VINTON–Tyler Caldwell has received another prestigious award. This time the young man from Vinton has been named an Outstanding Young Virginian (OYV) for 2016 by the Virginia Jaycees.
According to Kristin Miller from the Jaycees organization, this award honors “individuals from across the Commonwealth of Virginia who make a positive impact in their communities.” Two other young leaders were recognized with Caldwell at the ceremony held in Richmond on November 19 at the Virginia Jaycees Annual Conference.
The Virginia Jaycees began recognizing Outstanding Young Virginians in1942. Past honorees include former attorney general Marshall Coleman, former Lt. Governor Sargeant Reynolds, Wheelchair Olympics founder and war veteran Wannie Cook, and Virginia Supreme Court Justice Leroy Hassel.
During the presentation it was noted that, “Tyler Caldwell is currently employed as a courtesy clerk at Kroger in Bonsack where he has earned two gold pins for exceptional customer service. He is this year’s recipient of the Dan Piper Award from the National Down Syndrome Society. Tyler serves on the Board of Directors at Katie’s Place, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing independence opportunities for young adults with special needs. He also serves on the event and fundraising committees for Challenger Little League and Area 8 Special Olympics. He has logged over 500 volunteer hours at the VA.”
It was also noted at the awards ceremony that “While many people say Tyler is the epitome of ‘I can,’ he is really the epitome of ‘we can.’”
Kristin Miller, president of the Roanoke Jaycees, nominated Caldwell for the award, stating, “Tyler is a star in the Star City and is the embodiment of ‘we can’ through his personal and charitable efforts. He continues to show people that disabilities are abilities with heart.”
Caldwell traveled to New York City in September to accept the Dan Piper Award which recognizes an adult with Down Syndrome “who through everyday activities brings about a greater public awareness and understanding of people with Down Syndrome in his or her community.”
Caldwell has always been a groundbreaker.
“From the beginning Tyler laid the foundation toward acceptance as he was the first student with special needs to be included in regular education classes in his school district,” wrote teacher Dawn Martin who nominated him for the Dan Piper award.
She went on to say that he paved the way for others by showing that he was capable of acquiring, and using, the same skills as those without a defined disability. His outgoing personality led to his acceptance by both peers and staff. “Down Syndrome does not define or limit who Tyler is.”
Caldwell is also known locally and across the state as a member of the first graduating class of the Roanoke City Police Department Growth Through Opportunity (GTO) program.
The purpose of the GTO program, initiated by Roanoke Police Officer Travis Akins, is to provide job training for individuals with disabilities and to introduce law enforcement officers to the world of those with special needs.
As a GTO cadet, Tyler was trained for office tasks such as filing, shredding, and alphabetizing records. He also completed community outreach reading to elementary school students and giving presentations to the local bar association, organizations, and businesses.
Tyler graduated from William Byrd in 2010, but continued there with his schooling until he turned 22 in 2012.
According to the history of the OYV program, “progress toward a better world has been the central purpose in selecting the Outstanding Young Virginians since the hope of mankind lies in the hands of youth and action. Each honoree has shown that no problem is too difficult when handled with grace, ingenuity, courage, and determination.”