During March, the City of Fishers recognizes National Disability Awareness Month with a series of special events and initiatives. These celebrations are a time to champion inclusion, collaboration, and acceptance for all people who live in our city!  

This year, The Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability is honoring five outstanding individuals through the annual 2022 Inclusion and Accessibility Awards. All recipients have been nominated and selected for their commitment to inclusion and exceptional contributions to the community. Join us in celebrating the legacy of each award winner!  

Carter Gordon

Life without Limits Award Winner, Carter Gordon

The recipient of the Life Without Limits award is an individual with physical and/or intellectual disabilities who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to the community of Fishers by promoting inclusion, independence, and eliminating barriers.  

Carter is a student at Fishers High School and is greatly involved in the community, from scouts to volunteering at the Fishers AgriPark, and more.    

Tell us about yourself. 

I have been in scouts since first grade and became an Eagle Scout when I turned 18. I am very athletic and like to participate in sports. I am involved in Champions Together, Unified Track, and flag football. I am also on the Indy Twisters hockey team and have played hockey for about 10 years. I volunteer at the Fishers AgriPark, Humane Society of Hamilton County, and Hub & Spoke. I like planting seeds, feeding animals, taking care of cats, and helping sort things. 

What inspires you?  

I am inspired by helping others, because it makes me feel good. 

What do you love most about Fishers? 

There are lots of fun things to do in Fishers. I like running the Spark 5k, going to concerts at the NPD AMP, and watching fireworks. I also love all the people at Fishers High School. 

Why is Disability Awareness Month important?  

It is important because people with disabilities can accomplish a lot. They are very talented, and we need to give people a chance.   

June Barnes
Ron Sutherlin

Cornerstone Employer Award Winners, June Barnes & Rod Sutherlin of Geist Elementary School  

The Cornerstone Employer Award is given to an individual, business, or organization in the Fishers community who has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to providing inclusion, career training, employment, and/or advancement opportunities to persons with disabilities.  

June Barnes is the cafeteria manager at Geist Elementary School and Rod Sutherlin is the physical education teacher there. Both have served as mentors to students with disabilities and are committed to providing inclusion by helping students work to set goals, attain independence, and aim for their highest potential.  

June Barnes, Cafeteria Manager 

Tell us about yourself.  

I am a mother of two boys and have lived in Hamilton County for over 20 years. I started working for Noblesville Schools and transferred to HSE Schools two years ago. I started at Fishers High School and moved to Hoosier Road Elementary, and now am blessed to be at Geist Elementary School.  

What do you love most about Fishers? 

Of course, my favorite thing about Fishers is just that… my job. I have an amazing staff and am so grateful to have two of the best workers working for me. I don’t look at Ryan or Stephanie as having a disability, they are just hard workers who love their jobs.  

What inspires you?  

When I am surrounded by positive people who push past their limits, it inspires me to be better.  

Why is Disability Awareness Month important?  

Disability Awareness Month is important to me because I want others to know what these young men and women are capable of. I want them to feel included and to know that there are opportunities out there. The sky is the limit! The more awareness that is brought to people with all disabilities, the better this world will be. I have experienced nothing but great things and feel the students at school are learning to treat them as equals. If you want to smile more, surround yourself with these amazing individuals. 

Rod Sutherlin, Physical Education Teacher 

Tell us about yourself. 

I have been a physical education teacher since my wife and I moved to Fishers in 1992. I chose to teach physical education at the elementary level so I could watch children grow and learn over a span of five years. Teaching physical education also gives me the opportunity to work with a very special group of students who face many challenges. Although I don’t have any formal training in Special Education, I hope the lessons I have learned while having a son with Cerebral Palsy have given me a better understanding of the needs of all students. 

What do you love most about Fishers? 

Moving to Fishers has been an amazing journey for our family. We were blessed to have our children be a part of Hamilton Southeastern Schools. I have nothing but positive things to say about how our children got the best education they could possibly get – especially our son, Cole. The move to Fishers gave us the best possibility for Cole to be happy in school. 

