Living Our Legacy: Family Members on Staff

IMG_0035In 1936, a group of parents came together to advocate on behalf of their children with developmental disabilities and started a movement that would change our community. Today, The Arc continues to be driven forward by family members who are dedicated to ensuring that their children, grandchildren, and siblings have the opportunity to live and thrive in King County. Many of our current staff, volunteers, and board members bring their personal experience as family members to the agency, ensuring that eighty years later, our legacy stays alive.

Cathy Murahashi, Rachel Nemhauser, and Marilyn Cooks each first came to The Arc as caregivers looking for advice. Now, all three are integral members of our Family Support and Systems Advocacy teams, working now as both family members and professionals in trying to help other families navigate the I/DD systems in King County.

In the mid-90’s, Cathy Murahashi joined an internet support group for parents caring for a child with Down syndrome. Seeking a community of like-minded moms, she connected with Jodi Reimer, another mom who was then the Parent to Parent coordinator at The Arc. Cathy became a Helping Parent and soon began supporting other parents when they had a new diagnosis. In 1999, Cathy met Margaret Lee Thompson, who encouraged Cathy to join the Parent Coalition and become involved with The Arc’s advocacy efforts in Olympia. A year later, Margaret Lee invited Cathy to join the King County Parent Coalition team as an assistant. Fifteen years later, Cathy remains a valued staff member, and now enjoys her current role as the Family Engagement Coordinator for the King County Parent and Family Coalition. When asked about why she has stayed with The Arc of King County for so long, Cathy stated simply, “I am fortunate to be paid to do what I love!”

In 2009, Rachel Nemhauser was referred to The Arc to locate support services for her youngest son, who has an undiagnosed developmental disability. The first person Rachel connected with was…Cathy! Soon after that first connection, Rachel also became a Helping Parent, and then became involved with a number of Arc programs as an active volunteer. Rachel ultimately joined the staff in 2015 as the Parent to Parent Coordinator, taking over the position that Cathy previously held.  Rachel noted, “I always wanted to be surrounded by a team of people who are as passionate about disability issues as I am, and The Arc is the perfect place to be”.

Marilyn Cooks also joined The Arc staff in 2015 as part of the Parent to Parent program team. Marilyn is the caregiver for her grandson who has an I/DD. She has the lived experience of raising a child with a disability: she knows about navigating the special education world, smoothly transitioning from high school to employment, and helping her grandson secure both a job coach and an independent living situation.  Armed with a wealth of knowledge about services from her previous work at DSHS as well as her personal experience navigating disability resources, Marilyn provides other caregivers with the insight and guidance they need to access services, while also relating to the very real concerns of the people who contact her.

The Arc believes that self-advocates and their caregivers are the disability community’s greatest asset. The expertise and personal experiences that these staff bring to The Arc informs our work, ensures that our recommendations are relevant, and keeps us connected to our grassroots origins. When someone calls The Arc looking for help, they know the person on the other end of the line really understands. Cathy, Rachel, Marilyn, and all of our other parents and self-advocates are helping The Arc truly LIVE OUR LEGACY! They will be featured presenters at the Open House and Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 23, sharing more of their story and their personal experiences.

This story is a part of our 2014-2015 Annual Community Report. To view the full report, click here! 


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