Part of the idea, organizers said, was to show how the developmentally disabled people of Independence Residences, Inc. (IRI) are really capable of many things.
More than 300 people came out for the 4th Annual IRI Walkabout and Picnic at Cunningham Park on Saturday, July 28, to walk, eat and show their support.
“It’s a great event,” said Assemblymember Mike Miller, who has attended the event every year. “We started with a few people the first year and you saw how big it was this year. Pretty soon we’re going to outgrow the park.”
IRI executive director Ray DeNatale said he modeled the event after the Australian ritual of “walkabout,” a time of self-evaluation and renewal.
The late Florence D’Urso, wife of the founder and president of Key Food, was memorialized at the event for the supermarket chain’s dedication to supporting IRI. Walk organizers said the store has provided free food every year IRI has had a picnic. Cooking was done by the Glendale Kiwanis Club, said Miller, who is also a member.
This year IRI celebrates its 25th anniversary as an incorporated organization. In that time, the group has helped a number of disabled people find jobs and shared apartments.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo was named an honorary grand marshal for the day, along with Miller. IRI’s ability to help the disabled was an inspiration to elected officials, Addabbo said, and in turn it was their duty to ensure IRI and other organizations continue to get funding.
“What I want to center on is to protect funding for early intervention,” he said. The walk and picnic’s growing turnout spoke to the abilities of the organization and those who use it, said DeNatale, who has been with IRI for more than 11 years.
“Today was a great day,” he said. “I’m very, very thankful for all the people who came up and show support for us.”