and communication is of major importance in helping him to reach his goal. These tools not only will provide Tony with practical, tangible benefits, they will also provide him with two things much, much, more important ... HOPE and a future.”

2011Nate Nashawardee
Dezmond Horton
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When five-year-old Dezmond Horton was recently observed using a Springboard Light Augmentative Communication Device, the evaluator was struck by the “pleasure that he displayed while using the device.”  

Thanks to The Eric Fund, Dezmond, an awardee from Washington, DC, will get to experience  that pleasure all the time when he receives his device and begins using it to communicate his needs independently in the classroom and as he goes about his daily routine. Dezmond has autism and his limited communication skills prevent him from fully participating in classroom activities with his peers at school. The Springboard Light Augmentative Communication Device will not only expand his ability to develop language and communication skills, but also enable him to make progress with his social development outside his immediate family and friends. 

2008Nate Nashawardee
Malik Studivant
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When 7-year-old Malik Studivant began using a Spring-board voice output device last school year, his expressive language skills greatly improved, according to his teachers. Now, The Eric Fund is happy to help Malik continue to grow and express himself with a Springboard device of his own that he can use at home as well as at school. 

Malik, who has autism, is being raised by his grandmother in Washington, DC. She said while she knows the equipment would make the world of difference for her grandson, the expensive price tag was beyond her budget.  

In the year that  Malik has been using the Springboard at school, his spontaneous verbal language has increased, and he has even been observed repeating speech output from his device. The Springboard will provide Malik with greater opportunity for functional communication and greater interaction with his teachers and peers.  He will also be able to make his wants and needs known, indicate his physical and emotional state and engage in social interactions with his peers and caregivers.  

In addition to working with his voice device, Malik enjoys music, puzzles, blocks and the computer.   He also enjoys gross motor activities, with examples of his favorites being the swings and slide on the playground, as well as interactive books, board games and cause and effect computer games. The Eric Fund wishes Malik every success with his new equipment.

2009Nate Nashawardee
Kathleen Thomas
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Kathleen Thomas has remained positive and courageous since she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Her involvement with the ALS Foundation has provided her with opportunities to use technology to learn to accomplish the tasks of daily living and also helps keep her focused on her goals and dreams. She relies on her loving and supportive family to meet her daily care needs which continue to increase as her ALS progresses. 

Kathleen is the mother of three high school-aged children whom she continues to help with their homework and care for to the extent that she is able. Until now, she has had to rely on an old laptop with switch access and amplified speakers to help her be more independent and to interact with her family. 

The DC/MD/ VA chapter of the ALS Foundation had provided the equipment and training that she needs to accomplish this, but they are unable to update the equipment to meet her changing needs. The Eric Fund is pleased to be able to provide Kathleen with EZ Keys software, and a new computer with an Intel operating system to run it on. EZ Keys XP allows the user to do everything from typing a letter, to engaging in conversation with a friend, to exploring the worldwide web and is used effectively by people with a wide range of disabilities. (World-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking uses the software to communicate and deliver lectures around the world.) With training from the local ALS chapter, Kathleen is getting more confident in the use of her new equipment every day and was thrilled to be granted the opportunity to increase her independence. 

As an awardee of The Eric Fund, Kathleen plans to use her new software and computer to continue to write poetry, assist her children with homework, and remain active in everyday life. 

2009Nate Nashawardee
Maggie Piet
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Maggie Piet is a 22-year-old woman that sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, resulting from a t-bone motor vehicle collision when she was 15 years old. 

Maggie has three brothers and lives with her parents.  Her mother Gail serves as her primary care provider and her father is retired and has extensive breathing issues. Maggie uses a speech device called an ECO to communicate. 

The Eric Fund, together with The Leap Grant thru Abilities Network, collaborated to provide the needed funding for a much-needed upgrade to her ECO device. The upgrade provides Maggie a bigger lighted screen, increased battery power, faster processing time and the ability to integrate with the technology at the local community college. The upgraded ECO gives many options for Maggie to select and respond faster, which allows for more natural exchange in conversation. 

Maggie is currently in a state-funded adult program that will help her earn a GED. She attends classes three days a week and is doing well. Once Maggie has a GED she plans to continue her education at the local community college and obtain a degree. 

On other days of the week, Maggie is involved in extensive physical therapy as she works on gaining control of her body and hopes one day to be able to walk with minimal assistance.

2010Nate Nashawardee
Fiona Angeline
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Karen Angeline was in the car in morning rush hour traffic when she got the call that The Eric Fund was going to be purchasing a text-to-speech word processor for her daughter Fiona. 

