Dan Habib & Gene Connolly Receive the 2017 Virginia Bowden Advocacy Award

January 12, 2018

Dan Habib & Gene Connolly with their award

DURHAM, N.H. – On Thursday, December 14, 2017, IOD Filmmaker Dan Habib and Former Concord High School Principal Gene Connolly received the "Virginia Bowden Advocacy Award" by the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities (NHCDD).

"We see the recently released documentary, Mr. Connolly Has ALS, as a catalyst for inclusive education,” shared Isadora Rodriguez-Legendre, NHCDD Executive Director, during the award presentation. “The questions threaded throughout the documentary help to explore the themes that Connolly's ALS catalyzed in the community: how to live life fully, develop resilience, show love freely, and identify priorities; what it feels like to acquire a disability; how people perceive individuals with disabilities; and how to approach an inevitable death with honesty and dignity."

The advocacy award is named after Virginia Bowden, a former Council Chairperson who was a strong advocate for the New Hampshire developmental disabilities community. The NHCDD presents the award to individuals and organizations that exemplify her commitment to disability rights.

Dan Habib is the creator of the award-winning documentary films Including Samuel, Who Cares About Kelsey?, Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories, and many other short films on disability-related topics. He screens his films across the country and leads discussions about the challenges and benefits of inclusive education and related topics. Habib delivered a TEDx talk titled Disabling Segregation, and received the Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. In 2014, Habib was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities—a committee that promotes policies and initiatives that support independence and lifelong inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. His next film, Intelligent Lives, will premiere in 2018.

During his 14-year tenure at Concord High School, Principal Gene Connolly was known for his non-stop energy, his love of rock & roll, and the personal connections he made with many of the school’s 1,600 students. However, in 2014, Connolly was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Mr. Connolly Has ALS chronicles Connolly’s final year as principal of the school, when his physical abilities are significantly limited.  The outpouring of love and support from the students, evident as they engage with him in the film, is both remarkable and inspiring.

Mr. Connolly Has ALS runs 32 minutes and is currently negotiating television and online distribution. It was nominated for the 2017 International Documentary Association’s Award for Best Documentary Short. Announcements about upcoming screenings will be made on Facebook.