Joni Eareckson Tada, known for her advocacy on behalf of the disabled, will be honored with the prestigious Wilberforce Award during the annual Wilberforce Weekend held March 30-April 1 in Lansdowne, Va. The award is named for William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who fought for 26 years to abolish slavery in Great Britain, finally succeeding with the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.
Chuck Colson, who hosts the BreakPoint radio program, said Tada was selected for the award because she — like Wilberforce — has persevered and sacrificed to fight social injustice and to transform culture. “She is a defiant, inspirational, joy-filled rebuttal to those who would assault the sanctity of human life,” Colson said.
Presented by the Board of Directors of Breakpoint/The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, the award honors those who share Wilberforce’s passions and principles:
* Making a significant impact on the social ills of the day through personal effort, skill, and influence;
* Showing perseverance and selflessness in combating injustice, even to the point of willingness to sacrifice personal comfort, career and reputation;
* Making positive change in the values and character of society — “reforming manners” — through personal witness, example and education;
* Serving as an exemplary witness for Christ.
“I think anyone who knows her would agree with me that these award criteria describe Joni perfectly,” said Joni and Friends President Doug Mazza. “We are pleased that she has been singled out for this honor and appreciate Chuck Colson and Breakpoint’s recognition of Joni’s contributions.”
Following a paralyzing diving accident in 1967, Tada’s faith helped her to persevere and become a successful artist using her mouth to paint and draw. The publication of her story in the book “Joni” and in various media outlets led to an outpouring of response from others impacted by disability and in need of encouragement. Tada founded Joni and Friends in 1979 to fulfill this purpose.
Tada served on the National Council on Disability during the period when the Americans with Disabilities Act was adopted, making recommendations on legislation that would have a direct impact on individuals with disabilities. She also served on the Disability Advisory Committee to the U. S. State Department and continues her role as a leader regarding issues that affect the value of life, such as health care reform and stem cell research
“When I look at the list of previous recipients of the Wilberforce Award, I am awed and humbled to be in their company,” Tada said. “They are senators and congressmen, doctors and bishops and ambassadors. I am overwhelmed to be included in their number, but am grateful for any recognition that helps further our work at Joni and Friends and the promotion of the biblical worldview.”
For more than 30 years, Joni and Friends has worked to accelerate ministry to the disability community, offering a wide array of life-affirming ministries to people with disabilities around the world. Joni and Friends does this through the Christian Institute on Disability; the International Disability Center; international radio and television programs filled with inspirational stories; Wheels for the World, which every year sees thousands of individuals receive wheelchairs and the life-giving message of the Gospel; and Family Retreats, where families affected by disability learn they are not alone.
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