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February 27, 2012

Imagine this?

Jazz pianist to team up with Aebersold at annual event

NEW ALBANY — Rauch Inc.’s annual Imagine Awards is much more than a fundraiser. It’s an eye-opening experience for many who attend the event.

The event helps put a face with Rauch. While most know about Rauch, few know about all of the things the organization does to help those with disabilities.

“We’ve been really successful with it ... it’s our main fundraiser,” said Rauch CEO Bettye Dunham. “It also helps us get out the word of who we are and what we do. The big thing is it allows us to recognize people in the community who are doing things to help people with disabilities.”

The 12th annual Imagine Awards begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Horseshoe Southern Indiana in Elizabeth. Tickets are $75 and are still available by calling 812-945-4063. The event kicks off Disability Awareness Month by presenting three awards to an individual with a disability, a community leader who has advocated for people with disabilities and an organization assisting people with disabilities.

Also, as in year’s past, an entertainer with a disability will perform. This year, 19-year-old jazz pianist Matt Savage, who was diagnosed with a high-functioning type of autism at age 3, will entertain the crowd. He taught himself to read and play piano music and is currently studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Savage was inspired by New Albany jazz legend and educator Jamey Aebersold who publishes play along books. Aebersold, and his quartet, will join Savage on stage during the event.

“It’s ironic because I called up Jamey to tell him about Matt and he knew him. Matt says he learned how to play Jazz through Jamey. The two of them will be brought together for the first time,” Dunham said. “It should be really special.”

Teressa Jackson, director of development for Rauch, said a talent agency helps find entertainers with disabilities each year for the event.

“They are a big help,” she said.

Another big part of the event is the silent auction. Jackson said there are more than 80 packages available to be bid on prior to and during the event. The items should be listed on Rauch’s website — www.rauchinc.org — this week.

“We try to focus on things that people can’t go out and buy,” Jackson said of the auction items.

The Imagine Awards benefit the Rauch Foundation while the golf scramble in August benefits Rauch Inc., Jackson said.

Besides the entertainment, auction and dinner, which includes filet mignon, crab cakes and a trio of desserts,  awards will be given out in three categories. The honorees include:

• Individual: Gregory Thomas Court, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and has relied on the full-time use of a wheelchair since age 8. His movement is limited to his hands and he is on a ventilator full-time. He completed his associate of science degree in computer graphics from the Purdue School of Technology. Following graduation, he established his own company, Designs-by-GTC, through which he fulfills graphic and Web design contracts. He also works to support other individuals with disabilities.  

• Community Leader: Geradine Schultze began her career as a speech language pathologist specializing in those that are deaf or hard of hearing. Working for the Department of Defense schools in Germany in the 1990s, she focused on preschool special education programs. Later, she pursued certification in early childhood special education and became involved in horseback riding therapy. She advocates for early diagnosis, intervention and education of children with special needs. Now the early intervention coordinator for New Albany-Floyd County Schools and building supervisor for the Children’s Academy Early Learning Center, she and the early intervention team have built a program providing a wide spectrum of services to all Floyd County preschool children and their families. The Early Learning Center provides evaluations and programs including speech, occupational and physical therapies and services for children with developmental delays, vision, hearing, orthopedic and multiple disabilities.

• Organization: Tunnel Hill Christian Church has held bi-monthly dances for adults with disabilities since 2005. Some of the dances draw 150 or more individuals. Church member families and a Boy Scout troop support the volunteer outreach. The impact of the events has rippled throughout the church community, resulting in involvement of members in Special Olympics, Sunrise Horse therapy, DADS [Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome] and gestures such as knitting hats and scarves as gifts for participants. Also important has been the connection among people with disabilities and between their parents, providing a vital opportunity for them to build a support network and friendships.

“I certainly feel like this event brings people of the community together who may not cross paths on a day to day basis,” Dunham said. “We always hear people say they had no idea what all we did, or some may know our name but have no idea what we do. It really does help us reach out to that group.”

While some corporate sponsorships are down this year, individual ticket sales are up, Jackson said.

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