By June Mathews
When Alison Berman became the chief development officer of United Ability in 2015, she discovered the 67-year-old agency was lacking a signature event and set out to change that.
“We wanted to do something different,” she said, “so three years ago, we chose to do a theater-style event where people could be entertained yet learn about the organization and develop a connection to it.”
The result was the first Journey of Hope, an entertaining, inspirational and informative evening that allowed United Ability to showcase its work and the people it serves.
The pattern set in that first event continues Aug. 3 with the third annual Journey of Hope, to be held in the Jemison Concert Hall at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center.
“This year, we’re honoring Ed Robinson, who is the perfect person,” said Berman. “An extremely humble person, Ed will turn it around to honor his family’s involvement, which goes back 70 years. But he’s well-connected to United Ability in his own right, having served as a past chair of our board, as co-chair of the inaugural Journey of Hope, and currently serving on the United Ability Foundation.”
Born and reared in Birmingham, Robinson is the CEO of HRH Metals Inc. in Moody. When he was a child, his mother became involved with a group that grew into United Ability, beginning a family legacy of serving people with disabilities.
Performing during Journey of Hope will be Brian King Joseph, a violinist who was a finalist on America’s Got Talent. Joseph has peripheral neuropathy, a debilitating disease that affects the nerves in his hands and feet.
“Living with disability, Brian knows the challenges our children and adults face every day,” Berman said. “But he is excited to perform for United Ability and share that obstacles can be overcome and achievements celebrated.”
Berman said Joseph will be spending time with some of the children and adults United Ability serves during his visit to Birmingham.
The name Journey of Hope refers to the road United Ability travels with those it serves, Berman explained. The event supports the advancement of medicine, technology and therapies for people living with disabilities.
“I can’t tell you the many kids who have learned to walk or talk with therapy available to them through United Ability – yet, their parents had been told they’d never be able to do those things,” she said. “We’ve joined them on their journey, and the hope they have in the services we provide rings true for us every day.”
United Ability formerly was known as United Cerebral Palsy, but the name was changed in 2017 to reflect the organization’s larger mission.
“We’ve been a part of the Birmingham landscape for 70 years and helped thousands of people over the years,” Berman said. “In the past year alone, we’ve worked with over 5,300 individuals living with a wide variety of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism, Down Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and others. To better reflect what we do, we took ‘cerebral palsy’ out of the name and expanded our service reach.”
While United Ability officially serves the greater Birmingham area, its footprint extends across the state and beyond.
“We’re serving more people than ever before, and we want to continue to serve. And that,” said Berman, “is our own journey of hope.”
Tickets for Journey of Hope are $75 for adults and $50 for youth 15 and younger.
A limited number of exclusive VIP meet-and-greet packages with Brian King Joseph and event sponsorships are available by calling Alison Berman at 944-3907 or by visiting unitedability.org/journeyofhope.