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Local nonprofit helps thousands of people with disabilities

RICHMOND, Va. -- For seventeen years Todd Ratner and his family have cherished time with his son Ben, who has Autism. He knows very well the challenges facing families who have loved ones with a disability, especially parents.

“Whether it is someone just born with a physical disability or recognizing a developmental disability later in life, there can be a real feeling of isolation and you can feel overwhelmed,” Ratner said.

Ratner, a local attorney, found out about the work of the Disability Law Center of Virginia (DLCV), calling it a life saver to thousands of clients with disabilities each year. It also has been a life line for family members who have no idea where to turn for help with resources.

LaToya Blizzard is in charge of daily operations for the Disability Law Center of Virginia. She knows how daunting it is for families. She said they offer a host of services that can help them navigate through the complexities of life when caring for a loved one with a disability.

“We allow them to share their hearts and their frustrations and offer a little bit of help, so they can feel less frustrated," explained Blizzard. "For us, it may seem like a small thing, but for that person, in the moment, it’s huge. By the time they come to us, they’ve been to so many other organizations. They have been told no. They’ve been told we can’t help you, or oh well. They are at their wits end and we are their last hope. We want to give them hope to hold onto.”

Ratner said that is true. He’s so inspired by the work being done by the DLCV he is now on the foundation’s board and is helping to spearhead the agency’s annual upcoming gala.

Todd Ratner

That fundraiser aims to raise money to keep the organization’s mission going because the advocacy and legal services they offer are free.

“We have disability rights advocates and attorneys here. So, a person could call us on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays and speak with an advocate on duty and give details of the situation. The person will determine if it is something the Disability Law Center of Virginia can assist with,” Blizzard said.

Blizzard said their organization offers assistance to families when there’s an allegation of abuse of a person who has a disability. They can assist families and their children with disabilities who need help dealing with various school systems.

If a person with a disability has been denied services, discriminated based on disability or had their rights violated, the Disability Law Center of Virginia can help.

Both Ratner and Blizzard say the upcoming fundraiser will generate necessary funds to allow them to keep providing free services to families.

LaToya Blizzard

“It’s another way we can lighten the load of frustration because if you call other legal offices, you may be to asked to pay. Call here and you will not have to” Blizzard said.

“One in five people are estimated to have a disability. That can be up to $1 million people in Virginia. To keep the lights on, it takes the generosity of private citizens throughout the community,” Ratner said.

That’s why every chance he gets, he invites people to this year’s 5th Annual Liberty and Justice For All Gala.

Ratner said the event will be held at the Hippodrome Theater on Friday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m. CBS 6 anchor Bill Fitzgerald will be the emcee of the event.

The theme of the evening gives a nod to the Roaring 20’s jazz era.

The tickets are $75.00 and all the proceeds will go back into the Disability Law Center of Virginia to help continue it’s free services to people all over the Commonwealth.

Rather said volunteers are also needed to work the event on April 13, as well as throughout the year at the center on Willow Lawn Drive.

Tickets can be purchased online or you can call 1-800-552-3962.

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