What inspires you? 

I have always wondered if I was in the right place and receiving this award shows that I am working in a great school in a great community with lots of amazing people.   

Why is Disability Awareness Month important? 

Including all students in class activities is very important to our staff and administration.  It is always my goal to make each student with any type of special need feel like they belong. 

Christian Hamm

Cornerstone Employer Award Winner, Christian Hamm of Smoothie King 

Christian Hamm, owner of Fisher’s Smoothie King, is an inclusive employer who actively seeks to employ those with different abilities and values diversity in abilities in a team setting.  

Tell us about yourself. 

I have been with the Smoothie King brand for over 5 years. Prior to opening our store in downtown Fishers, I spent 10 years teaching 6th grade in Hamilton Southeastern Schools, where I was blessed to support over 1,000 students in their social and academic development. I most enjoyed seeing the success that was experienced by those who, though they may have struggled, persevered through the challenges they faced to produce understandings and results.   

What inspires you? 

I am most inspired to serve other people. When I reflect on the most rewarding experiences, it always focused on serving the needs of others. Whether I was a teacher serving students and families, or owning Smoothie King, I have felt most rewarded when I see opportunities to be a part of someone else’s growth and success.  

What do you love most about Fishers? 

I love that the Fishers community is focused on being healthy and active. When you look at the various amenities in the community, there really are so many opportunities to take care of yourself mentally and physically.  The City’s emphasis on mental health, paired with our brand’s mission of “Inspiring people to live a healthy and active lifestyle,” – it just made sense to be part of serving this community.   

Why is disability awareness month important? 

When we opened our store, I wanted to find ways to provide an environment where people with disabilities might be able to contribute in a positive way to what we were doing. We were fortunate to have two students that were part of our team. We strive to give these individuals an opportunity to grow skills that will help them in future career opportunities and feel valued as part of our team.  We are all unique individuals with our own strengths that can contribute to a team when placed into the right position. 

Tom Rich

Accessibility Award Winner, Tom Rich 

The Accessibility Award recognizes an individual, business, or organization in the Fishers community that has made exceptional contributions to advocate and eliminate barriers in aspects of community life to ensure persons with disabilities can access and participate in programs, activities, and events.

Tom Rich is the former Fishers Art Council President and works to promote artists with intellectual or physical disabilities. In previous years, he coordinated the March Disability Awareness Month Arts Showcase to represent his belief that art is for everyone, no matter your ability.  

Tell us about your background. 

I went to college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and started teaching in 1965. After seven years of teaching, I moved into administration and became the Staff Development Director. Following that, I joined with a partner to found the Fairfax Center for Continuing Education, where we promoted graduate training for teachers and businesses. I also worked for the Air Force Times as an editor and the Washington Post as a free-lance writer and a distributor before coming to Indiana in 1994 where I joined my brother in electronic sales as a manufacturer’s representative. Then, in 2000, I became one of the owners of CH Ellis, a manufacturer of industrial cases where I was the National Sales Manager. I retired from there in 2016 after the company was purchased. 

What inspires you? 

What inspires me is being part of a vibrant community that strives to promote arts and culture to all our residents and visitors. I love working with the Fishers Arts Council, the Fishers Arts & Culture Commission, and the City to create a friendly, inclusive environment. For the past six years, I have worked to promote the arts for all.  

What do you love most about Fishers? 

I appreciate that the Mayor appointed a taskforce that is leading the development of an art center and community center. We have one of the best park systems in the country (in my opinion), and we strive to create art and culture events for all of our citizens. 

Why is disability awareness month important? 

Disability awareness is very important to me, and this award is probably one of the most cherished awards I have received. We talk about inclusion in Fishers, and city leadership is committed to providing an environment that allows those with disabilities to be a part of the larger community. 

March is important because it is an entire month devoted to reminding us of the importance of making our city more inclusive. 

 

Learn more about March Disability Awareness Month, see the full lineup of events, and find out how you can be an ally for disability inclusion and show your support for this initiative with our digital toolkit, Ally kits, and language guide at fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness.