The Arc of Sedgwick County is celebrating its 60th anniversary Monday and Tuesday.
People who have been involved with the nonprofit organization are invited to a celebration Monday night and a dance on Tuesday. Peter Berns, the CEO of The Arc of the United States, is a featured guest at both events. Sedgwick County’s organization is one of 700 throughout the nation.
In 1953, parents of children with developmental disabilities in Sedgwick County had few choices. They could either place their children in institutions or keep them at home and cope the best they could.
Wilma Martin and a handful of other Sedgwick County parents decided they could do better. Martin served as the first board president in 1953. Her daughter, Judy, then a 12-year-old with developmental disabilities, was in Park Elementary School.
The idea for starting the Arc came to Martin after she saw a 1951 Ladies Home Journal article about the National Association of Retarded Citizens. Martin thought a local effort might be important for the Wichita area. Through an article in The Wichita Eagle, she sought out other parents of children with disabilities, and soon they banded together to form the Arc of Sedgwick County.
At that first meeting, 27 people showed up. Their first goal, Martin told The Eagle in 2003, was simply to make people aware of the possibilities for their children if given the appropriate education and training. Parents gave interviews with local media, civic groups, churches – anything to raise awareness.
“This was a grassroots movement that started in local areas,” Martin told The Eagle in an interview when the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary on Feb. 27, 2003. “We had a lot of help, and there is satisfaction in seeing something done. ... But the biggest reward has been through all these years seeing her (Judy) with her friends at parties and going on little day trips.”
For more information on the Arc’s 60th anniversary events, call 316-943-1191 or go to www.arc-sedgwickcounty.org.