Top Stories

Disability Network/Michigan Hosts Independent Living Summit

In late September Disability Network/Michigan hosted the 1st Annual Independent Living Summit with over 225 staff attending from Michigan’s 15 Centers for Independent Living. It had been 15 years since the network hosted a statewide Independent Living (IL) conference. Disability Network CEO, Sara Grivetti, states, “The event was long over-due; we have so many staff across the state that do similar jobs, it was time to get them together, network and share ideas.”

The event kicked off with a networking reception the evening before the full-day summit.  With the room overflowing, the network honored Mike Zelley, the founder and retiring executive director of The Disability Network in Flint for his accomplishments in advancing the rights of people with disabilities. In addition, the group was entertained by Singer-Songwriting Peter Leidy and Comedian Michael Beers. Both got the attendees laughing with tears down their cheeks.

The following day full-day summit began with the posting of the colors by the United States Marine Corp. Charlie Company, based in Lansing, MI. Following was an inspirational speech delivered by Chris Smit, PhD, Executive Director of DisArt (visit for more information). Several breakout sessions were held tackling topics like the IL History & Philosophy, Community Engagement & Coalition Building, Telling Our Story and session’s specific for the CIL Board members in attendance. One of the highlights was engaging over 160 participants in a strategic visioning exercise to layout the Blueprint of Michigan’s CILs (#MICIL2025). One participant stated ‘the visioning activity was the best part of the conference; I felt a part of designing our future.’

Perhaps one of the most monumental accomplishments of the conference was the official launch of the Disability Network/Michigan Covenant. The Covenant is the promise, or agreement, each person is making with regards to Excellence, Passion and Trust. With the focus on these three tenants in the Covenant, the statewide network of CILs will be stronger and more unified.

In closing, Grivetti stated, ‘The Summit launched our new mantra #gobluegoorange to reflect our unity in providing the highest quality of services to people with disabilities in Michigan!

Mike Zelley

Mike Zelley being honored by his colleague for his contributions to the IL Movement

Cris Smit

Keynote Speaker, Chris Smit, PhD, Executive Director, DisArt

Michael Beers

Michael Beers, Comedian

group at table sharing ideas

Establishing the vision for #MICIL2025

Peter Leidy

Peter Leidy, Singer Songwriter

peole smiling in a buffet line

No conference is complete without networking over yummy food