People with Disabilities Overcome Odds - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

People with Disabilities Overcome Odds

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November 7, 2007

Albany - - An Albany group that serves people with disabilities is asking for your help. The Georgia Rehabilitation Association helps people with special needs get the services they need to function at home, get through school, and even work. But the only money the group gets is through private donations.

Once upon a time, everything was going great for Matthew Barnes.

"I was 14. I was real athletic. I was good in school, had a lot of friends."

Until suddenly, doctors discovered he had a complex brain tumor. After a 10 hour operation, things got worse.

"Three days later, I had severe strokes and cardiac arrest."

Barnes was left with a physical disability and limited activity of his hands. It didn't stop him.

"Even though you may not have the opportunity to choose what's put in front of you, you always have a choice on your attitude," Barnes says. 

He graduated high school, went to college, and then went back to get a Master's degree. He's a supervisor at a thrift shop. He also counsels people with disabilities on getting to work.

"Matthew's been a good representative for us," says Al Weaver with The Georgia Rehabilitation Association.

His group helped Barnes. The Southwest Chapter is a volunteer group of about 50 people. Many of them are employed by the state to work in advocacy full time, but a few go above and beyond to care for those in need.

"It's a wide range of services. Home modification, vehicle modification, assistive work technology," Weaver explains.

But they only have a small budget, and receive no government funding. They want others who believe in their mission to support.

"We help people with ramp building from time to time...we operate purely on donations and fundraising activities," Weaver says. 

Money they raise is put to good use. Just ask Barnes.

"It's just a blessing to me in a way because I get to help others," he says.

So with his awards of achievement hanging on the wall, he's inspired to keep at it, knowing someone else out there can also overcome their odds. Not letting a disability stop them from living.

Georgia Rehabilitation Association will hold its annual fundraising auction on December 14th. For more information on how you can help, just call their office at 430-4170.  

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