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March, 2020


Dear Friend of The Arc of Northern Virginia,


March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that March would be set aside to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with disabilities.” In the 33 years since that first commemoration, we’ve seen a much greater emphasis on ABILITY of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). Sadly, we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to addressing the needs.


In honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, will you make a gift to The Arc of Northern Virginia?



Yes, I’m aware… that we have a crisis that is currently demanding most of our attention. Rightly so. The coronavirus epidemic poses a serious health threat. But for individuals with a disability or families caring for a medically-fragile child, it’s more than a run on grocery stores and shortages of toilet paper. For many of the families we serve, this is truly a life-or-death situation.


Our families need help in the best of times. For the mother of a child with a compromised immune system, this pandemic health crisis creates frightening new challenges:


“This is terrifying to me…. for my precious boy. Have asked the powers that advocate to pressure Medicaid to allow us to order more than a 30 day supply of EVERYTHING he needs for the next few months (or longer). Also they have a rule that if we don’t use our nursing/Personal Care Attendant hours in a 30 day period we would lose Medicaid. I’m worried if we keep having 4 nurses and 1 aide come in each week he will catch this novel virus and die. Scary day.” 


Those “…powers that advocate to pressure Medicaid…” that she speaks of, are The Arc of Northern Virginia and our partners across the commonwealth. But this crisis is making a bad situaiton worse for so many Virginians.


Are you aware… that Virginia remains 39th among the states in providing community supports for citizens with ID/DD? Even with the recent expansion of access to Medicaid programs, even with additional funding in the recently passed state budget, more than 12,000 Virginians will still remain on waiting lists for access to needed services.


“Waiting lists?” you ask. Unfortunately, yes!  And the waits are painfully long.


Melissa describes herself as a “rock-star disability advocate,” despite the fact that she suffers a number of conditions that cause paralyzing seizure like episodes, migraine headaches, curvature of the spine, and tumors. Despite her learning disability, she graduated high school with a regular diploma and an achievement award in chemistry. She attends a day-support program, and enjoys therapeutic horseback riding, while she continues to languish on the state’s Medicaid Waiver wait-list.


These are just two examples of the hardships families are facing right now. Of course, if you are a parent, caregiver, or family member of someone with an ID/DD, you know the difficulty. You know how important community organizations like The Arc of Northern Virginia are to the services and supports your family relies on.


What do these families do while they wait? Privately, they stress, cry, and worry about the financial toll. Publically, they put on a brave face, roll up their sleeves, and search for the best possible alternatives and answers. These are the families that turn to The Arc of Northern Virginia – and YOU – for support.


To support advocacy that speak on behalf of your friends and neighbors, will you make a gift to The Arc of Northern Virginia?

Your gift is extremely important because it offers immediate resources that are directed to current needs and opportunities right here in northern Virginia, like the chance for this young man to Your contribution to The Arc of Northern Virginia is a lifeline to our neighbors with ID/DD – and their families and caregivers.  Every day, we help families access information, find providers, connect to direct services, make long-term caregiving plans, use supportive technologies, and most importantly, find a sense of community with other families in similar situations. Together, we ALL have a role to play in ensuring that all of our young people and adult children have the opportunity – when this is all said and done – to live “A Life Like Yours.”
Let me share a story that illustrates why we ask you to join us in the fight for full inclusion:


“Our amazing son Steven is 35 years old, intellectually disabled and has a communication disorder which makes language very difficult for him. Yet, in spite of these issues, Steven’s greatest love in life is being with and interacting with people. Although Steven does attend a wonderful day program now, that was not always the case. Years ago there was no place for our son to go, nor did not have the money to send him anywhere.  He sat upstairs in his bedroom playing on his iPad. He became very depressed. One day, my husband and I toured an old, historic home built in the 1800s.  In the attic was a tiny room with a window. I asked what the room in the attic was for and was told that the room was for a disabled adult who lived with the family.  He was kept up there with a servant away from people. I turned to my husband and said, “Not much has changed in 200 years has it?” Thinking of our son sitting up in his room with his iPad.”


Observances like Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month remind us of the incredible potential that people with ID/DD possess. From artistic talents to brilliance in science and math, from sharing their light and love to helping others. Crises like the current epidemic remind us all of what our families know every day; the fragility and uncertainty of life, and the need to care for others as we care for ourselves.


Join us to make possible all that The Arc of Northern Virginia does.
Please make a donation today.  Our work and our families depend on you.



Thank you in advance for supporting our mission to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.


With a grateful heart,

signatures of Lissy John and Rikki Epstein







Elizabeth “Lissy” John                               Rikki Epstein
Board President                                       Executive Director


P.S.: This current crisis has also forced the cancellation and postponement of two of our significant fundraising events.  While it is unquestionably the right thing to do, those decisions have a significant impact on our organization, and the families we serve. The Arc of Northern Virginia is determined to keep helping our families, but we can only do so if we receive your support.






For more information on supporting The Arc of Northern Virginia, please contact
Howard Stregack, Director of Development, at 703-208-1119 ext. 102 or email

The Arc of Northern Virginia (Tax ID# 54-0675506)