Justin Caine was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was just 10-years-old, and while his tumor is gone, it did leave behind some life-long disabilities, but he refuses to let them stand in his way.
That's why he created the BOOM Awards. BOOM stands for Be Our Own Motivation, and is a state-wide award ceremony aimed at recognizing people that have excelled in life despite having a disability.
"I don't want my story to be an exception," said Caine. I want it to be the norm."
The award ceremony has been in the planning stages for two years. It finally came to life on Wednesday afternoon at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa as part of the annual re:con convention that brings together hundreds of people from the state who provide services to others with disabilities.
Three winners who were nominated by communities and chosen by a board were honored for their abilities, despite having any disabilities.
"We start sharing stories of individuals with disabilities who have done great things as an athlete, employee, or an entrepreneur," said Caine
Molly Hincka of Brighton was named Athlete of the Year. Hincka's parents were told their daughter, who was born with developmental disabilities would never walk, but Hincka proved different. She was the first person with an intellectual disability to run cross country at Brighton High School. She has participated in multiple Special Olympics sports, and has ran half and full marathons.
"I can do distance running, track and field, I do basketball, I do snowshoeing," said Hincka. "I just did a half marathon and now I completed my first full marathon."
Eric Thomas of Flint was named Entrepreneur of the Year. Thomas created EZ Awareness by Design after being paralyzed from the neck down in a drive-by shooting. His business tag line is "Without Awareness You Are Invisible." Thomas also spreads awareness through his work with Toys for Tots, Relay for Life, Coats for Kids, and Danny's Miracle Angel Network.
"It's been a lot of hard work, a lot of obstacles, and someone out there has recognized that," said Thomas. "That's the thing and it's not to say that I do it and go,"I can't wait to get my recognition," because I don't do it for me, I do it for everybody else."
Doug Ervin of Lansing was awarded Employee of the Year. Ervin was born with cerebral palsy, but has served other people with disabilities for more than 30 years. Ervin worked for the state, and drove a bus for a seniors program and an arts program for children with special needs. Lately, he's been working as a direct care worker and a senior companion for ALFA (Active Living for Adults) care program in East Lansing.
"It gives me joy in my life to give other people joy in their lives," said Ervin.
Each of the winners received an award that was hand-crafted by people with disabilities, and a one minute video about their journey. Organizers say they will be posting the videos to their YouTube channel, in hopes that they will go viral and inspire others.
The winners from this ceremony will be helping to select any future award recipients.
For more information on BOOM, click here.