She was so eager to discuss the grant that she pulled off the highway so she could concentrate on the conversation!  And it's no wonder. 

Karen is a knowledgeable and vocal advocate for her daughter Fiona, a 16-year-old girl with Downs Syndrome and apraxia. She is currently involved in a dispute with the school district for not fulfilling its obligation to purchase a new text writer (a device that provides a speech alternative to hand writing) for Fiona, despite the fact that it's written in her IEP (Individual Education Plan). 

Fiona's disabilities combine to make writing and spelling very difficult for her due to low muscle tone. She is a bright girl with an excellent vocabulary and good ideas so when the text writer that she was using in school broke early in the year, it was assumed that she would quickly get a replacement so that she didn't fall behind in school – an assumption that proved to be incorrect. Karen turned to The Eric Fund for help get the equipment Fiona so badly needed when she reached a dead end with the school district.

Fiona is an active teenager who enjoys dancing and horseback riding. One of her primary heroes in life is Amelia Earhart, the legendary female pilot and aviation pioneer. Fiona's first exposure to Amelia Earhart was in the movie ìNight at the Museum II.

After seeing the movie she was so taken by her that she sought to read numerous books about the pilot and watched every movie she could find. She has even dressed up like her idol on Halloween! One of Fiona's favorite places to visit is the Air & Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Those who knew Eric and are familiar with The Eric Fund, know that Eric was passionate about flying as well, a coincidence that makes providing assistance to a girl like Fiona that much more gratifying.

Fiona's new Fusion Text-to-Speech communication device will enable her to interact more effectively with her family, friends and teachers at home, at school and at play.  Through a grant from The Eric Fund she is being given her own set of "wings" to help her fly higher!

2010Nate Nashawardee
Francis Bendu

Francis and Francess Bendu of Hyattsville, Md., are thrilled that their 9-year-old son, Francis Bendu, Jr. will receive a voice-output device from The Eric Fund to help him better communicate at home and in school and be in better touch with the world around him. 

Francis, who was diagnosed with autism when he was almost two years old, has limited verbal communication but will use the device to talk with his family and friends and share his thoughts and feelings with others. Francis’s school speech-language pathologist, Angela Mezzomo, worked with the Bendus to complete The Eric Fund application. “We have been trying to get a piece of equipment for Francis for over a year, but everyone else told us no. We were taking a shot in the dark with The Eric Fund and hoping you would understand what a kid like Francis needs,” says Mezzomo. 

Francis’s parents are looking forward to Francis communicating his thoughts and feelings more regularly with the entire family, including Francis’s older siblings, ages 27, 24 and 21, who regularly help care for and work with him. When Francis is not at school, he enjoys watching The Disney Channel, especially “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” and playing with his toys. The Bendus are dedicated to providing the best for their son and helping him learn the skills he needs to be more independent. “This will open a whole new world for him. This will change his life,” says Francis’s mother, Francess. “I am so grateful.”

2007Nate Nashawardee
Laura-Sun Cerfaretti
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Laura-Sun Cerfaratti is a bright, enthusiastic 22-year-old young woman from Annapolis, Maryland, who happens to be blind. The Eric Fund awarded Laura a Braille Note device to enable her to continue to excel at her job and to pursue her love of writing. 

Upon hearing the good news, Laura threw her hands in the air as if in victory and announced to all who were in the room, “I won the Eric Fund!”  

While attending the Maryland School of the Blind, Laura was able to use a BrailleSpeak  device, which eventually stopped working and is now an outdated form of technology. As with most devices provided by the school system, Laura had to return the device upon graduation,  leaving her without the device she had used to communicate with and explore the world for so long.  Laura said losing the use of the communication device, “left an enormous void in my life  
in which I am no longer able to express myself through writing.” 

Since graduating from the Maryland School of the Blind in 2007, Laura has been employed at a workshop and has had trouble finding more meaningful work.  She said, “I was surprised to hear back from The Eric Fund because so many times it seemed doors were being slammed in my face.”   Ideally, Laura would like to be an activity coordinator at a nursing home or similar facility
where she could utilize her musical keyboard playing and songwriting abilities.  The BrailleNote device will better allow her to express those talents, keep a calendar for appointments, record audio, listen to music, read electronic books as well as word processing and hopefully get that job she dreams of. 

2008Nate Nashawardee
Francisco Cabrera
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Since he was a young boy, 11-year-old  Francisco Cabrera has always been a great student and has loved reading books. But these days, Francisco has an easier time reading with his ears instead of his eyes. 

