Q&A with Bellarmine grad Steven Michael Carr, driving force behind June 30 campus Roll 'N Stroll fundraiser

June 21, 2018


When Mattingly Edge's second annual Roll 'N Stroll fundraising event takes place in Bellarmine University's quad on Saturday, June 30, a 2011 Bellarmine graduate will be at the helm.

Steven Michael Carr, who earned bachelor's degrees in English and psychology, is Mattingly Edge's director of development. When his board asked him to organize a benefit walk for the organization, he immediately had to solve two problems:
  • Where to hold the event -- this was easy for Carr. "Bellarmine has a gorgeous, scenic campus that I’m proud of as an alumnus, and I want others to see it," he said.
  • What to call the "walk" -- this was a little trickier, given Mattingly Edge's purpose -- to enhance the experience of people with disabilities through endeavors that result in distinctive lives. "I wanted to try to find a way to make the language more accessible, since not everyone who may come to this walks," said Carr. "I came up with the name Roll ‘N Stroll because it implies you can walk the path, you can use a power chair, you can push a stroller on it... you can even skate it if you want!"

Steven MIchael Carr
Carr -- who lives in south Louisville with his husband and fellow Bellarmine alumnus, David Bannister Jr. -- stressed that it's not a competitive run. There are three routes to choose from: a 0.25-mile, a 0.75-mile, and a 3-mile path. 

Teams can sign up in advance on the Mattingly Edge website or register on the morning of the event, which starts at 9 a.m. in Bellarmine's quad. The fee is $25, which gets you an event shirt and a chance to win prizes including best spirit, largest group and most money raised. The event concludes with a brunch at Shenanigans Irish Grille near campus.

We asked Carr five questions while he worked to put finishing touches on next weekend's event.

Bellarmine University: How did your college experience help shape your career choice?
Steven Carr: I started working at the Accessibility Resource Center on my 20th birthday, while I was a Bellarmine student. The first person I supported, Danny, spent a lot of time with me on campus and we made friends with other students. I told a story for The Moth about it.

In my classes at Bellarmine, especially theology, the term Catholic Social Justice was often discussed. As someone who was raised in a Southern Baptist church where the emphasis was primarily on conversion and evangelism, it was invigorating to be part of a religious institution that propelled the idea that we as people have a responsibility to not only see justice, but to be an active part in doing justice in the world -- or bringing the Kingdom of God here on Earth, as we Baptists would say.

The concept of Catholic Social Justice was formative for me because it called me to try to leave the world better than it was when I arrived. A lot of people have their causes outside of their work week, but I get the honor of having the cause that is near to my heart be part of my career. It’s a blessing, or at least it is most of the time!

BU: What one thing about the experience of disability do you think is the most misunderstood or most harmful?
Carr: I often think about the constant objectification of disabled people. In disability culture, it’s often referred to as “inspiration porn.” People with disabilities are often seen as brave or inspirational for simply existing while disabled. The result is that disabled people are never portrayed in media as achieving anything and people then assume that they cannot. It leads to a lack of expectation for common experiences, like pursuing education, getting a job, getting married, having children or any number of things our society sees as accomplishments. Because people are seen as not being able to contribute, they are then placed in “special” places where they can be cared for, and opportunities for actual achievement are stifled. 

The ABC show Speechless does a great job of explaining inspiration porn in this clip.

BU: How did the first Roll 'N Stroll go last year? What's changed this year?
Carr: The event went well last year! It’s always tricky starting a new event and it’s hard to gauge what is “successful” when there isn’t a previous event for comparison. We had a good group of people. It was beautiful outside. Many of the people had never been on Bellarmine’s campus before and were able to marvel at its scenery. 

This year will be quite like last year, but with a few differences:
  • The t-shirt that every participant receives has a new design.
  • Shenanigans is providing a discounted brunch to all participants after the event.
  • We will also have a portable speaker this time, so we have music to listen to while we stroll! 
The routes are the same. Many of the expenses from last year don’t need to be repeated -- such as directional signs and banners -- so more of the proceeds go directly to our work, instead of paying the expenses. If people want to make a donation flagged for the event, any amount of support helps. We have a grant through the James Graham Brown Foundation that matches all funds raised, dollar for dollar, up to $350,000. So if you donate $100, it automatically gets doubled! 

BU: How did you wind up working at Mattingly Edge, and how has your role there changed since you started?
Carr: I’ve been in the field for nine years and am lucky to have worked for the same boss the entire time. While at Bellarmine, I worked for an organization called Realizations, LLC, that supported people with disabilities living in their own homes. It was directed by a woman named Hope Leet Dittmeier, who has been my mentor since I started.

In 2014, Mattingly Edge sought out Hope and expressed interest in transitioning to a support services model that allowed people with disabilities to live fully-inclusive lives in the Louisville community. Hope told them she would help the organization begin this transformation, but only if she could bring her team with her!

I started as a community facilitator, helping run individual support teams around a particular individual, but I also really love talking about the work we do and teaching it.

I asked questions about development, fundraising and grant writing and then was given a development project -- Give for Good Louisville -- to see if I liked it. Hope asked me to try to raise $10,000. All my friends and church members in the local nonprofit sector said that was a crazy amount for a first project and to lower my expectations. I raised $12,000. They promoted me to director of development soon after.

BU: What should people know when they see "Bellarmine graduate" on a resume?
Carr: They should know that person has good critical thinking skills and a good, solid social network. Many of the Bellarmine grads that I know are natural problem solvers, and those are always good people to have around you!

About Mattingly Edge
Mattingly Edge seeks to enhance the experience of people with disabilities through endeavors that result in distinctive lives. Their mission is based on the belief that people with disabilities have a right to the same privileges and responsibilities as other valued citizens. These endeavors include supporting people to safely live in their own homes, get valued jobs in the community and engage in social groups based on common interest, such as book clubs, churches or neighborhood associations. Mattingly Edge believes that communities are better when everyone is included.

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