(Missoula, Montana)   Aaah Missoula…well, we pulled into Missoula under the cover of darkness and a week early definitely in need of a little R&R (rest and relaxation) and Missoula was just the place to do it.  Our first morning here we were greeted by ADAPT member Marsha Katz with a variety of freshly made local pastries.  By afternoon the word had spread and staff members from Summit Independent Living Center (ILC) stopped by our campsite with a basket of Made in Montana goodies.  The next week was packed with touring Glacier National Park and attending Missoula festivals.  After our fun was had and the week slipped away it was time to get back to work. 

To kick things off we attended a Missoula City Council meeting on July 25th where Summit ILC advocacy specialist Travis Hoffman introduced Jim Ward and Tom Olin and invited the public to this Thursday’s Downtown Tonight and the Road to Freedom TourMayor John Engen and the Council also proclaimed June 28th ADA Road To Freedom Day in the City of Missoula.

The next morning was filled with radio talk shows thanks to Cherry Creek Radio.  Summit ILC program manager Jude Monson and Jim Ward completed four live radio shows back to back to help spread the word about the Road to Freedom Tour.

By now Wednesday had come so we left Missoula and traveled to Helena, Montana for a stop there, which you can read about in our Helena blog post.  While we were in Helena though the activities in Missoula kept on going.  Summit ILC staff attended the Missoula County Commissioners meeting where they also proclaimed June 28th ADA Road To Freedom Day in the County of Missoula.

As for the main event on June 28th, let’s see, Missoula Mayor John Engen was there, Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtis was there, National leader Jim Ward was there, Nationally acclaimed photographer Tom Olin was there, roughly 1,000-1,500 Missoulianites with and without disabilities were there, even our huge RV covered in pictures and the Road Tour’s logo was there.  Seems like just about everyone was there, oh wait, except for the Media, that’s right.  Or all of the Media except for one reporter from the local CBS news station who, unfortunately, still have not aired their footage.  Apparently dog shows and University of Montana Grizzly Athletics are more important to the Media than the lives and civil rights of roughly 50 million American’s with disabilities and 14% of Missoula County’s population.

No matter about being snubbed by the media though, the Road to Freedom Tour was still a hit as it rolled through Missoula on it’s non-stop, attention-grabbing, year-long tour of America’s 50 states. 

Our stay in Missoula was nothing short of spectacular and the event was a huge success.  Around 100-150 people with all types of disabilities, in addition to the 1,000 or so others, turned out at the event which, officially called Downtown ToNight (an outdoor concert and food festival) to catch a glimpse of the Road Tour’s spectacular RV and to celebrate Freedom, Inclusion, and Opportunity for all people in all aspects of society as well as nearly 17 years of the American’s with Disabilities Act.  The event, part of the city’s summer concert series, was dedicated to the Tour and we had our bus parked near the stage with Road To Freedom banners hanging from the highway overpass behind it. There was great music in the air, food from dozens of booths provided by local restaurants and disability resource tables from Missoula Coalition for Disability Rights partners.

At the event Summit ILC peer advocate Michael Beers introduced Missoula Mayor John Engen and Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtis who kicked things off by proclaiming June 28th to be “ADA Road to Freedom Day” in Missoula City and County.  They were followed at the podium by Jim Ward who told about the history of the disability movement and the purpose behind the Road to Freedom TourMichael Beers also read aloud a letter from Montana Senator Max Baucus.  Then the audience was treated to live music by local Missoula band Full Grown Men and skit performances by a Montana theater group known as the Same Difference Inclusive Theatre Company.

Jude Monson and Travis Hoffman from Summit ILC joined other organizers including Marsha Katz and Bob Liston from ADAPT Montana as well as Jack Chambers and staff from Opportunity Resources, Inc. and the rest of the Missoula Coalition for Disability Rights (MCDR) to organize this event.  Our good friend, Michael Beers, also a comedian with a disability and Missoula resident, was the MC for the event.  Travis Hoffman and Michael Beers are also both representatives of the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) each having previously served on NYLN’s Governing Board.  We would also like to thank the Missoula Downtown Association, specifically Julie Weaver and Brian Macdonald, for providing the venue for our stop in Missoula; Nightingale Nursing, an MCDR partner, for donating 650 bottles of water; Home and Community-Based Services, another MCDR member, for donating a gift basket which was given out as a door prize at the event, and Aaron’s Sales and Lease, a local Missoula business, for providing a big screen TV to display Tom Olin’s pictures to the crowd.