‘He inspires me’: Senior Citizen of the Year praises son
Promoting change and opportunity for the disabled community has earned local Carmel Crouch the title of Senior Citizen of the Year.
The managing director of STEPS was officially celebrated at the Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards on Friday.
Ms Crouch’s dedication to people with disabilities and the wider Sunshine Coast community set her apart.
“I was very shocked, I had actually read the list of amazing people who were up for this award and I never even considered that I would be lucky enough to win it,” she said.
“There was a little piece of paper in the instructions that said ‘if you’re nominated write a few words’ and I thought ‘oh it‘s a waste of time’.”
Despite being nominated in the second largest category, Carmel’s powerful story of promoting change and opportunity in the disability community was highlighted as a standout.
The Senior Citizen of the Year admitted openly she “winged” her speech on stage.
“My affiliation with STEPS has been around for 33 years, I was one of the original board members that started the organisation,” she said.
“STEPS has always been a heart project for me so it’s an amazing feeling to see that recognised.
“This award is shared with so many in our community, and with all who have helped STEPS continue to provide opportunities.”
Ms Crouch said the organisation was extremely close to her heart.
“I have a son with a disability who turned 48 yesterday and he still lives at home with me,” she said.
“I believed that there was an opportunity for us to teach young people how to live independently and to give the parents and the families the freedom to live their lives the way they should when your children grow up and leave home.
“He’s my inspiration, he is.
“It's a difficult life for young people with disabilities when they don’t have the independence that they should and they deserve so I thought there had to be a better way and there was.”
STEPS’ presence continues to expand with the establishment of STEPS Pathways College in 2017 being another addition to her Ms Crouch’s achievements.
The college is the first of its kind, allowing for intensive day, online and residential learning to be available to young people with a disability.
“It’s an indescribable privilege to get to see young people with disabilities live their lives to the fullest,” Ms Crouch said.
“I don’t foresee a time where I won’t want to strive to do more.”