34, Camp Ability Director at Ability Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach
Business community involvement:
Hampton Roads Pride Member
Fundraising and Dancing for Paws contestant for VBSPCA
Something that makes you stand out in your industry?
I love working for a nonprofit that enriches the lives of those with different abilities in our community, and I love being a performer. As an active stand-up comic, improviser, local film actor and crew member I bring an energy and creativity to Camp Ability and our Adult Day Program, Ability Days, that I otherwise couldn’t.
Who keeps you motivated?
Every one of our participants inspires and motivates me every day. Seeing these guys and gals thrive, regardless of their abilities. Smiling every day and living with joy really puts things into perspective. It’s hard to stay upset and stressed about a deadline, bills, family, your relationship, etc. when you see someone who physically can’t work, can’t speak or feed themselves, may never have a first love, smiling and excited about the day ahead. The participants at ACVA show more courage, genuine love and compassion, acceptance of all and pure happiness than I have ever witnessed in my life.
Most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
Teamwork. We spend a significant amount of time with our coworkers every week. Working together as a team, knowing that they “have your back” and you have theirs can make all the difference.
What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?
It would be easy to talk about transportation issues or even Tidewater—I mean Hampton Roads—I mean Coastal Virginia—identifying more as a total region and not just individual cities. (For the record, I love the title Coastal Virginia!) But I want to talk about taking care of our beautiful Chesapeake Bay. Protecting the population of blue crabs and Atlantic menhaden and even small acts like leaving the beach cleaner than we found it after a summer day on the sand are all vital to protecting the vast resources of the Chesapeake Bay for now and for future generations.
Favorite place in Coastal Virginia to go on the weekends?
I love to spend time on the Chesapeake Bay. It’s my favorite beach and often not as crowded as the Oceanfront during the summer. Swimming, kayaking, fishing and lazy beach days are definitely one of my favorite ways to relax after a long week. I feel lucky to call such a beautiful place as Coastal Virginia home.
From her nomination:
“Ashley ensures that participants in both the Camp Ability and Ability Day programs are met at their own comfort point and engaged from there. Her commitment to the individual has resulted in significant changes in participants’ quality of life, seeing one individual blossom from a bout with depression and others connect with their peers in new and meaningful ways. She models the mission of the organization through her professional and personal actions, seeking to find meaningful community and peer connections for individuals with disabilities in all settings.”
—Kathleen Petersen, supervisor