On October 19, the Los Angeles County Commission on Disabilities (LACCOD) also referred to as the “Heart of Disabilities” held its 33rd Annual Access Awards ceremony, honoring 11 outstanding individuals and organizations for their exemplary contributions to advancing accessibility and inclusivity in the community. Hosted by Erik Miller, Executive Director of the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, the event brought together VIP attendees, including county officials, to celebrate the remarkable achievements of those making a significant impact across the county.
The Master of Ceremonies, Erik Miller, skillfully guided the proceedings, setting a tone of recognition and appreciation. Chaplain Pablo Lopez led the invocation, setting a reflective and grateful atmosphere, while Omoze Osagiede’s rendition of the National Anthem added a touch of elegance and patriotism to the occasion. Dr. Laura Trejo, Director of the Aging & Disabilities Department, along with LACCOD’s President, Carlos Benavides, and 2nd Vice President Ray Pizarro, provided a warm welcome and opening remarks, emphasizing the importance of the event in acknowledging the tireless efforts of the disability community.
The essence of the ceremony was the recognition of 11 outstanding awardees, with two honorees chosen from each Supervisory District, as well as a recipient of the prestigious President’s Award. Among the recipients were Long Beach City Councilwoman Mary Zendejas; Lourdes Caracoza, Chief Executive Officer of Alma Family Services; the Friendship Foundation; Disability Community Resource Center (DCRC), Reverend Andrew (Andy) Bales, M.A.T.; SoCalGas; Public Matters; Lisa Mosko Barros; John ‘Rick’ Watts; Judi Clarke; and Anita Ghazarian, OD.
The ceremony was graced by the presence of esteemed VIP attendees, underscoring the significance of the Access Awards. Christina R. Ghaly Director, of LA County’s Department of Health Services; Jim Zenner, Director of Military & Veterans Affairs, Nick Ippolito, Assistant Director of DPSS, and Alvin Brewer, Acting Fire Chief for the LA County Fire Department who added to the prestige of the event. Additionally, several Board Deputies from each Supervisory District were in attendance, including Anthony Cespedes, Marina Escobedo, Amanda Laflen, Maral Karaccusian, Nick Holden, Julia Mockeridge, and Monica Banken, demonstrating the county’s commitment to supporting and recognizing efforts in the disability community.
The 33rd Annual Access Awards not only celebrated individual and organizational achievements but also underscored the importance of fostering a community that values and supports inclusivity for all. As the awardees were honored for their remarkable contributions, the ceremony served as a reminder of the ongoing work required to create a society where accessibility is a fundamental right. The dedication of the LACCOD and the commitment of the VIP attendees showcased a shared vision for a more inclusive Los Angeles County, where everyone, regardless of ability, can thrive and contribute meaningfully to the community.
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