2020 Outstanding DSP Award

According to a NADSP Survey, 34% of Direct Support Professionals are Working More Hours and 29% are Working in Different Settings amidst the pandemic. Direct Support Professionals are at the heart of all we do. It has never been more abundantly clear how much DSPs sacrifice to ensure the individuals they support can live their best lives – especially during a global health crisis.

For the second year, MediSked is honoring Outstanding DSPs through our annual Award Program.  This year we especially honor the DSPs who are putting themselves on the front lines during uncertain times. Four truly exceptional professionals who exemplify the important work carried out by providers each day were selected from entries across the country. Each of the narratives below was submitted by a colleague.

MediSked Outstanding DSP Award

Mary Thurmond (pictured on right)

Open Door Rehab Center (ODRC)

Mary is a support aid at a high physical care house. She loves the individuals there and has also helped them establish friendships with her family, who often come and visit or do volunteer work with them. Mary really stepped up during the COVID-19 crisis. She is currently living at the house 3 1/2 days a week to ensure the best care is given and there is limited staff exposure to the individuals. When programming needed to occur at the house, she jumped right in. Each morning, she has them dance for exercise. She gets creative with sensory activities such as painting, using bubble wrap, water balloon toss, and painting the windows (just to name a few).

Kim Burno (pictured on right)

Fitzmaurice Community Services, Inc.

At an Intellectual Disabilities group home, all three individuals and almost all of the staff contracted COVID-19. One of the individuals was hospitalized. Ms. Burno offered to work at this house knowing that two individuals were positive with COVID-19. Ms. Burno moved into the home for approximately two weeks. She was the only staff working. This was approved by the Office of Developmental Programs. Ms. Burno is the mother of three children two of whom still live at home. Ms. Burno knew that she would need to quarantine herself when she was able to return home. She made a month’s commitment so that two individuals could be properly cared for in their own home.

Zaida Balch


Zaida goes above and beyond advocating for the individuals at Mozaic and is a strong team player. Zaida received a notable Commendation last year for offering immediate medical assistance to an individual. Zaida is always seeking opportunities to learn new things. She is the epitome of dedication – she is not only dedicated to the individual’s health and safety but she is also always helping fellow staff out. She’s willing to stay late to cover, she’s willing to come in early to help out and she is an amazing cook, baking cakes for all staff’s birthdays! Not a day goes by that she doesn’t make the house a better place.

Camden Lambert

Arc of North Carolina

Camden Lambert is the supported employment specialist of the Mission Health Project SEARCH program, a yearlong vocational training internship program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When the COVID-19 pandemic stuck, the 2019-2020 cohort was moving into its third and final ten-week internship. Ms. Lambert was undeterred and worked tirelessly to create a system of individualized virtual check-ins and volunteer opportunities in the community to approximate the third internship experience for all interns. Ms. Lambert genuinely recreated ten weeks of programming on the fly and successfully found jobs for each of the interns who were in situations to obtain employment while in the middle of a worldwide health crisis.