Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Edison, having lost his hearing around the age of 12, never let his disability discourage him-- rather, he saw it as a motivator. This can-do attitude is epitomized in Pat Slimmer, owner of Slimmer’s Automotive Service.
Pat Slimmer began work with Independence, Inc., a nonprofit company that provides people with disabilities with the tools and assistance necessary for them to live independently, in 1999, when he guest lectured a “Reality World” class. This class provided high school students in Lawrence with leadership skills that prepared them for the future. Slimmer taught students with disabilities every year from 1999-2001 in a guest lecture entitled “How to Buy a Used Car”, which jump-started his work with disabled youth, as well as with Independence, Inc.
Hard work in conjunction with dedication has ultimately led Slimmer to succeed in all areas, from working as a technician to running his business. Slimmer channels this success into inspiration for adolescents with disabilities every year as he participates in Disability Mentoring Day.
Disability Mentoring Day, according in Ranita Wilks, the founder of the program in Lawrence, is “a career development and mentoring program, and the focus of it is to ask young people what would be their dream career and to find a person in that particular career field.” The students then shadow this person and figure out what kind of things go into that particular job.”
Disability Mentoring Day was created in 1999 by the American Association of People with Disabilities as part of Disability Employment Awareness Month in October. This occurs the third Wednesday of October, and the program has gone on every year in Lawrence since the national launch.
Slimmer has played a major role in this yearly event, taking eager young students under his wing, since the initial launch of the program in 2001. For a day, students with either a physical or mental disability have the opportunity to shadow Slimmer as he teaches them about mechanics, as well as the benefits of self-discipline.
“I’ve always worked on cars since a young age, and one thing I learned really early on is hard work,” Slimmer said. “That’s probably the most important thing I can convey to the kids.”
And Slimmer has certainly done so. He has worked with over 39 disabled children throughout his years of Disability Mentoring Day. One of the children who has worked with Slimmer on Disability Mentoring Day saw Slimmer as an excellent role model. “He was friendly, helpful. He was strict but that’s because he wanted the job done and the job done right,” this student said.
Pat Slimmer began working on cars, as he assisted his dad fixing their family cars during his childhood. “Probably the biggest thing for me was spending time with my dad, and I always had an interest in things mechanical, so those two kind of fell into place naturally,” Slimmer said.
Disability Mentoring Day has provided Slimmer with the opportunity to share his knowledge as a technician with these kids, however Slimmer offers more than just technicalities. He also focuses on the importance of work ethic.
Pat Slimmer is the perfect example of a success story. “I wanted to help the kids [because] as a student in school I struggled,” Slimmer said. “I just wanted to be able to help these kids who are also struggling, with any knowledge that I had, anything that I can pass on to help them. I wanted to help them so they didn’t have to struggle as much as I did.”
Slimmer’s compassion is one of many reasons that he is such an outstanding role model and inspiration for the kids that he mentors. What truly makes Slimmer stand out is how much he cares about the kids. Not only does he provide an example for them, but he also takes the time to learn about their disabilities so he is able to give them personalized advice.
“I have no doubt that when Pat is 60, and if I’m still doing this program I’ll call him up and he’ll say, ‘How many kids are you sending?’ and I’ll say ’50.’ And he’ll probably say ‘Sure, we’ll work it out. And there’s no finer person to do so,” Independence, Inc. employee, Ranita Wilks said.
However, according to Pat Slimmer, the most important thing he can teach the kids is this: “It doesn’t matter what your disability, if you’re willing to work hard, you’re going to be successful whatever you do.”
Slimmer is being honored for his work with people with disabilities by Independence, Inc., along with State Sen. Tom Holland on July 24 at 11:30 at Maceli's at the Champions of Independence Luncheon.
Tickets for this event cost $40 each or $350 per table of 8. These can be purchased online at www.independenceinc.org or at Slimmer’s Automotive Service, Cottin’s Hardware & Rental, and KLWN/92.9 The Bull/ KISS. FM.
Please join us in honoring this member of our community. In the words of Independence Inc.’s Independent Living Skills/Peer Counseling Specialist Ranita Wilks, “The word ‘No’ is not in his vocabulary when it comes to mentoring youth with disabilities...As a community we are blessed to have such a generous soul mentoring our youth.”