Enabling the Disabled

Posted by cservaes on September 19, 2011 in Alumni, "Other News", "The College" Richard Bannon retired from 26 years of public service in the parks and recreation field in 2002. Before that, he spent 14 years using his Ottawa University education in physical education as a coach and teacher. Like everything else in his life, Bannon gave retirement his all. He truly attempted to enjoy rounds of golf and shopping for antiques, but his heart just wasn’t in it. A few months later, he stepped out of retirement to return to an enduring mission – helping the mentally and physically disabled. In 1962, Bannon’s high school principal asked a favor of the football team. Would anyone help a wheelchair-bound girl get to her classes? Bannon took the challenge and immediately others followed his lead. His new friend’s name was Susan, and he credits her with opening his eyes to the needs of disabled people. The two became good friends and even now, decades later, his voice fills with emotion when he speaks of her. She died only a year after they met. “Because of Susan, I knew I wanted to bless others,” says Bannon. “Susan stayed with me in that way. She was the start of my passion for this work.” During his career in both education and public service, Bannon spent countless hours teaching and providing quality services for the disabled. He was a member of the Morris County Adaptive Recreation Program (MCARP) from 1982 to 2002. This organization honored Bannon with numerous awards for his continuous efforts to include disabled people in recreation. In MCARP, he sat on the building and funding committee, which raised more than one million dollars for the disabled community over 20 years. “Every facility, from the pools to the parks, was updated to be ADA-compliant during my tenure as superintendent of Recreation and Parks for Hanover Township,” says Bannon, who was so instrumental in his efforts to make recreation open to everyone in the community that he inspired other community leaders to push for the same developments. Today, instead of driving golf balls out on the course, Bannon drives for a ministry that provides care for the disabled. He takes clients to doctor appointments, the grocery store or just around town to run errands. He also owns a construction company specializing in cottages, all of which are ADA-compliant. Recently, he was hired to restore a historically-significant bed and breakfast in a neighboring community. Maybe retirement works better for other people. Bannon just doesn’t have the hang of it yet.