John Hicks, director of MLS training and outreach at Central Virginia Regional MLS, is the 2011 recipient of the Terry McDermott Community Leadership Award for his work with the Joni and Friends camps for children with disabilities.
Joni and Friends was established in 1979 by Joni Eareckson Tada, who at 17 was injured in a diving accident, leaving her a quadriplegic. Since its inception, Joni and Friends has been dedicated to serving people who are affected by disability, whether it is the disabled person, a family member, or friend.
Because of volunteers such as Hicks, the Joni and Friends camps can care for disabled children for a week, while giving their parents some much needed free time. “We were parents like these,” says Hicks. “My first son, Jesse, was born with severe disabilities. His life, his personal and medical needs dominated our family’s lives for the next 10 and a half years, until he passed away in 1991.”
Hicks and his wife, Cathy, have taken their personal vacations to attend the camps for nearly 11 years. “We had been well trained in the 10 years of Jesse’s life to help care for children and for families dealing with disabilities,” says Hicks. “It is not a free vacation. You will work harder than you may have in a long time. But you will come away with far more than you were able to give.”
Back at his association office, Hicks shares his experience at the camp with his coworkers and posts photos on the staff intranet. “If I had the opportunity to speak to the REALTOR® community as a whole, in addition to encouraging them to visit the Joni and Friends Web site, I would also encourage them to reach out to a family they know that has a child with a disability. Offer to care for their family member for one day, or one evening, or even overnight. Someone did this for us once, and it was a miracle and a blessing.”
Hicks will be recognized at the AE Institute in Dallas, March 19. The $500 charity donation Joni and Friends will receive as a part of Hicks’ McDermott recognition
is already earmarked for one family to attend next year’s camp.