We are excited to welcome eight new members to our 2019-2020 National Sibling Council! They bring a wide range of expertise and passion and we are fortunate to be working with them for the next term year. The Sibling Council fosters active involvement of siblings of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in The Arc’s grassroots advocacy efforts nationwide. Meet our new council members and learn more about why they joined the Sibling Council and what motivates them to promote and protect the rights of individuals with I/DD throughout the country!
Caitie Jones, Alaska
Caitie’s brother, Chris, has Down syndrome and lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Caitie has been a very active member of Chris’ support team and she has been working in the disability field for five years. Currently, Caitie is the Family Partner at Hope Community Resources, Inc., assisting families in accessing resources throughout the community and is working on opening a center where families of kids with disabilities can come together for support. Caitie joined the sibling council to connect with other siblings and to continue advocating for people with disabilities.
Cameron Kell, Missouri
There are several reasons Cameron wanted to join The Arc’s National Sibling Council. First, Cameron is grateful for the work The Arc has done to benefit his brother, Nathan. As an advocate, Cameron wants to play a role in The Arc’s efforts to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD across the country.
Karen McDowell Downer, Tennessee
Karen’s sister, Mindy, is 61 and lives in a residential facility in their hometown. As Mindy’s sister and supporter, Karen wants to advocate for positive change in the continuity of her care and support systems. The most important issue Mindy currently faces is staff turnover among her direct service providers (DSP) and licensed professional nurses (LPN) due to their insufficient pay. Karen believes that this issue among DSPs and LPNs are representative of late in life issues people with I/DD will face — this is when siblings must step up.
Kim Keprios, Minnesota
Kim is the proud sibling of Mike Keprios, her constant teacher of what matters, how she found The Arc and her rewarding career with the organization. Kim is grateful for the collective efforts of The Arc to change policies, attitudes, and lives with and for people with I/DD, their families and our communities. New challenges emerge with our aging demographics growing. She is committed to the advocacy work The Arc is leading and raising awareness of unique needs siblings face. The Arc’s National Sibling Council provides Kim the opportunity to serve, connect with siblings, and advocate with and on behalf of people with I/DD.
Mary Valachovic, Massachusetts
Mary is the Executive Director of The Arc of Greater Plymouth in Plymouth MA. Although Mary has over 25 years of work experience supporting people with disabilities, her true journey began when her brother Matthew was born. Matthew has significant disabilities and has served as Mary’s inspiration over the years, both personally and professionally. It is Matthew that led her to The Arc’s National Sibling Council. At age 12, Mary became an active member of her local chapter youth group and her passion continues to this day. She is committed to the power of listening to people with disabilities and their families and is honored to serve on The Arc’s National Sibling Council.
Nayma Guerrero, California
Nayma joined The Arc’s National Sibling Council because she knows that her role as a sibling is very important in the life of her brother, Eric who has Autism. Her passion and eagerness to advocate for others like her brother is one of the main reasons she is active with The Arc. Nayma hopes to make a difference in her community and to continue encouraging other siblings to become involved and a part of their siblings’ lives.
Rachel Hafner, North Dakota
Rachel is the Executive Director of The Arc, Upper Valley in Grand Forks, North Dakota. She was 13 years old when her brother Timothy was born. Sibling issues have always been very important to Rachel and have been the catalyst for the work she does as a professional. Rachel hopes that by serving on The Arc’s National Sibling Council, she can help shine a light on the important role siblings play in the lives of their brothers and sisters throughout their lifetime.
Sandra Tucker, Colorado
Sandra is the Executive Director at Sibling Tree and her brother, David, is on the Autism spectrum. Sandra joined The Arc’s National Sibling Council because she believes that the sibling voice is important and needed in order to advocate for the unique needs of siblings, as well as the needs of brothers and sisters with I/DD.