The event was hosted by KING-TV personality Chris Cashman and featured Shaquem Griffin, linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, whose keynote address reminded the crowd why inclusion is so important: all his life, he’s accomplished things people told him he couldn’t do.
Griffin lost his hand at age 4 due to amniotic band syndrome. His family treated him just like anyone else, but other people were another story. Once at a Little League playoff game, a coach told him, “‘Football is not a one-handed sport.’ But I played that game. I got my first ever interception and took our team to the championship,” Griffin recalled.
Today, “There are people who say, ‘This guy’s an inspirational story, not a football player,’” Griffin said. “I don’t look at myself as a person with a handicap. I look at myself as a person who works his butt off to get the things he wants out of life.”
The William O. Ellison Award, named for the founder of our business partner Value Village to honor a community member for philanthropy and inclusion, was awarded to Pacific Office Automation. Regional vice president James Pierson (shown to the right with our CEO Gene Boes and POA branch manager John Bigelow) urged businesses to find employees through Northwest Center Employment Services. “The amount of value that your clients and the Employment Services team gives has been amazing,” he said.
The crowd also enjoyed a video of former client Connor Doran’s triumphant audition for America’s Got Talent (where he eventually placed twelfth nationwide).
Pacific Office Automation regional vice president James Pierson and branch manager John Bigelow accept the 2019 William O. Ellison Award from NWC President & CEO Gene Boes.
As Griffin so powerfully stated, “We all wake up in the morning and look ourselves in the mirror, and the only person looking back at you is you. The only one who can dictate what you’re going to be is you. The only person who can tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is you.” The people who attended this year’s Golden Hearts Luncheon responded with a resounding, “YES!” And we couldn’t be more grateful.
Read Connor’s story on the Northwest Center blog and watch his America’s Got Talent audition here.