RHD Lifesharing Participants Garner Accolades at 18th Annual Celebration Awards

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Join us in celebrating Paul Ahner-Hein, Holly Wilkinson, and Jeanette Loch, participants at RHD Lifesharing and esteemed award winners. But these are not just any awards. Every year, the Celebration Awards recognize the amazing achievements of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Lehigh and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, the community gathered at the Lehigh Valley Hotel and Conference Center for the 18th year of the awards. Unlike previous years where one Lifesharing participant garnered recognition, this year marked a milestone as three program participants received acknowledgment for their remarkable personal and professional advancements.  

The day commenced with a delightful catered lunch, setting a warm atmosphere for the celebration ahead. Ben Hartranft, an impassioned autism advocate from Montgomery County, delivered the keynote address. With eloquence as well as humor, Hartranft shared his remarkable journey. He received his diagnosis at the age of two, when he possessed only a limited vocabulary. He has since become Homecoming King, a winner on The Price is Right, and much more. His narrative resonated deeply, underscoring the transformative power of resilience and the boundless potential inherent within every individual, regardless of the challenges they faced. 

The heartfelt accolades bestowed upon the deserving recipients were central to the ceremony. Paul Ahner-Hein captivated the audience with his journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Through introspection and determination, Paul has learned to advocate for himself and communicate his thoughts and feelings. As a result, he has become more confident and is now kinder to himself. His growth, both personally and socially, reflects a profound sense of strength and courage. 

Holly Wilkinson has overcome challenges and emerged an inspiring young woman. Not content with just her own success, she often lends her support to others. She recently offered comfort and guidance to a new roommate who was initially struggling to adapt. Through speaking engagements with the Lehigh Valley Supporting Families Collaborative, Holly shares her story and progress since joining Lifesharing. 

Confronting her fears head-on, Jeanette Loch fearlessly championed for her vision of a fulfilling life. She exemplifies the importance of self-determination and the profound impact it can have on one’s journey toward empowerment and fulfillment. She gave a brief, powerful speech, thanking RHD, Lifesharing, the county, and her provider. “I’m honored to receive this award. Thank you all for supporting me, so I can feel safe.” 

As the ceremony drew to a close, amidst applause and heartfelt congratulations, the significance of the Celebration Awards resonated deeply. The ceremony conveyed a poignant message of inclusion, perseverance, and community support. The stories of Paul, Holly, Jeanette, and countless others remind us of the transformative power of empathy, understanding, and acceptance. 

RHD Lifesharing offers community-based residential services, unlicensed home and community habilitation, and respite services for people with intellectual developmental disabilities and/or autism. Host families share their homes and life experiences with carefully matched individuals. Your support will help them continue this important, life-saving work. To learn more, visit www.rhd.org/program/rhd-lifesharing.