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Join The Fight for People with I/DD and Their Families!

rally“We are in the fight of our lives” is how Peter Burns, Executive Director of The Arc of the U.S. characterized the proposed federal government changes to Medicaid that would strip $800 billion from the program that largely funds all states’ home and community-based supports for people with developmental disabilities.

As disastrous as those potential changes at the federal level are, TARC, an affiliated chapter of The Arc, has been deeply concerned about the devastating effects of recent and proposed budget cuts by the State of Oklahoma on services and safeguards for people with developmental disabilities.

As a result, TARC is ramping up its public policy advocacy efforts to more effectively work with Oklahoma legislators and other influential decision makers to support legislation and funding that will assist individuals with developmental disabilities to have a better quality of life.

To assist with these efforts, TARC received a $15,000 challenge grant from The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation to help further the agency’s efforts to advocate for people with developmental disabilities.

The grant is helping fund a Public Policy Coordinator leading TARC’s public policy agenda by assisting in identifying emerging issues and helping craft agency’s public policy agenda, interacting with interested and committed individuals and coalitions to develop and implement action steps to address these issues, cultivating and mobilizing grassroots advocates in support of the agenda, and communicating TARC’s issues and priorities as a public speaker in the community.

Join the fight! Additional help is needed. You can assist our advocacy efforts by becoming a TARC member. All membership fees will be used to support public policy advocacy by TARC staff as they reach out to decision makers at the State Capitol. Members, in turn, will be assisted by the agency in their own outreach efforts to communicate their desires to their elected representatives to provide the necessary funding for the critical needs of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.


Joey Travolta headlines 27th Annual Advocacy Awards

Joey Travolta
Joey Travolta

“In high school, I was always the protector of kids with special needs,” said Joey Travolta, the keynote speaker at the 27th annual  Advocacy Awards and Volunteer Recognition event scheduled for Dec. 7, 2017 at the Marriott Hotel Southern Hills in Tulsa.

That protective instinct became a motivating force in shaping Joey’s future career choices. He went on to earn a degree in special education and became a special education teacher. Born into a show business family, Joey, older brother of John, became a performer in 1978 as a recording artist with Casablanca Records and then stared in several feature films.

He has directed and produced more than 20 films, including the documentary Normal People Scare Me, while mentoring a 15-year-old boy with autism who directed the film. In 2007, Joey founded Inclusion Films which involves individuals with special needs in the process of making films.

Joey will share his passion for helping students with  intellectual and developmental disabilities develop self-esteem, confidence, and creativity through acting and digital film making.

This year’s Advocacy Award winners are:

  • Advocate – Board Member – Terry Trego (Woodward)
    Recognizes a member of the board of directors of any non-profit, community based service provider who has gone beyond the interest of his or her agency to become an advocate for all people with disabilities.
  • Advocate – Case Manager – Sonya Rios (Tulsa)
    Recognizes the OKDHS/DDS case manager who has surpassed job requirements to advocate for his or her clients.
  • Advocate – Direct Care Provider – Kerrie White (Noble)
    Recognizes the direct contact staff person working for a community provider, who has gone beyond job requirements to advocate for people with disabilities.
  • Advocate – Educator – Carolyn Piguet (Vinita)
    Recognizes a public school educator who has promoted the inclusion of children with disabilities in regular school settings.
  • Advocate – Professional Provider – Kim Wotring (Tulsa)
    Recognizes any professional such as a therapist or physician who advocates for people with disabilities beyond their professional responsibilities.
  • Advocate – Volunteer – Helen Taylor (Tulsa)
    Recognizes the volunteer or group of volunteers who, in a program serving people with developmental disabilities, has gone beyond the call of duty to advocate.
  • Self-Advocate – Donald Smalley (Vinita)
    Recognizes the self-advocate who has spoken out for all people with disabilities.
  • Media Advocate – OK Watch (Norman)
    Recognizes the media professional who has effectively promoted better understanding and integration of people with disabilities living in the community.
  • Parent Advocate – Erica Herrera (Oklahoma City)
    Recognizes the parent(s) of a person with developmental disabilities who has been a voice for all people with disabilities.
  • Special Achievement in Advocacy – Individual – Ed Long (Oklahoma City)
    Recognizes the individual, business, or organization not included in other categories, which through a significant advocacy effort has improved the lives of people with disabilities.
  • Special Achievement in Advocacy – Group – True Blue Neighbors – (Tulsa)
    Recognizes the individual, business, or organization not included in other categories, which through a significant advocacy effort has improved the lives of people with disabilities.
  • Catalyst of Change – Judith Leitner (Oklahoma City)
    Recognizes individuals, groups or  organizations that have been catalysts for significant positive change in improving the lives of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities over a long period of time.
  • Catalyst of Change – Jenifer Randle (Oklahoma City)
    Recognizes individuals, groups or  organizations that have been catalysts for significant positive change in improving the lives of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities over a long period of time.


