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Heart Award: Exemplifies Disability Rights Wisconsin’s value of Diversity – improving the lives of people with every kind of disability and background throughout Wisconsin. Honors a person or firm who has made an extraordinary contribution to advancing the quality of life of people with disabilities throughout Wisconsin with kindness, sensitivity, cultural competence, and awareness of past trauma.

 

Delores SallisTo know Delores Sallis is a privilege and a gift. She is someone who fully lives life with a sense of community, compassion, empathy and mentorship. She is not only the matriarch of her family, but has opened her heart to hundreds of other families, individuals and neighbors within and outside the disability community. Delores has made it her mission to support this community in every way she can, which is why she founded “Parent University” in Milwaukee.

In a short time, she has created a valuable local community resource that inspires, supports and lifts up more than 300 African American families who have children with disabilities living in Milwaukee. Parent University provides supports so that families can stay together and gain access to the resources they need in their home community, as well as learn how to become leaders and advocates.

Parent University was not Delores’s first contribution to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities in Wisconsin. She has driven miles out of her way and has spent countless hours to make sure that families have housing, that system leaders hear what changes are needed, that schools understand what families need, and that medical professionals understand what community supports can provide.

Brenda WelseyOur second Heart award winner, Brenda Wesley, serves as Director of Education and Outreach for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Milwaukee. She has been a champion in addressing the mental health needs in the African American community by working to educate the community and policy makers, and helping increase access to care, including establishment of the African American Outreach Program; ASK (Access, Support & Knowledge). Brenda is the author and director of Pieces: In My Own Voice, a theatrical production which shares the stories of those who live with a mental illness.

Pieces has been performed all over Wisconsin, including in many schools. Brenda has also played a lead role in training law enforcement and other first responders on how to respond to a mental health crisis as a trainer for CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training. Brenda has become active on policy issues and serves on the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board where she has been a strong voice for increasing access to culturally competent mental health services. Her understanding of mental illness is based on her lived experience as the mother of a son diagnosed with schizophrenia.