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Jessica Romero and Laura Belmar-Ramos Honored with McCrimmon Award

The McCrimmon Award is named for Ed McCrimmon, a longtime member of the Autism Society of North Carolina staff. He was known for his outstanding dedication and integrity as he served individuals with autism. Tragically, he died in 2017. The McCrimmon Award was established to keep Ed’s memory alive, and at the same time, celebrate others like him who give their heart and soul in providing critical care to individuals with autism. This award is sponsored by Rob and Jennifer Christian.

This year, two direct support professionals — Jessica Romero and Laura Belmar-Ramos — were chosen to receive the McCrimmon Award for their outstanding work. Learn more about their extraordinary work, directly from the people who nominated them:


Jessica Romero

Nominated by Geino and Iris Suriel

Jessica has been the most helpful, dedicated, and loving person that has worked with our daughter, Haley. Jessica has become a good and real friend of our daughter. Jessica is always aware of Haley’s emotional and physical needs. She teaches Haley how to get organized and how to complete tasks to be a responsible and productive person, now and for the future. We have been blessed in getting someone like Jessica to help us and work with Haley with lots of love, patience, and caring.

Nominated by Terri Joyner

Jessica is by far one of the best direct support staff members we have had. She is professional, with an excellent work ethic; she maintains confidentiality; she is punctual and communicates with us as needed. She is creative in working on Adam’s goals, keeping his interests in mind and utilizing his strengths to help him grow in his social skills and language/communication skills. When she arrives for her shifts, she has prepared for the day, often bringing art supplies and projects to add to the schedule. She treats Adam with respect, care, and concern for his learning needs. She celebrates his successes with him and with us, making sure she gives me daily updates on how his day went. Although she is petite and could be threatened by Adam’s size and behaviors, she takes it all in stride and uses all of the tools she has learned to deescalate behaviors and move on for a productive day. We are thrilled she stuck with us through COVID and we value her role as a strong asset to Adam’s success.



Laura Belmar-Ramos

Nominated by Kim Tizzard
Laura Belmar-Ramos is extraordinary. She and my son, Trevor, immediately fell into a groove and Trevor was flourishing with community activities and volunteerism.

When the “stay at home” order was announced due to Covid-19 in early March 2020, Trevor’s life as he knew it came to an abrupt halt. He became anxious and depressed with the uncertainty. Laura became concerned with the change she saw in Trevor. She asked us how she could make his days fun and something to look forward to. From this came Theme Days. Each week Laura and Trevor decide the themes for the following week. Laura takes the theme idea and prepares activities through diversified instruction incorporating Trevor’s goals. She researches virtual tours, games, food and anything else that may enhance their experience. The themes have run the gamut from “Big Cat Day” to “Carnival Day” and so much more in between. Our family saw a transformation that has not only profoundly affected Trevor, but anyone who gets to overhear and participate in their special time as well! They are silly, happy, and creative.

Trevor is empowered by all the gifts CHOICE can offer. Laura knows this and fills their time helping him navigate his own day through structure and gentle guidance. She accomplishes this through her own research, incorporating suggestions/goals that the professionals in Trevor’s life provide and his family’s hopes and dreams.

Laura consistently brings her best. She walks in the door with an air of joy and enthusiasm that is contagious. She brings her best self for Trevor and in turn she is rewarded with his best self! She demonstrates dedication, enthusiasm, and incredible professionalism.

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