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February 26, 2010

Mr. Anton goes to Washington: Haverhill man named 2010 Down Syndrome Congress Advocate of Year

Ten years ago, when John Anton of Haverhill was flipping burgers at a fast food joint and reining in shopping carts at a local grocery store, few would have thought that he'd be heading to Washington to meet with members of Congress to discuss the rights of people with developmental disabilities.

One person who always knew was Anton.

This week, Anton was in D.C. to be honored as the National Down Syndrome Society's 2010 Advocate of the Year.

"John has always dreamed really big, and it's been a challenge for the rest of us to keep up with him," said Joe Bockman, his service coordinator at the Department of Development Services.

However, the more he achieved, the more people started to believe in him.

"It's really not a surprise at this point that he's getting this incredible award," Bockman said.

Bockman remembered trying to help Anton keep his job in food service, but Anton kept telling him he wanted to wear a tie, carry a briefcase and work in an office. Anton was determined to get a job at the Statehouse.

"He didn't want anything other than what he was dreaming of," Bockman said. "John taught us to believe in our dreams."

Today, Anton works at the Massachusetts Statehouse as an intern to state Rep. Tom Sannicandro, where he works to provide guidance on legislative and policy issues.

Anton has been a constant voice at the Statehouse on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, especially as he worked on legislation to change the name of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation to reflect a more updated and sensitive attitude for the lead agency that serves him and others with disabilities. On July 1, 2009, the name change to the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, was approved and adopted by the state legislature.

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