TARC Receives Telly Award

tellybronzelargeTARC and Flying Colors Media were the recipients of a Bronze Award in the Not-for-Profit category at the 38th Annual Telly Awards for the video production of “Cheryl and Christian—A Mother’s Story”.

The video tells the story of how Cheryl Srader, with the help of TARC, became a powerful advocate for her son, Christian who has spina bifida and other disabilities. (Watch the video on our homepage.)

Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding content for TV and Cable, Digital and Streaming, and Non-Broadcast distribution. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world.


TARC selected for national special educational advocacy curriculum project

TARC is one of 10 chapters of The Arc of the U.S. selected to participate in a pilot project to create a training curriculum that will be used nationally to train parents and others how to effectively advocate for special education services.

TARC was chosen for the project largely because of their more than 20 years of experience and expertise in doing effective special education advocacy.

Sherilyn Walton, TARC’s Family Support Coordinator, provides this service and is well regarded by schools and parents for her expertise. She is a licensed clinical social worker and was a general and special education teacher for several years.

As a result, she not only understands the laws affecting special education and what is required, but also  can relate well with school personnel.

“We are honored and excited to have been chosen to participate in this important project and lend our knowledge and expertise in the development of this national training curriculum,” said TARC Executive Director John Gajda.

“Training others on how to be effective advocates for special education services fits perfectly with our philosophy on advocacy. Sherilyn not only attends meetings with parents, she teaches them how to be effective advocates so they can continue to advocate for their child throughout their school experience,” he added.

The special education advocacy training curriculum developed by this pilot project will be specifically designed for the nearly 700 state and local chapters of The Arc to help prepare chapter staff to effectively train parents and others to advocate on behalf of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in special education matters.

The training curriculum will discuss how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 programs apply to individual students participating in these programs as well as advocacy strategies to address potential concerns at each step of the special education process to ensure students receive a “free and appropriate public education.”

Thanks to funding from TAUW and generous donors, special education advocacy services provided by TARC are available to families in the six counties (Tulsa, Creek, Okmulgee, Osage, Rogers and Wagoner) served by TAUW.

TARC has provided this service in 79 public schools and three charter schools in 17 separate school districts.

For more information on this service and others provided by TARC, call   (918) 582-TARC (8272).


Call to Action: Write Your Legislators Now!

Tell OK lawmakers: End special interest tax giveaways for oil & gas companies!

Oil & gas companies have been benefiting from special interest giveaways at the expense of education, public safety and services to people with developmental disabilities and other vulnerable populations for too long. Working Oklahoma families deserve so much better.

Tell lawmakers: It’s time to take the gross production tax back to 7%, which is still lower than other oil producing states. Click HERE or below for a quick and easy way to contact your state legislators.


Take Action Now!

On April 18, the Oklahoma Policy Institute stood alongside more than 20 nonprofit, grassroots, and professional organizations (TARC was one of those organizations!) representing hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans on the front lines of public service and community engagement at a press conference at the Capitol to ask lawmakers to address our state’s universally-known revenue and budget problems by adopting the Save Our State Budget.

This budget was built on the belief that Oklahomans deserve a budget that will place Oklahoma on a sustainable path by getting away from budget gimmicks.

  • Place Oklahoma on a sustainable path by getting away from budget gimmicks.
  • Prevent drastic cuts to state services.
  • Invest in core government services like education, public safety, healthcare, and transportation.

The budget is a responsible three-year blueprint for a better budget based upon the following principles:

  • Address the overall budget situation, not just the public education crisis. The plan ensures there will be enough revenue to avert further budget cuts and invest in key priorities.
  • Acknowledge revenue is part of the problem and modernize the tax system while ending special interest giveaways.
  • Look beyond the current crisis and propose realistic solutions to structural budget problems plaguing the state.
  • Propose reforms to budgeting practices that will increase legislative oversight and reduce the potential for future revenue failures.
  • Model the transparency we believe our elected officials should adopt.

