More students in Howard County have an opportunity to learn about people who have disabilities and how they cope, thanks in large measure to the efforts of a restaurant in Owen Brown village.
Hunan Manor restaurant sponsored its second annual fund-raiser last night for the disABILITY AWARENESS project, a county public schools program that brings speakers and athletes with disabilities into classrooms.
About 350 attended the event, which raised an estimated $10,000, about one-third or more of the project's annual budget of between $25,000 and $30,000 and enough to finance programs for about 7,500 students.
Last year, the buffet Chinese dinner raised about $8,000 -- more than one-third of the project's $22,000 budget and financing programs for about 6,000 students.
Ellicott City resident LaDonna Rader attended the event with her daughter, Emily, 14, a freshman at Mt. Hebron High School who has learning disabilities and epilepsy. Ms. Rader visits county schools with the project about once a week, sometimes joined by her daughter.
"I've seen the program really grow, and I've seen it make a difference in a lot of people's lives in the level of understanding and awareness," said Ms. Rader, who has participated in the project for seven years, since Emily was diagnosed.
"I've seen it in Emily's life -- it really breaks down an attitude barrier that needs to be broken down tremendously," she said.
The unique aspect of Hunan Manor's fund-raiser is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the project, unlike most of the project's other fund raisers, said Anne Wade, project coordinator.
Hunan Manor operations manager Jesse Wong said the business, which opened in 1990, is pleased to "give back to the community that's been good to us. We'll continue to do our best in helping the community."
The restaurant and the disABILITY AWARENESS project were linked through Roger Caplan, owner of The Caplan Group Inc., a Columbia marketing and public relations firm. Mr. Caplan represents the restaurant and had worked with the disABILITY AWARENESS project on other fund-raisers.
The project, which was started in 1979, receives about one-third of its annual budget from the County Department of Education, and the rest from grants, donations and fund-raisers.
Speakers from the project, which visits schools upon request, tell students about their occupations and explain how they manage every day activities, such as driving and exercising.
They also put on demonstrations, such as wheelchair basketball. The project brings enough wheelchairs so students and teachers can participate.
The average school visit costs about $1,100 for equipment, such as wheelchairs and educational materials, and expenses for group of speakers, some of whom are eligible for stipends, said Ms. Wade.