National Volunteer Month: Q&A with Kelsey Franklin, Self-Advocate & Nancy Simpson, Advocate & Parent

Posted on April 9, 2021

April is National Volunteer Month, and we’re excited to share some Q&As featuring our Volunteer Advocates.

Tina Chan Sweenie, our Manager of Volunteer and Donor Engagement, caught up with some of Penn-Mar’s incredible advocates to learn a little bit about them and why they’re so passionate about amplifying the voices of the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) community. You can also learn more about Penn-Mar’s advocacy efforts here.

Today we’re highlighting Kelsey Franklin, self-advocate, and Nancy Simpson, Kelsey’s mom and volunteer advocate . . .


Q: How did you get started advocating?

A: Our family got started advocating in Annapolis through Penn-Mar Human Services (Penn-Mar). As a program they took the people they support down to Annapolis for Developmental Disabilities Day (DD Day) and Kelsey came back raving about the experience. She had gotten to meet and take pictures with Governor Hogan!

Since then, Kelsey and I have gone back to DD Day yearly. Penn-Mar arms us and many other Penn-Mar families with a message and appointments with our senators and delegates and off we go! The goal is to get more funding for the Direct Service Professionals (DSPs) who support our children. We all know, with more funding, lots of our problems will be solved.

I dream of the time when DSPs are paid fairly so the good ones stay, and our children don’t have to deal with the constant disruption of staff turnover. Having never done any advocacy before, going with the Penn-Mar group with a message and guidance makes if easy and fun. The fact that we’ve been successful is all the more encouraging that participating in this process makes a difference. The more the merrier!

 Q: What do DSPs do for Kelsey and your family?

A: Kelsey’s been with Penn-Mar about 10 years, and she continues to mature, gain skills, and love life. I was asked what DSPs do for Kelsey and my question is “what don’t they do?”. They take her to the gym, out to dinner, teach her how to navigate in the community, give her opportunities to go new places and socialize with others in the community.

She has had a number of remarkable DSPs. Jenifer Reed and Janelle Philips White, working in personal supports, both became great friends who encouraged Kelsey’s growth and independence. Rosanna DiSebastiano, working in Community Development Supports (CDS) taught Kelsey about gardening, pigs, recycling, nature, and a love of the outdoors. There are times Kelsey comes home giddy with joy having spent the car ride singing her favorite songs with her staff.

Now on virtual supports there are a number of classes Kelsey looks forward to. The art and drawing classes with Victoria Minkowski have become favorites. I have had the pleasure of listening in on the class and hear the patience and support it takes to make this class fun and successful. Having a new interest that Kelsey loves to do independently in this Covid time adds to all of our lives.