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Unsung Heroes: Greg Gaines and Lisa Slattery[Part_2]

Greg Gaines is the Region D Mass Care Coordinator for the Homeland Security Oversight Committee and a Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteer. But he went above and beyond the call of duty recently when he witnessed an accident on I-44 west of Springfield. Lisa Slattery is a tireless advocate for disabled children in Springfield. She formed the group ANJEL for parents of disabled children and was instrumental in forming the Special Education Parent Teacher Association in Springfield.

When Lisa Slattery's middle child was born 13 years ago, she knew her life would change. But she didn't know then exactly in what ways that would happen. Peter was born with cerebral palsy—the result of a difficult birth. From his birth was born a passion inside Slattery to stand up for those who are different.

8 years ago, Slattery started planning a networking and support group for kids with disabilities and their families. The first meeting of ANJEL (A Natural Journey to an Empowered Life) was held in March of 2001. About 50 families took part in that group until last year. Slattery says there are 2 other groups in Springfield offering similar services—Family Bridges and the Special Place, so ANJEL was dissolved last year.

But Slattery didn't take that as a sign to take a breather and focus on herself. She turned her sights to something else.

Along with Dawn Rethman and Dusty Skidmore, she formed a special education parent teacher association (SEPTA) in Springfield last year.

The organization meets at various locations in Springfield. So far, SEPTA—which, according to Slattery is the first such organization in MO and in the Midwest—has 102 members. That's double the number it had in the fall, so the organization is growing.

Slattery says they're working on collaborations with PTAs that are already in place at each school.

SEPTA has 3 goals: to increase understanding and acceptance in the community and in the school system of the needs of disabled children; to get parents more involved in what's happening in the school and in the community; and to raise funds to help support the needs of disabled students in schools.

Slattery has long felt a need to be involved, she says, especially when it comes to being an advocate for disabled children.

Lisa Slattery says speaking up didn't come naturally for her, but because she feels so passionate about standing up for the rights of those who are different, she learned how to do it. She has some advice for anyone who would like to make a difference in their community but isn't sure how.

To find out more about SEPTA, go to