DAR Service Award - 2008
Nick Harris is DAR Community Service Recipient
Nick Harris, Georgia State Challenger Consultant, was honored recently by the James Waldrop chapter of the DAR with the 2008 Community Service Award for his outstanding work in Fayette County and throughout the state of Georgia to create better opportunities for children with mental and physical disabilities. His goal in life is to help people understand that children and youth with disabilities need to live normal lives and to be treated as members of the community having the same opportunities.
In 1995 Nick served as Chairman of the Commission of Children and Youth in Peachtree City, which focused on youth related issues. A gathering place was funded and a skate ramp was constructed.
His next focus was the need for a community recreational baseball field that children with developmental and physical disabilities could use. As the newly appointed Commissioner for the Challenger Division of Peachtree City Little League, Nick, with the help of others, founded the Fayette Field of Hope, Inc, a 501c3 non-profit organization to raise funds to build an all-accessible baseball complex, which allows children with developmental and physical disabilities to play Little League Baseball in its purest form. The surface of the field is a synthetic, rubberized surface, which allows wheel chairs, walkers, and blind children to run the bases with no assistance and play in a safe environment. This project allows the opportunity for over 30,000 children in the South Metro Atlanta area to play baseball. The Field of Hope Complex is also a community-based instruction opportunity for the school system to train and employ high school students and young adults with disabilities to operate the concession stand and to participate in other vocational work opportunities associated with a sports complex. Nick’s capitol campaign raised over $850,000 in four years. The Field of Hope was dedicated on October 2, 2004.
In 2005 the Peachtree City Challenger League All-Star team was selected to play in an exhibition game before the Little League World Series Championship game in Williamsport, PA. Again, fund raising to send 37 children and parents began. Through Nick’s hard work, sponsors for the trip took care of everything from air fare, transportation, meals, lodging, and extras, like bat bags with their names embroidered on the sides and new team uniforms and T-shirts.
Realizing that a mentoring group would be an important asset, Nick helped pioneer the pilot program for the Parent Mentor Partnership of Georgia through the GA Department of Education. Nick was selected to chair the Parent Mentor Partnership Alumni Association, a volunteer position. Also, as a volunteer, he mentors parents to help them understand the Special Education maze in local school systems. He was the first full-time Parent Mentor for the Fayette County School system. Nick developed PALS, which is a student-run organization that fosters relationships between students with and without developmental disabilities through one-on-one and group activities.
Nick’s son, Ethan, is a PALS club member and the manager for the Starr’s Mill High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team and their Varsity Girl’s Lacrosse team. Ethan hopes to continue in these positions, or one similar in the community, as a paid employee when he graduates from high school.
On the drawing board is a project to develop and build a planned community for adults with developmental disabilities. Sycamore Ridge will be located in either Athens or Gainesville, GA. The residents will have real careers, real homes, and life long learning opportunities, as any planned community resident would have.
Nick is the goalie coach for the Starr’s Mill High School Varsity Girl’s Lacrosse team in which his daughter is the midfielder. He sits on the Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities. He was a member of the Georgia Board of Education State Advisory Panel for Special Education for six years and chaired it for one year. Nick travels over the country talking to groups about the projects he has mentored and implemented in Georgia. He talks about how life for people with developmental disabilities can be like everyone else in the community participating as a productive citizen. Nick is very active in his church and has volunteered on different committees. He has coached the Fayette All Stars Special Olympic Softball Team for the past four years.
Nick Harris has been an outstanding volunteer in the state of Georgia and in his local community working to better the lives of youth with developmental disabilities. He has been a pioneer in developing and implementing mentoring programs and in the construction of facilities with multi-use fields for children and adults with disabilities.
Nick is very deserving of the James Waldrop DAR Chapter Community Service Award for 2008. We all thank you, Nick, for your efforts in our communities.