ELIZABETH – Community Access Unlimited (CAU) member Travis Neal has been named a 2011 Community STAR by the New Jersey Association of Community Providers, Inc. (NJACP). Neal was one of 28 recipients of the 2011 Community Star Awards at the association’s 12th Annual Community Stars Dinner held May 25.
Each year NJACP honors exceptional individuals with disabilities who “have overcome hardships to live independently in the community…(and) those who have overcome adversity to live a more dignified life in a myriad of community settings,” according to the association. The awards also honor NJACP member agencies that provide these individuals with human services assistance.
Neal has been a member of CAU since 2008. He was born with adrenoleukodystropy, also known as Addison-Schilder Disease which causes nerve fiber damage in the brain, and underwent multiple surgeries to stabilize his quality of life. Since then he has worked to maximize that quality and enjoy life to its fullest, according to Paul LaMaine, assistant executive director of CAU.
In 2009 Neal graduated high school at the Westlake School in Westfield. Wanting to work and earn money, soon after graduation he began working in CAU’s occupational training program. Still motivated, Neal also took a second part-time job working in the agency’s cafeteria and day program. He is saving money to one day buy a house.
“Travis has accomplished so much through motivation and consistency,” LaMaine said. “He is greatly inspired in his life.”
In his personal time Neal enjoys soap operas, talking to friends on the phone and shopping. “Now that he has a girlfriend he likes shopping even more,” LaMaine said.
Neal treasures life and what it has to offer him, according to LaMaine. He recently joined a church and sings in the choir every Sunday.
“It has been his way of saying, ‘I love my life and I enjoy thanking God for my accomplishments,’” LaMaine said.
Said Sidney Blanchard, CAU executive director, “Our core value and belief is that all people can be independent citizens participating in and contributing to the community. Travis encountered challenges early in his life, overcame them and adopted a philosophy that his life is a treasure to be valued and maximized. His is an attitude we all should have.”
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