From the outside looking in, the Wilkersons may seem like your typical Civitan family. They’re involved in their club and they have a heart for Civitan’s mission. Lori and Robert Wilkerson were both members of Civitan by 2015. Their daughter, Stephanie, served as president of the Davidson County Civitan club in North Carolina West. However, one thing sets them apart and that’s their why. Stephanie, 28, has I/DD and Lori is her advocate.

“[Stephanie] loves the warmth of the atmosphere and the acceptance of the members there” says Lori. “I never would have known Stephanie is the leader that she has become.”

Civitan has become a place where Stephanie can grow and challenge herself. A place where she can thrive and call home. “Civitan has blossomed me, making me confident,” says Stephanie, “and it has improved my leadership skills and helped me become a better person in our community.” Thanks to Stephanie’s influence, the club has even taken on several projects that have impacted Stephanie’s life on a personal level. One of those being the Special Olympics of North Carolina (SONC).

While she enjoys nearly every sport from softball to basketball and track and field, equestrian that has stolen her heart. SONC provides an outlet for over 40,000 athletes throughout the state, including many members of the Davidson County club. Outside of athletics, Special Olympics teaches valuable life lessons to both participants and their families. The most impactful lesson the Wilkerson family learned this year is that Stephanie has a voice and it matters. “Her voice matters [and] what she does or says does matters,” says Lori, “and it was life-changing for us.”