Saturday, December 20, 2014 · 3:08 p.m.

DisAbility Awards honor triumphs of area individuals and businesses

Keynote address by comedian Al Foxx tells crowd to live with integrity and feel thankful

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Angela Allen was one of several individuals honored Thursday during a special luncheon held in conjunction with Disability Employment Awareness Month. Contributed photo.

2011 AWARD WINNERS

Employer Awards

Blood Assurance, YMCA, Chattanooga Times-Free Press

Service Award

Orange Grove Community Participation Program

Employee Awards

Tracy Woods, Signal Centers

Danny Cuvin, Memorial Hospital

Chritstal Helton, Target

Maurice Jones, City Parks&Rec

David Carroll, Good WIll Industries

Theresa Johnson, Regal Cinemas

Darran Suggs, Erlanger

Keith Lumpkin, Shaw Industries

Kenneth Chamber, Bi-Lo

Ray Edwards, Memorial Hospital

James Long, Warner Park Recycling

Anthony Crompton, YMCA

Justin Rongey, VW

Angela Allen, TN Aquarium

When Angela Allen was 14 years old she was crowned homecoming queen of her high school class.

Looking forward and feeling beautiful, young Angela could not have imagined the turn her life would take just a few hours after the dance that left her on top of the world. 

Allen was caught in a house fire and, while her family managed to escape the flames that engulfed their home and memories, Angela was still inside, struck by a burning ceiling beam and knocked unconscious as the fire surrounded her body.

Severe burns to her skin and lungs left her in a coma for three months. After suffering a stroke she was also left with a severe speech impediment.  

But 26 years later, her injuries and impediment are no match for Allen's huge welcoming smile that greets co-workers and visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium as a visitor services associate. She has enjoyed the position for the past 11 years, after surviving years of rehabilitation and being told by her doctors she would never be able to hold down a job again.

Allen is one of 15 area employees and three employers recognized Thursday at the 11th Annual Disability Awards Luncheon honoring Hamilton County workers and workplaces. The event and awards are presented by the Chattanooga Area Employment / Southeast Placement Consortium. The awards luncheon is one of 18 events occurring across the state of Tennessee during Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Al Foxx, who survived a catastrophic motorcycle accident when he was 18 years old, gave the keynote address that centered around a message that "attitude power beats physical power."

After his accident, Foxx was told he would never speak, walk, work or drive again. With years of extensive physical and speech therapies, Foxx turned his "crisis" into a career in comedy, winning the 2000 Giggles Comedy Club Laff-off in Seattle, Wash. Foxx chose to use his talents and abilities delivering humorous and insightful speaking engagements rather than stand-up at bars and nightclubs.

"Your disability isn't a crisis. It's a calling. So do your disability responsibly," Foxx told the luncheon crowd at the Chattanooga Convention Center. 

All persons and places nominated received awards this year, according to Carol Martin, manager of the Chattanooga Area Employment Consortium. The individual stories of those recognized at the luncheon ranged from persons living with lifelong disabilities to those whose lives were transformed after spine and brain injuries, late onset blindness and loss of hearing.

"If employers think so much of an employee that they take the time to nominate him or her that is good enough for us," Martin said.

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