When Mitch was just ten days old, he had a stroke. Four years later, he began experiencing
seizures, which would continue until he was 10 years old. The stroke and seizures mean that
Mitch has trouble using both the left and right sides of his body – but it also inspires him to focus
on his abilities rather than his disabilities.

Mitch has a friendly, laid-back demeanor, but he is also bold in speaking out on injustices
against people with disabilities. Inspired by the advocacy and inquisitiveness of his father,
Ralph, an independent journalist in the Colorado Springs area, Mitch learned to speak up for
himself and others in uncomfortable situations – and quickly learned how important his voice
was. He also developed his confidence and relationships as manager of his high school football
team.

In 1993, Mitch’s dad served on The Arc Pikes Peak Region Board of Directors, one of the many
boards in the disability community that Ralph took part in. It was through this connection that
Mitch first became aware of The Arc locally – and so began Mitch’s own leadership with The Arc
network.

After graduating from Manitou Springs High School, Mitch’s family moved to Florida. Five years
later, Mitch headed back to Colorado on his own, ahead of his family’s impending move. His
deep roots and connections carved his early adulthood – he worked at The Broadmoor World
Arena, Safeway, Colorado College, The Arc Thrift Store, and other local establishments and
coached the Manitou Springs High School football team.

In 2007, in a full circle moment, Mitch was invited to join the Board of Directors at The Arc Pikes
Peak Region.

According to Wil Romero, The Arc Pikes Peak Region Executive Director, “Mitch is Mr. The Arc.
He is everything you could want out of The Arc and a constant voice to hold us accountable. He
keeps our mission and impact top of mind for staff and volunteers every day. He’s a staple in our
program and a voice for how we should be supporting people with disabilities and the new
demands and challenges being faces by people with disabilities today.”

In 2009, Mitch wanted to expand his advocacy to a new level. With the support of his local
chapter, he successfully championed himself to become a member of The Arc of Colorado’s
board of directors. According to Tonya Kelly, a past president of The Arc of Colorado, “Mitch is
an inspiration to me and other board members and to advocates with IDD around the state. He
brought his lived experience to The Arc of Colorado’s public policy efforts, testifying at the
Capitol and calling legislators on the phone. His efforts inspired others to speak out as well. As
president, I recruited Mitch to become Vice President, and he was the first person with IDD to
serve on The Arc of Colorado’s Executive Committee, becoming President in 2021. He has
shown the organization that those with IDD know no boundaries and deserve to be seen in
leadership roles. Under his leadership, we became a stronger board and nonprofit. He also
supported the organization as we hosted The Arc’s national convention and established an
endowment for the organization.”

In 2018, Mitch was ready to take his advocacy to the national level and became a member of
The Arc of the United States’ Board of Directors, and now serves as our Secretary.

“I wanted to join the board to get involved politically and ensure that people with disabilities have
the same rights as everyone else. I think it is very important that we stay on top of disability
rights. Every year, we see Congress say we don’t matter by trying to cut our health insurance or
ignoring improvements to Social Security. It’s critical that we go to Capitol Hill and Washington,
DC and are heard by our members of Congress,” says Mitch.

In 2019, Mitch’s advocacy culminated into an opportunity to be heard directly from his member
of Congress while attending one of The Arc’s keystone events – the Disability Policy Seminar.
This event brings together advocates nationwide to learn about key policy priorities and then go
to Capitol Hill to speak with their Members of Congress. Before the event, Mitch was a regular
caller to his representatives’ offices around disability issues, but he sometimes did not feel
heard. During the Hill visit, Mitch noticed his Member of Congress walking past him, intending to
bypass The Arc’s group. Undeterred, Mitch stopped him to share his thoughts on disability
issues and ensure he and other Coloradans with disabilities were heard.

For Mitch, support for The Arc is all about advocacy and people with disabilities.

“The Arc focuses on people with disabilities and ensures they have what they want and need.
Our bottom line is we care about people. I serve on the board and make sure the organizations
are running well so that the people with disabilities we serve are being taken care of,” says
Mitch.

For the past 30 years and throughout his life, Mitch has worked tirelessly to advocate for himself
and others – and hopes that other people with disabilities will join him as leaders of The Arc.

“I hope there’s more people with disabilities who want to be a president of the board, vice
president, secretary, or treasurer. I would love to see more people with disabilities in a
leadership role and connecting with their local, state, and national chapters of The Arc….
Supporting The Arc is the right thing to do, because at the end of the day, The Arc is here to
help people.”

The post Spotlighting The Arc’s Changemakers: Mitch Routon, Secretary of The Arc’s Board of Directors appeared first on The Arc.