In 2007, Francisco suffered a seizure and was in a coma for a few days, when doctors discovered a brain tumor.  After many treatments and surgeries, Francisco is back at  his Catholic school in Washington, DC. He still loves books, but reading for even five minutes is now exhausting for the youngster. The Eric Fund is happy to provide Francisco with a special audio player and a subscription to Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic, so he can listen to his text books and any other reading material, thereby increasing his comprehension and continued success. 

“When I received your phone call, I said ‘This is another present from God’,” said Francisco’s mother, Bessie. As a single mom supporting Francisco and his older brother,  Bessie said she knew the device and reading service would help Francisco but it was financially out of reach. 
“This will help me because right now, I can remember things better if I hear it. If I read it, I forget it,” says Francisco, a 5th grader who enjoys history, music and drawing. 

Francisco’s resource teacher, Peggy Fleury, works with Francisco several hours a week. Peggy found out about The Eric Fund and worked with Bessie and encouraged her to apply for a grant for Francisco’s device. “The ability to listen to his textbooks and trade books on tape will give him the greatest chance to succeed,” Peggy says.

2008Nate Nashawardee
Regina Jackson
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”Motivation increased success.” This brief statement found in Regina Jackson’s communication assessment which was included in her application was key to the Eric Fund’s decision to award her with a new Flash Deluxe Kit Speech Generating Device (SGD). 

Regina, 10, is non-verbal as a result of cerebral palsy and mild mental retardation, and relies on facial expressions combined with crude vocalizations to communicate her needs. Her mother says that she is a happy child known for her big smiles which enable her to communicate her emotions effectively without words or vocabulary. Although her communication skills are significantly limited, the clinician who evaluated her language skills, commented during her evaluation, that “motivation incresased success.” 

Like other children her age, Regina enjoys using the computer and attending school. Her two biggest passions are riding horses, which she does once a week in the therapeutic riding class that she participates in, and swimming. It is our hope that her new Deluxe Flash Kit SGD will motivate her toward increased success on her journey toward independence!

2006Nate Nashawardee
Benjamin Glantz
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Benjamin Glantz is a happy and enthusiastic 14-year-old boy who loves school, and particularly likes reading and using the computer. Due to severe hypotonia and motor planning dysfunction, Benjamin relies on assistive technology for most of his communication, and without an augmentative communication device he has minimal ability to express his needs. 

Ben’s need for a communication device has never been greater. The outdated device loaned to him by the public school he attends was not replaced when it recently stopped working and Ben suddenly found himself unable to communicate, interact socially or participate fully in the classroom. 

The Eric Fund is very thrilled to be able to assist Ben and his family in securing a new Prentke Romich Vantage Plus augmentative communication device which will ensure his ability to thrive and maximize his potential not only in the classroom, but also at home and at play.

2006Nate Nashawardee
Emilia Prokop

Emilia Prokop, 21, is an ambitious young woman from Haymarket, Va., who has been awarded a laptop computer and Dragon to Speak software from The Eric Fund so she can communicate better and pursue her dream of helping children with disabilities. 

Emilia came to the United States at age 7, adopted from Romania thanks to guidance Emilia’s mother, Martha, received personally from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Martha was working between Virginia and Rome, Italy, for a priest who did some work with Mother Teresa. When Emilia’s parents found out they could not have children, Mother Teresa advised Martha to go to Romania where many children had been rescued by the church and were living in orphanages.  Mother Teresa told her to go there and find a child who looked Russian  because Martha’s husband was of Russian  decent.  Martha said as soon as she saw Emilia, who looked much like her husband, she knew she found her daughter. 

Emilia had been neglected and starved since birth and looked as if she were between 4-10 years old when the Prokops met her. She was 7.  

Those early years of neglect led to a speech/ language disability, stunted growth, and gross/ fine motor disabilities.  But with the support of a loving family, Emilia just “graduated” from high school with a certificate of attendance and will be home schooled to complete her high school diploma.  She also just received an “Alumni of the Year” award by the Youth Leadership Forum of Virginia, sponsored by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities.  

Emilia is a whiz with computers, but  unfortunately when she graduated from high school, her computer had to remain with the school system. Emilia is looking forward to the computer and software provided by The Eric Fund. She is excited the equipment will enable her to finish her studies, communicate better eventually to find a job and pursue her dream of training service animals for children with  disabilities.

2007Nate Nashawardee
David Robert Hagadorn

Four-year-old David Robert Hagadorn of Nokesville, Virginia, will be learning with some help from Einstein  -- Baby Einstein that is. 

