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Candles spread awareness and raise funds

4:18 PM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
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A local organization helping people with disabilities will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2013. But they're starting early with a project called Let Your Light Shine.

Danny Gonsalves is the youngest child of Kelly Gonsalves but she doesn't baby him.

"He's intelligent, he's social, he's very active. We've always raised him to be as much in the mainstream as possible," she said.

Her 28-year-old son has cerebral palsy.

A device helps him communicate and is vital for talking, writing, and his studies at Pellissippi state.

Danny Gonsalves used the device to say, "This works by pictures that we call icons and every one means something."

For about five years he's been a client at the East Tennessee Technology Access Center (ETTAC)

ETTAC lends him technology.

"We asked for a telephone that he could speak on with his speaker and they provided that for us," Kelly said.

Danny said, "Well, I was going into communication graphic technology and I couldn't use the Mac keyboard so they gave me a larger one."

But that's not the only benefit.

"It's not just the lending program. It's a lot of outside activities and inner activities that they provide for us that we really appreciate," Kelly said.

"Every Saturday we get together at the library to read a book," Danny said. "We just read Pinocchio and did a play this past Saturday."

ETTAC shines a light on the stories of people with disabilities. Battery operated candles will help with that effort.

Tracey Farr with ETTAC said, "There's a lot more awareness that needs to happen and if we shine a light on it through the sales of these lights and the stories like Danny's then people will understand how important it is to have a conversation with someone with a disability, make eye contact, and enjoy and include them in all ways possible."

The candles representing those people who let their lights shine will be available at the Celebration Of Lights in Market Square the Friday after Thanksgiving. Money raised will benefit ETTAC and other area non-profits.

"Breakthrough Corporation, Club Vibes, the Sunshine Ambassadors, Joni and Friends, and the Hearing and Speech Foundation," Farr said.

Those organization help people with disabilities reach their full potential.

Kelly said, "He keeps surprising me and I have no idea how far he'll go."

As Danny Gonsalves lets his light shine.

The Let Your Light Shine candles for disability awareness will be on sale through the end of the year.

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