From the TARC perspective, this budget addresses the critical need to continue existing commitments to individuals with developmental disabilities already receiving services and expanding services to those on the DDS waiting list for Waiver Services. This proposed budget embodies the advocacy goals we have set for TARC.
The full budget plan can be downloaded at the Save Our State website at
The website has a “take action” link in the upper right corner. Please make use of this resource as well as contacting your legislators and asking them to support this plan. People with developmental disabilities and their families will benefit.


22nd Annual Shot In The Dark Golf Tournament


The 22nd Annual Shot In The Dark Golf Tournament is scheduled for Friday, May 5, 2017* at MeadowBrook Country Club, 9300 E. 81st St. Registration will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the tournament will begin at 9 p.m. Participants will also enjoy dinner, $10,000 putting contest, live entertainment, silent auction, and more.

This unique tournament is played at night with glow-in-the-dark balls and glow sticks marking tee boxes and holes. Golfers will tee off in teams of four at the 9 p.m. shotgun start. All holes are reset to par three and the golfers navigate the course playing nine holes.

All team spaces have been filled at this time for the tournament.

For more information please call 918-582-TARC (8272).

*Rain Date: May 12, 2017

Dress code: Collared shirts. No jeans.


OKC Wings for Autism®

TARC in partnership with Oklahomans 4 Autism Insurance Reform!, Will Rogers World Airport, Delta Air Lines, Speech Pathway LLC, Full Circle Developmental Center, Stanbro Healthcare Group, and Uptown Kids will host Wings for Autism® on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Wings for Autism® is an airport rehearsal program specifically designed for individuals on the autism spectrum, people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families. The program gives families the chance to experience the process of taking a flight. Families arrive at the airport, check in at the ticket counter and receive their boarding pass, go through TSA security, and board a plane.

To register for this event, please click here.

State Discontinues Funding for ARCCorps Program

Oklahoma Developmental Disability Services has announced the cutting of guardianship services beginning July 1, 2016 by limiting eligibility to Hissom Class Members and a few select other individuals. After 20 years, the privatization of a portion of this program through a contract with TARC for the ARCCorps Program has been discontinued due to reduced DHS funding as mandated by the Oklahoma legislature. All services currently provided by the ARCCorps Program staff would become the responsibility of state employees at DDS, despite the fact that the area Guardianship Coordinator positions were eliminated in the first round of DHS staff reductions and Case Management staff has been reduced.

This action raises several concerns about protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities served by the State. Currently ARCCorps volunteer coordinators   provide ongoing support to 676 volunteers. Case Managers within DDS will become be responsible for providing continued support to volunteers. For many individuals served by DDS, the ARCCorps volunteer is the only individual not paid to be part of their life and serves as a critical safeguard.

“We are concerned that some of the currently matched volunteers will not be able to continue to be involved without the availability of support from TARC staff,” said TARC Executive Director John Gajda. ARCCorps staff routinely send out approximately 500 reminders each year to volunteer guardians and assist them in preparing the annual reports they are required to submit to the court. DDS will not continue to provide timely reminders to volunteers that they have reports due. Teams in DDS areas throughout the state have already completed a number of capacity assessments that have determined that an individual is not capable of providing consent and is in need of a guardian. These individuals have already been referred to TARC and any volunteer responses received will be referred back to DDS.

TARC has operated the ARCCorps program since 1996 after DDS staff were unsuccessful in meeting the need for volunteer guardians and advocates. The ARCCorp program staff has been matching minor children in the custody of DHS being served by Child Welfare with volunteer guardians so they can transition to DDS and the Child Welfare case can be closed. The elimination of the ARCCorps program may impede implementation of the Pinnacle Plan that has been imposed on DHS by the Federal court.

“These are challenging times that threaten the progress we have made in Oklahoma for people with developmental disabilities and their families,” Gajda said. “TARC remains committed to its mission to advocate for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their rights to receive the assistance they need and deserve in making their lives the best they can be,” he added.


Wings for Autism


Wings for Autism logoTARC in partnership with Tulsa International Airport, Allegiance Air, and Therapy & Beyond hosted Wings for Autism® on Friday, September 23, 2016 at Tulsa International Airport. Participants were guided by staff from TARC, TIA, Allegiant Air, TSA, and volunteers through the boarding pass pick up, security screening, and actual boarding processes.

Wings for Autism® is especially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families and aviation professionals. Originated by the Charles River Center, a local chapter of The Arc, Wings for Autism™ is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air.

The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtain boarding passes, go through security and board a plane. Wings for Autism® also gives airport, airline, Transportation Security Administration professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment.

This experience is equally useful for families that have a member with other intellectual or developmental disabilities that are concerned about the ability of their family member to travel.