David, who has numerous disabilities and developmental delays will receive a library of Baby Einstein videos and books form The Eric Fund to help him  follow 1 & 2 tier commands (i.e. – “show me the book”). 

David’s father is a U.S. Army captain and his mom is a homemaker. The family has another child and is on a fixed income and cannot afford these tools for David. The Eric Fund is happy to welcome David to its family of winners.

2004Nate Nashawardee
Shelby Tribull
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Elizabeth Tribull recalls the day her daughter’s life changed like it was yesterday. 

She remembers listening to the radio one morning and hearing callers talk about the then recent Columbine school shootings, with experts trying to allay parents’ fears about sending their children to school.

Elizabeth remembers hearing that a child was more likely to be hit by a car than be hurt in a school shooting. That very afternoon, that statistic hit home for Elizabeth when her daughter, Shelby, was hit by a car on her way home.      

Shelby spent three years in a rehabilitation hospital recovering. Now 13, Shelby is a wheelchair user and communicates using a voice output device. Shelby is a typical teenager – wanting to get out more, go to the mall, go to the movies and spend time outside of her home in Annapolis, Maryland.      

The Eric Fund is purchasing a collapsible transport wheelchair to help Shelby get out and about with ease. Her current wheelchair doesn't fit in the family car and is difficult to lift.      

“With all of Shelby’s expenses, our insurance money is usually gone by March,” said Elizabeth. “This (Eric Fund grant) is a big relief and we are looking forward to going more places and getting Shelby out more.” 

2004Nate Nashawardee
James Billian
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Thanks  to the supporters of The Eric Fund, James Billian, 14, of Rockville, Maryland, is getting some new computer equipment that will help him write and organize his thoughts.

James has Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD and learning disabilities, but is a computer wiz.  The Eric Fund is purchasing James a Co:Writer® SmartApplet keyboard, a portable computer device that allows James to write.  He will also receive Draft:Builder, a computer program that will help him better organize his thoughts and enhance his writing skills. 

James’s mother, Margie, said that he is now learning to write paragraphs and this new equipment will really help him maximize his potential. Already gifted on the computer, James enjoys creating computer movies with Flash animation.  He attended a camp last summer for computer animation and was so skilled, he was working at the college level.  

He is so computer literate that his mother would like him to start teaching her friends how to use a computer. In addition to enjoying the computer, James is an avid Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fan. Congratulations to James on his Eric Fund grant. 

2004Nate Nashawardee
Michele Johnson
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Michele Johnson is not the sort of person to take no for an answer. When she sets her mind to something, she plows full-speed ahead, determined to achieve her goal. 

Such is the case with Michelle’s search for employment. After her job search didn’t turn up any
offers, the 24-year-old Silver Spring, Md. resident, who has cerebral palsy, decided to pursue her lifelong dream and start her own art business. A budding artist since her teens, Michelle is in the process of creating a business plan and has already made prints of her artwork that she has sold at craft shows and bazaars to gauge the response. 

When Michelle and her mother, Peggy, learned Michelle had won an Eric Fund grant to purchase a Dynavox voice output device, Michelle signed her response, “Thank you for helping me make all my dreams come true.” She is looking forward to using the device to get her business up and running. She says the Dynavox will help her communicate with potential investors, suppliers and customers to help her business be a success, many of whom don’t understand sign language, which is her primary means of communication at the moment. A self-described “people person,” Michelle is also looking forward to using the device to maintain her existing friendships and make build new ones. “Being able to participate in social activities makes me feel more normal and accepted by others,” she says.

2005Nate Nashawardee
Lauren Boyd

The Eric Fund Grant helped make a very Merry Christmas for 18-year-old Lauren Boyd, said her mom Lesley, when she learned that Lauren had won an Eric Fund grant to purchase a Chat PC portable voice device that will help Lauren, who has autism, communicate more effectively. 

Lauren’s trial with the Chat PC at school went well, but since the device is costly, Lesley said as a single parent, she wasn’t able to afford the much-needed device for her daughter and had difficulty funding funding until she learned of the Eric Fund. 

When Lauren learned she would be receiving the device, she laughed and smiled. Lesley and Lauren’s teachers believe the Chat PC device will help Lauren build more social contact at school and in the community and will help her transition to a job more effectively when he graduates. Currently, Lauren works in two job placements per week at Outback Steakhouse and PetSmart. Lesley says the Chat PC will help Lauren communicate more effectively with her supervisors to get the most out of her vocational placement, which will put her in a good position to transition to a job in a couple of years and increase her independence.

2005Nate Nashawardee