Gwendolyn Harshaw Gahanna, Ohio
Mother, Advocate, Volunteer, Speaker, and Peer
Over the past 20 years, Gwendolyn Harshaw has worn several hats, many at the same time. As a mother and advocate, she pursued services, information, and networks to ensure her son with autism and others with developmental disabilities had access to opportunities to live their best lives. Through speaking engagements and volunteer roles with various organizations, she has offered guidance, provided hope, and built families’ confidence and capacity. Gwen lives by a motto that life should be “lived through the spectrum of potential, promise, and purpose”. A belief for Gwen that promotes individuals’ interests and encourages a vision for possibilities, which is evident as she puts another hat – marketing director and number one fan – of her son, an amazing guitarist, and his band, Blue Spectrum.
Margaret Burley Family Impact Award
Named in honor of Margaret Burley, former executive director of the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities for 39 years, the Margaret Burley Family Impact Award recognizes a professional or parent who has made a significant impact on the lives of families of those with disabilities. As a parent herself of a son with disabilities, Margaret advocated for her son’s right and ability to learn, grow and be a contributing member of their community. Under her guidance and the guidance of others, the Ohio Coalition went from one part-time director to an agency with more than 25 staff members and a $2.5 million budget.
The nominees of the Family Impact Award have served as mentors, coaches, advocates, and/or connectors for families and have demonstrated ongoing and continuous passion, dedication, and support for families.