“This morning we celebrate the everyday heroes who remind us that a disability is just a part of an individual’s story,” said Steve Taranto, director of Human Resources, at the fifth annual Breakfast of Champions, hosted by the Employee Disability Resource Group (EDRG) Nov. 16. This year, a record number of 19 nominees were recognized and celebrated for the 2017 Disability Champion Award. “The nominees today exhibit extraordinary commitment to disability issues and really do work that goes beyond their everyday jobs.”

Of the nominees, the winner of this year’s award was Lori Palley, DVM, assistant director of Veterinary Services. “Lori has been instrumental in coordinating the program that supports emergency walks and care for the service animals of patients with disabilities who cannot care for them while at MGH,” said Rebecca Coburn Bassi, senior Satellite Operations manager, in her nomination of Palley. “Lori amazingly is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and she selflessly goes above and beyond to ensure patients with these unique needs never have to worry about their animal lifeline.”

Palley – who helped found the program – continues to actively solicit more volunteers. When she recently shared the need for more volunteers, more than 100 employees responded to her call. Palley reached out to every one of these people to determine if they were good candidates and now is in the process of organizing interviews.

The breakfast also featured a reflection from Oz Mondejar, vice president of Talent Management for Partners HealthCare and senior vice president of Mission and Advocacy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network & Partners HealthCare at Home. “Thanks to the Disability Resource Group’s work, we are changing minds and changing hearts,” he said. “We are breaking down barriers and assumptions, we are learning so much more about each other by focusing on individuals’ strengths and their abilities, and we are making new friends.”

This article was published in the 12/01/17 Hotline issue.