Raleigh, NC (November 29, 2022) - Three North Carolina leaders in disability advocacy were honored at the annual Advocacy and Leadership Awards presentation during the November meeting of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) in Cary, NC.
The three prestigious awards — The North Carolina Leadership Achievement Award, Jack B. Hefner Memorial Award, and The Helen C. “Holly” Riddle Distinguished Service Award — honor their namesakes and those who continue to carry out important political and community work to enhance the lives and opportunities for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (I/DD).
The North Carolina Leadership Achievement Award: R.V. Kuser
The North Carolina Leadership Achievement Award, which recognizes an outstanding North Carolina self-advocate whose work has improved the quality of life for people with I/DD, was awarded to R.V. Kuser of Winston-Salem. Having worked as a developmental specialist and autism coordinator, Kuser has traveled the state speaking about autism and schizophrenia. He is the author of two books: Challenged But Not Defeated, Strategies for Coping with Autism and Schizophrenia and Weight A Minute! Lessons a Family Learns Thru the Gift of Autism. He is a board member on the Winston-Salem Mayor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities and Solutions for Independence.
Jack B. Hefner Memorial Award: Kerri Eaker
The Jack B. Hefner Memorial Award honors family members or volunteers who advocate for a more inclusive, understanding, and supportive local and state community for people with I/DD. This year, the award was presented to Kerri Eaker of Asheville. Recently retired, Eaker served as the family support and outreach coordinator for Mission Health System. Among her many impactful roles, she was appointed chair of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities in 2012, a founding member of North Carolina Families United. She served as co-chair of the Cleveland County Children’s Collaborative. She is the mother of a son with disabilities and has traveled the state sharing her experience, knowledge, and ideas on disability advocacy.
Helen C. "Holly" Riddle Distinguished Service Award: Matt Herr
The Helen C. "Holly" Riddle Distinguished Service Award recognizes professionals who have made lasting contributions towards improving opportunities, breaking down barriers and promoting increased quality of life for people with I/DD in North Carolina.
This year, the award was given to Matt Herr of Raleigh, Assistant Division Director for System Performance for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Herr helped to draft and implement Executive Order No. 92, Employment First for North Carolinians with Disabilities, to increase opportunities for fair wages, employment, and careers for individuals with disabilities in state government.
While previously serving as a policy attorney for Disability Rights NC, Herr acted as a lead lobbyist in passing Raise the Age. This legislation ended the state’s practice of automatically prosecuting 16 and 17-year-olds as adults, disproportionately impacting youth with disabilities and youth of color. Herr has also been a thought leader in reforming guardianship laws in the state. He assisted during the launch of the NC Empowerment Network — a group of people with disabilities who work together to advocate, empower, and affect change throughout North Carolina.
Talley Wells, Executive Director of NCCDD, said, “It is our privilege to recognize these amazing individuals who have impacted great change for people with disabilities in the state of North Carolina. Through their vision and efforts, their advocacy work has helped everyone, those with and without disabilities, understand the importance of collaboration in creating and promoting independence, productivity, and inclusion in all areas of community life.”
About the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities: The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) works to assure that people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families participate in the design of and have access to needed community services, individualized supports and other forms of assistance that promote self-determination, independence, productivity and inclusion in all areas of community life. Through its Five-Year Plan, the Council identifies and funds innovative projects and initiatives that promote the goals of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) for all North Carolinians. www.nccdd.org