Ms. Beavers’ son inspires work with Bradley Cameron Association

Here in Chicago in 2009 Spanish teacher Ms. Valerie Beavers started The Bradley Cameron Association, a non-profit organization that helps young adults with disabilities lead regular lives. Ms. Beavers and her son, Bradley Matthews, who was disabled and passed away in 2013, started this organization to find friends and make life easier for himself and others with disabilities.

Mr. Matthews attended Illinois School for Visually Impaired, where he didn’t make a lot of friends or have a lot of social interaction. While her son was attending this school Ms. Beavers would communicate with the students and parents to get the students to sign up and participate in the start of the organization. 

Before participants are let into the program they must fill out an application to first see if they qualify. The qualifications are members must have a disability, 16 years of age or older, and no behavioral issues. There is a special place for what Ms. Beavers called “allies,” people who don’t have disabilities. If they do qualify the application process goes a step further. Ms. Beavers gets medical records from the participants so that the organization can properly plan events and activities for the association while including as many people as possible. Although this association sounds fun and has amazing benefits, not all members stay in as long as possible. Some stay until they learn the life lessons and skills that the association provides. “It depends on the disability,” Ms. Beavers says. 

Although The Bradley Cameron Association is mainly in-person, due to the pandemic they have been online and have been as much fun as possible while abiding by CDC guidelines. They have had a summer camp, karaoke online, emotional group talks, barbeques, hotel parties, and have been skydiving, swimming, and bowling. 

While this association is doing these activities some members still have medicines to take, and Ms. Beavers is on top of all of the things that are happening. She makes sure these members are still staying healthy. Some members bring along their rehabilitation specialists. “Good to see people get free and be free,” Ms. Beavers says. 

Although Ms. Beavers does take money out of her pocket to provide for this association, she also has donors–some that donate for the cause and others that donate for specific events or even helping to pay for food. 

“Run between the raindrops” is the message passed on from Ms. Beavers’ father onto the members of the association. This saying means that no matter what happens keep going. This message may seem simple, but for this association it is important to keep the members happy and motivated. “Everyone has the right to participate in their own life,” Ms. Beavers says. 

Living with a disability is already hard, but then there are people that will bully and harass people with disabilities which makes their life even harder than it was before they came along. And that is exactly why this association is so important to Ms. Beavers and the members. This association is a safe place for those with disabilities. What Ms. Beavers and Mr. Matthews have done is not easy. Helping people with disabilities may be challenging but they put those problems aside and give these people hope and the best life they can live.