Despite "A Few Problems"

(reprinted with permission in the June 1996 issue of 'Inside Colorado', University of Colorado Alumni magazine) by Debra Lindstrand Johnson

"I thought of myself as normal with a few problems," says Doug Lefever, a DO-IT Mentor. But Doug has rarely been viewed as normal because he has cerebral palsy. His mom made sure he was treated like other kids at school. Each year was another fight to keep Doug in a regular classroom. School officials would say, "We'll let him stay just as long as he maintains good grades."

Doug was the first disabled graduate of Longmont High. He was allowed to enter CU-Boulder with familiar criteria- "One F and you're out." Doug received A's and B's throughout secondary school, college and graduate school.

After seven years with Boulder County's personnel department, Doug accepted a job with the Channel Program in Washington state in 1989. He had interviewed in person for the job, SO the employer knew of his situation. But when he arrived to start work, he was told that his disability could cause problems and was let go.

Doug stayed in Seattle and sought other work, but his disability was a barrier. After years of searching and doing volunteer work he realized he could live on his disability benefits. So he chose to make the most of his unemployment by volunteering his time to help other people.

Doug volunteers 33 hours a week helping previously homeless men integrate into society at a facility sponsored by Catholic Community Services. At first the men asked how a guy in a wheelchair could possibly help them. But Doug has a degree in psychotherapy and his warm, caring personality is infectious.

The list of Doug's volunteer activities is extensive. Among other things, he is a mentor with the DO-IT program at the University of Washington, helping prepare students with disabilities for college and life. And he is believed to be the first disabled head of a CU-Boulder Alumni Association club, having just completed his first year as president of the Puget Sound area club.

The people of Seattle are beginning to recognize what a special person Doug Lefever is. He was honored with a humanitarian award established by the Archbishop of Western Washington. The annual award honors a individual who has "sought justice, loved kindly and gently changed our world,"

In his acceptance speech Doug said, "You know that we all are guilty of passing over tattered books and picking up pristine ones. This applies to people, too, [and] it hurts to be passed over. If we just open our horizons to view each one as a potential gift then Miracles will happen. Everyone has potential."