Each October the county celebrates Disability Awareness Month by presenting awards to individuals who were nominated by area organizations, family or friends in recognition of their approach to life and personal accomplishments, and for enriching the lives of others.
Established by the county in 1989, the ceremony was later named in memory of Donald J. Sykes, a longtime community advocate and former chairman of the county's Disability Advisory Board.
About Donald J. Sykes
Donald J. Sykes was born in 1956. At the age of eight, he contracted a rare auto-immune disease called dermato-myositis. This debilitating disease necessitated Donny spending the next eight years in intense physical therapy at the Children’s Seashore House and Moss Rehabilitation Hospital. Donny tried hard and never gave up but the disease continued to progress. His somewhat “off beat” sense of humor and his desire to lead a “normal” and productive life, in spite of constant pain, made people from every walk of life seek out Donny’s company.
Donny was an avid sports fan, and he found ways to participate from the side lines. He was involved in many community causes. He worked on the annual summer barbecue and organized softball and volleyball tournaments for the Winchell School, worked on the Maloney’s Bike-A-Thon, and he organized and acted as general manager for the Bacharach Bombers, a wheelchair basketball team. He was a member of the Local Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee and Chair of the Atlantic County Disabled Citizens Advisory Board. Shortly before his death in 1991, he was presented the Silver Sword Award by the American Cancer Society for his work in community causes.
-Remembered by Anne Sykes McCabe (Sister)