An advocate for people with disabilities has been named this year’s Education Hero by the American Red Cross of Southeastern Ohio.
MDIA Lecturer Carolyn Bailey Lewis has been working in the public media for 38 years, beginning in Morgantown, West Virginia before coming to Athens in 1997 where she served as the general manager for WOUB for 13 years.
In the 1990s, Lewis said she began having limb pain and doctors discovered a tumor on her spinal cord. She said doctors told her that the surgery to remove the tumor could have left her in a permanent vegetative state. After months of rehabilitation, Lewis was able to get back on her feet by using a walker, but eventually she had to use a wheelchair.
Lewis now knows the struggles that those with disabilities face all too well. She said that Athens can be a tough community to maneuver about for those with physical impairments. She said the bricks are particularly tricky.
Lewis has used her public media background to get the word out about some of the challenges that people face on a daily basis. WOUB hosts a series called Conversations from Studio B. Lewis frequently uses the program to talk to those with disabilities to get their voices heard.
“It helps people know they aren’t alone,” she said.
In addition to her public media work, Lewis also serves on the Athens Commission on Disabilities and other advocacy groups.
Lewis was nominated for the award by Larry and Mary Jageman. The award is sponsored by The Hampton Inn and The Fairfield Inn.
“Following a long career in broadcasting, she now shares her knowledge with students at Ohio University and says that although not a native, loves living in Athens,” stated the nomination letter by the Jagemans. “This delightful lady is truly an inspiration to all who come to know her and we are honored to present her as our Education Hero.”
Lewis said it was a cold snowy Monday when she received the phone call from the local Red Cross. She said she thought the Red Cross was calling to check on her since she is wheelchair bound. Lewis said she had no idea she was nominated for the award.
“It took my breath away,” she said. “I know there’s been some phenomenal people nominated for these awards and I’m honored to be named among them.”
Lewis and the rest of the 2015 Hometown Hero winners will be honored during the annual Hometown Hero Breakfast on March 10 from 7-9 a.m. Funds raised at the event will go toward local disaster relief. For information on the event please visit www.redcross.org/oh/athens.
Original article by Sara Brumfield,
Athens Messenger Staff Journalist