Arc of Shelby spotlights Langner during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

PELHAM – More than 5 million Americans and about 121,000 Alabamians are estimated to have a developmental disability or delay. Since 1987, March has been designated as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a time to teach the importance of inclusion and accessibility for people living with a developmental disability.

Jennifer Ellison, director of development for the Arc of Shelby County, a nonprofit located in Pelham that annually serves more than 1,500 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said telling the stories of those the Arc serves continues to be one of the most powerful ways to create awareness.

Ellison said public awareness and education enhance a community’s understanding of the issues affecting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Sharing stories like that of 21-year-old Johnathon Langner of Calera helps the public to see that people with disabilities can have meaningful and full lives. Langner is an Eagle Scout with Troop 558 and a graduate of Project SEARCH who now works as a nursing assistant and surgical technologist at Brookwood Baptist Shelby Medical Center.

He transports patients, cleans and prepares surgery rooms and does whatever else is needed in the surgical department. Langner said what he likes best about his job is making new friends and seeing different people every day around the hospital. Some of his favorite co-workers are Jackie, Brock, Keisha and Kelsea.

In his spare time, he volunteers at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, cheers on his beloved Auburn Tigers and is an avid runner. He started running with his dad in 2010 just for fun but stuck with it because he enjoyed it so much. He said running is a great way to exercise and stay healthy, and that it gives him more energy during his busy work week.

He completed his first half-marathon, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in Orlando, Florida, in January 2019 and just ran the Montgomery Half Marathon earlier this month. His next race will be the Disney Star Wars Half Marathon in April.

The Arc’s mission is to empower individuals with developmental disabilities and delays and their families to live happy, successful and productive lives in the community of their choice.

The Arc’s program that Langner graduated from, Project SEARCH, is a transitional program for high school students who are between 18 and 21 years of age and are in their last eligible year of high school. They participate in three 10-week internship rotations at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center. Within the internships they learn various job skills that will help them gain competitive employment within the community once the program is completed.

Project SEARCH is a partnership between the Arc of Shelby County, Shelby County Schools, Brookwood Baptist Medical Center and the Alabama Department of Vocational Rehab. This year, the Arc is celebrating its 45th anniversary of serving individuals with developmental disabilities.

For more information about the Arc, go to Thearcofshelby.org or visit their Facebook page, “The Arc of Shelby Co.” For more information about National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month go to Nacdd.org/ddam-2/.