During times when many people are focused on their own struggles, humble community advocates serve as a reminder that life complications can be solved with determination.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident John Britton served as this source of inspiration when Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) presented him with the annual Spirit of ABIL Award on March 29.
Britton's trials with cerebral palsy are not apparent when skimming over his resume of accomplishments in the community.
Phil Pangrazio, executive director of ABIL, saluted Britton for just that.
"His (Britton's) extreme involvement in the disability community and his ability to promote awareness in the Phoenix-metropolitan area by being an advocate at legislative events and council meetings made him the perfect candidate for this award," Pangrazio said.
Britton is the president of People First of Arizona, central region co-chair of the Self-Advocacy Coalition, committee member for Alliance for Full Participation, treasurer and region II representative of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, treasurer of Federated Human Service Co-Op, and a participant in the This is MY Life program at ABIL.
Britton was flattered by the unexpected award.
"It is awesome because I just do what I normally do in my life," he said. "It was a great surprise."
Britton's optimism and appreciative attitude make him an ideal leader in the ABIL community.
"I talk to different people to see what might be helpful, I use my connections in the community to access their knowledge to help others," he explained. "I build personal relationships in the community and like to hands-on help them get what they need."
Britton has worked at the Ahwatukee Foothills Target at 48th Street and Ray Road for the last 10 years, using his amiable qualities there as well for positive interactions with customers.
"I love meeting people, helping them get what they want and keeping the store organized," he said.
Britton became involved with ABIL about five years ago, a few years after moving to the area in 2004 from his hometown of Lincoln, Ill. He has become close with project manager Lynn Black, who helped Britton through the This Is MY Life program to become increasingly involved in the community.
"The This Is MY Life program helped me to increase my self-determination and self-advocacy skills, and let me share what I know with others," Britton said.
"I help Lynn present to other disability groups about my advocacy experiences."
In 2007, Britton was hit by a car while going home from work in his wheelchair, leaving him with injuries that lasted for three years because he was misdiagnosed. Eventually, he had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his shoulder, but it still bothers him today.
"I really don't like to be laid up since I'm busy," Britton said.
And this is evident from his spare-time activities. He loves to volunteer, go to the movies with his fiancée, go for "walk-n-rolls," and even skydive.
"ABIL is great at letting people share their talents and helping them be independent," Britton said of his overall experience with the support community.
"I am so inspired; maybe I will apply to be on the ABIL Board!"
See ABIL's services and opportunities at their website, www.abil.org.
• Erin Sullivan is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.