“People are afraid to ask me to volunteer; they’re afraid to ask for my help.”
Gerard B. “Gerry” Counihan says he has encountered this his entire adult life. Born with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Gerry lives independently in a small townhouse on Capitol Hill. Recently retired from Federal Government service, he reflects on some of the frustrations he has had trying to give back to his community as a person with different abilities.
“I have been blessed with people helping me along the way with my life challenges. Often, when I try to do the same for others, they seem taken aback that a guy who walks with a cane and struggles with some things that they find easy wants to help them; they are reluctant to accept.”
Gerry fights that stigma every day – less with words and more with deeds. He often takes public transportation to volunteer at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall, greeting veterans brought to Washington DC on the Honor Flights.
He is a hospital Chaplain, a community volunteer, has served as a volunteer member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, has been a member of the Board of Directors of Best Buddies Capital Region serving young people with different abilities and currently serves on the DC Mayor’s Council on Persons with Disabilities.
“Having a disability doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to help others”, Gerry says. “So I volunteer”.