Jehred Bennet wins Diamond Award

Jehred Bennet wins Diamond Award
Teri Stein

Jehred Bennet with his mother Christy.


Jehred Bennet, who has bettered his life through his work at the New Philadelphia Fire Department, was the winner of the Diamond Award, which recognizes an individual with developmental disabilities residing in Tuscarawas County for their bravery and effort to advocate for themselves and on behalf of others to achieve their dreams and encourage others to do the same.

The Diamond Award was one of four Better Together Awards given by the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities at its Community Partners Pancake Breakfast to celebrate DD Awareness Month on March 29 at Tuscora Park.

“Jehred was diagnosed at a young age with autism,” his mother Christy Bennet said. “And when he was younger, he would ask why he was different and didn’t understand why he was born with this diagnosis. As he got older and with the support of his family and friends, he learned that autism was a part of who he is, but not all of him. Jehred is the most kind and caring person.”

Jehred Bennet encourages his co-workers, family and friends to do their best and is the first to step in and help out when needed.

“Jehred has excellent leadership skills and works great in a team too,” Kim Chaney of Advocates for Success said. “In the last year, Jehred has flourished as a leader among his peers at Advocates for Success. He leads his peers in many different learning opportunities at Advocates for Success including a drawing class, a Marvel character class and a sports class.”

Other individuals with developmental disabilities who were nominated and recognized for their accomplishments were Samantha Smith, Ryan Flaherty, Chris Daniska, Christopher Morris and Lauren Clay.

William “Bill” Fitz was named the winner of the 2024 Standing Ovation Award, which recognizes a parent, guardian, sibling or someone who has stepped into the role of family to support their loved one with developmental disabilities.

“When a person other than yourself or another parent is devoted to your child’s welfare, happiness and well-being and their love is unconditional and their motives are selfless and they step in and stand in every single time, it’s immeasurable, a gift and a blessing, and it deserves a standing ovation,” said Chris Farnsworth, who along with her son Erickson nominated Fitz.

Others who were recognized for their nomination for the Standing Ovation Award were Barb McKim, Karla Neal, Cindy Margo, Brittney Ecenbarger and Mary Lingo.

Tuscora Park and RTY received the 2024 Ripple Effect Award, which recognizes a Tuscarawas County business or employer for contributing to the awareness that individuals with disabilities are crucial members of the workforce and can make an impact in a specific workplace and ultimately throughout the community.

“What they bring to this community has been amazing,” said Lou Paris, service and support employment navigator for the TuscBDD. The organizations have always been very supportive of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Accepting the awards for Tuscora Park and RTY were Greg Rees and Adam Fulton. Others recognized as Ripple Effect Award nominees were Giant Eagle and Joe Compton of the Little Theatre.

Jackie Putnam won the 2024 Better Together Award, which recognizes a standout direct support professional working in Tuscarawas County who demonstrates a dedication to improving the lives of the people they support while also promoting independence, equity and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities.

After a 30-year career as a teacher at Starlight School, during which she was named Ohio State Teacher of the Year in 2009, Putnam returned to the school as a substitute in 2014.

“When Starlight needed a teacher to fill in for 13 weeks of maternity leave and cover the intensive structure elementary class of seven students with intensive needs, Jackie was the first person called to fill the position,” said Kerri Silverthorn, community relations/special projects director at the TuscBDD. “Jackie said yes, a decision that would change Starlight School.”

Putnam has become the voice of encouragement for many struggling young teachers and students. Her students have succeeded in many endeavors thanks to her work. She continues to substitute at Starlight School.

Others recognized as nominees in the Better Together category were Loren Kalt, Farrah Raines, Jill Young, Dave Thomas, Mollie Parisi, Taylor Hosey and Marla Miskimen.

TuscBDD Superintendent Nate Kamban also reviewed some of the board’s accomplishments over the past year. Those included the addition of Lucinda Bihari as the first board member with developmental disabilities, increased respite for youth, the addition of school-age classrooms through a partnership with the ECOESC, the addition of two homes for youth with intensive needs and an early intervention community playground for children from birth to age 3.

The TuscBDD was awarded four grants in 2023 totaling $965,000 to enhance inclusiveness and independence for people with developmental disabilities in Tuscarawas County. The funds will be used for universal changing stations at Tuscora Park and Dover City Park, enhancement of educational programs for early childhood, technology-based assistive devices for people with DD, a technology home, and to increase access to translation support.

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