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Advocacy and Leadership Awards 2020

 NCCDD LogoALAwardsThe North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) honors the significant contributions made by advocates who are actively working to change attitudes and support greater choices for a more inclusive North Carolina. The Council established its Advocacy and Leadership Awards to honor three leaders in the disability community who passionately worked and continue to work to build a better North Carolina for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions below.

Congratulations to Our 2020 Advocacy & Leadership Award Recipients 

NCCDD Hefner Award Recipient Deborah Woolard & Bill DonohueDeborah Woolard & Bill Donohue, Winston-Salem, NC
Hefner Memorial Award Recipients

Deborah Woolard and Bill Donohue, often referred to as the “dynamic duo” by friends and acquaintances, are this year’s Jack B. Hefner Memorial Award recipients. The couple, who live in Winston-Salem, is well known for their involvement with organizations and activities for people with disabilities. Deborah and Bill have served on the boards for Disability Rights NC, the Arc (both state and local chapters) and the Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network. For years they have been involved with planning Forsyth County’s Buddy Walk supporting the Down Syndrome Society. The two started and remain active in the North Carolina Innovations Waiver Action Committee. They also serve on North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities’ (NCCDD) Making Alternatives to Guardianship a Reality initiative and have lent their expertise to the Rethinking Guardianship: A Person-Centered Approach initiative.

Along with their adult son Jeremy, who has Down syndrome, they are active in the Parkway United Church of Christ. As a result of their influence and advocacy, the church’s building is now physically accessible, meetings include hearing assist devices and printed materials have a large print electronic option.

One of Deborah and Bill’s passions is working on the North Carolina Registry of Unmet Needs on behalf of individuals with disabilities, bringing attention to the issue through social media posts, as well as holding a live rally last March with over 100 legislators, media, and North Carolinians in attendance.

NCCDD Riddle Award Recipient Betsy MacMichaelBetsy MacMichael, Durham, NC
Riddle Distinguished Service Award Recipient

Betsy MacMichael, the executive director for First In Families of NC (FIFNC), is being honored with the Helen C. “Holly” Riddle Distinguished Service Award. Noting the state of North Carolina that is “First in Flight” and “First in Freedom” could certainly be “First in Families,” Betsy began to find ways to break down barriers for individuals with I/DD. With a whole family approach, Betsy has guided FIFNC through the years to now support over 2,500 families impacted by I/DD.

Her consensus building and collaboration is noted among her peers as they talk of Betsy’s significant impact on the quality of life for people with I/DD. They point to her commitment to ensuring people with I/DD are supported to believe in their dreams, achieve their personal goals, connect to their community, and give back to others.

Betsy is the mother of Janie, a young adult with I/DD. Together they speak throughout the area about the impact First in Families is making. In addition, Betsy currently serves on the No Wrong Door Stakeholder Advisory Committee as well as the Education and Employment Advisory Committee. She is part of the Family Advisory Panel of Family Systems Information Project and an advisory committee member on the Medical Home Planning grant. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Geography from Macalester College and a Master of Science from the College of Tropical Agriculture from the University of Hawaii.

NCCDD Leadership Award Recipient Suvya CarrollSuvya Carroll, Durham, NC
Leadership Achievement Award Recipient

North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities 2020 Leadership Achievement Award is awarded to Suvya Carroll of Durham, NC. A self-advocate, Suvya has served as an unofficial consultant on accessibility in her town by identifying barriers to access in local churches, nonprofits and restaurants. Her attention to accessibility details has resulted in her church, CityWell, putting in a paved parking lot and a wheelchair-accessible elevator.

Suvya is also active in her intentional community in downtown Durham, the North Street Neighborhood, a planned neighborhood ​where friends with disabilities are at the center and everyone can thrive together. Within her neighborhood she is an active leader in the spiritual and devotional life of her community, serving as a worship leader during the community’s regular prayer services. She ends every prayer she says with, “Bless the less fortunate, those who do not have food, water or shelter.”

This past spring, Suvya co-wrote, recorded and released a full-length album of original music with two of her friends. The album is called “I Am For You: Songs of Prayer and Peace.” She is a regular worship leader at her church as well as at Duke Divinity School.

Beyond her accessibility and worship activities, Suvya moves into the thick of things – guiding her wheelchair she uses due to her cerebral palsy – to be front and center at rallies, memorials and demonstrations. She feels strongly about community and government issues and how they impact individuals of all abilities. Her friends recognize Suvya as a change agent and a tireless, fierce advocate for all.

View the videos below about the 2020 Award Winners!


Applications for the 2021 Advocacy & Leadership Awards will be available in the summer.

Winners are announced at the November Quarterly Council Meeting during the Advocacy & Leadership Awards Ceremony in November, 2021.


The Leadership Achievement Award is presented to an outstanding North Carolina self-advocate whose work has improved the quality of life for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. This award was presented for the first time at the November quarterly meeting of the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities on November 7, 2018.


Jack B. Hefner served the State of North Carolina as a member of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) from 1982 until his passing in 1994. As a father to a son with intellectual disabilities, "Big Jack" was willing to do whatever it took to enhance the quality of life for North Carolinians affected by disability. Jack B. Hefner's leadership inspired a generation of advocates and people with I/DD to work forcefully.

On October 27, 1994, the NCCDD established the Jack B. Hefner Award to celebrate the vision and achievement of North Carolina's families and people with I/DD. The Council presents the award annually.


Helen C. "Holly" Riddle served as the Executive Director for the NCCDD for 23 years. Through her professionalism, innovation and tireless dedication to look beyond the barriers and focus on creative solutions, she led the journey to make North Carolina a state where inclusion and full participation are possible for all citizens. This award is the highest recognition given by the NCCDD to those professionals who have made lasting contributions towards improving opportunities, breaking down barriers, and promoting increased quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In 2013, the NCCDD established the Helen C. "Holly" Riddle Award to celebrate the work of professionals with North Carolina's families and people with I/DD. The Council presents the award annually.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of nominees are you looking for? The Council seeks an outstanding North Carolina self-advocate whose work has improved the quality of life for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities for the newly established North Carolina Leadership Achievement Award. The Council seeks family members or community members for the Jack B. Hefner Award who have been involved in making an impact in their local communities that not only benefit their family member, but will positively impact other individuals as well. For the Helen C. “Holly” Riddle Awards, the Council seeks nominees from professionals in the field who have devoted to their career to improving the systems in NC that serve individuals with I/DD and their families.

What do you look for not only in nominees, but award winners? The Council promotes the three awards and seeks nominations from the general public, Council members, professionals in the field, individuals with I/DD, and family members. Those making nominations must show that the person they are nominating is making an impact in their local community that benefits others with I/DD. Those professionals nominated for the Riddle Award will demonstrate improvement of systems serving individuals with I/DD that will have or have had a statewide impact.

How are the recipients selected? A selection committee of NCCDD members reviews all applications and carefully considers all information submitted for the candidates and chooses a candidate for the respective awards. These candidates are submitted to the executive committee for review and endorsement.

What do the recipients get? The winner of the NCCDD Advocacy and Leadership awards are invited to the November Council meeting and can invite up to four guests to the awards ceremony. The award winners will receive a plaque, an opportunity to address the Council, and their story will be promoted on the Council website, the social media pages, and in their hometown newspapers.

How does the selection process go? Applications for the Awards open in early summer with announcements going out throughout the Council and Council member networks. Nomination forms can be downloaded or completed online. For those who need assistance completing the nomination form, they can call the NCCDD office at 919-527-6500.


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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001NCSCDD-02, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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