W.E.A.N. Hosts 17th Annual ‘Bag of Hope’ Event

On Saturday, December 7, 2019, Women Embracing Abilities Now (W.E.A.N) will host the 17th annual “Bags of Hope” event at The League for People with Disabilities in Baltimore.

Toiletries collected from throughout the community will be placed in holiday bags which volunteers will provide as gifts at local hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and other community organizations that serve women and young ladies living with disabilities.

The 3 p.m. event is part of W.E.A.N.’s mission of sharing, caring, and giving hope, according to Janice Jackson, the nonprofit’s founder.

The annual event has proven successful. Jackson says when it began 17 years ago, 20 bags were handed out. Last year, that number grew to nearly 400 bags.

“For the last 36 years, mentoring women and young ladies with disabilities has played a very important role in my life,” said Jackson, who in 2012 traveled to the White House where she received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama.

Jackson routinely highlights the syllables ‘Abilities” in the word disabilities.

She says that at the age of 24, she entered the minority of women with disabilities after being hit by a car.

“I was left with a spinal cord injury and [now] I use a wheelchair,” Jackson said.

Not long after the accident, Jackson

established her first support group at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital— now the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute.

She says she wanted to try and help other women, as well as herself, to cope with being disabled.

In 2005, two decades after her accident and years of helping to empower women with disabilities, Jackson founded W.E.A.N.

“The mission of W.E.A.N. is to ‘wean’ women and young ladies with disabilities from having their limitations be their focal point, thus having them living ‘with’ their abilities,” said Jackson, who, for over thirty five years, has been recognized as one of the most prominent voices advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities.

In addition to her work at W.E.A.N., Jackson is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore, where for the last 14 years she has taught Business Ethics to undergraduate students.

“W.E.A.N. also seeks to empower and promote independence at its highest level. To help them become more productive by creating mentoring relationships, and hosting workshops and conferences that teach coping skills like empowerment, self-worth, self-advocacy, sexuality, and community involvement,” she said.

More than 4,000 living with disabilities have participated in W.E.A.N. and its many activities. Jackson says she has seen many lives change for the better because of their participation in W.E.A.N.

“Over and over, women and young ladies, and young ladies with disabilities, have come to W.E.A.N. noticing that they do not conform to the dominant cultural and/or commercial images of feminine beauty and the definition of true womanhood,” Jackson said. “The mass media, as well as individual interactions, seem to emphasize a particular ideal of perfection, which women and young ladies with disabilities feel is

unattainable.”

However, through mentoring work, many have said they are now able to

understand, analyze, and reject these stereotypes, Jackson noted.

“These women and young ladies have developed a stronger sense of their own unique beauty and self-worth. The wonderful thing about W.E.A.N. is that many who come to us ready to give up on life and who are in need of mentoring, become mentors themselves. They are whole heartily ready to pay [it] forward to the next one in need of help,” she said.

For more information about W.E.A.N., visit or write to The League for People with Disabilities at 1111 East Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD. 21239 or call 410-433-0614 and 443-775-1170 or visit the website: www.wean1.org.