An advocate for people with developmental disabilities receives the 2023 Athena Award

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — An advocate for people in the community and across Ohio with developmental disabilities said it was a “dream come true” to be this year’s recipient of the Athena Award.

William Peacock received the honor in large part for his work as president of the Athens County chapter of People First Ohio, an organization which recently pressure state lawmakers to ban derogatory language in legislation.

He also serves as vice president of the Athens County Community Singers, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 to showcase a “choir for all voices.”

Peacock was diagnosed at a young age with cerebral palsy.

“Doctors told my mother I couldn’t walk or talk,” he said. 

Now, the 56-year-old uses his voice to advocate for himself and people in his community with disabilities.

William Peacock (left) with Davey McNelly, Chair of the City Commission on Disabilities (right) at the 2023 Athena Award ceremony at the Athens Community Center Nov. 1, 2023. [City of Athens]
The Athena Award was created by the Athens City Commission on Disabilities in 2014 and is the only award the city gives out. According to the commission, the award “is presented annually by the City of Athens to a person or organization for excellence in improving the quality of life for those with disabilities and who have made significant contributions to the City of Athens on their behalf.”

“It’s such a great night to not just acknowledge the nominees, which we had great nominees, but to acknowledge the disability community here in Athens,” Davey McNelly, the commission’s chair said.

J.W. Smith, who received the Athena Award in 2019, said the work Peacock has done for the community speaks to the man he is.

“People complain about things, and they talk about how much better things would be if, if, if. He takes his ‘if’ and goes up there and tries to make a difference,” he said.

Smith said people like Peacock don’t get recognized enough.

Peacock said he wants to use the award to help more people become advocates in the community.

“The next thing I want to do is open more doors for people with developmental disabilities,” he said, “so they can have the chance to be nominated in the future.”