People First: Friendship and laughter part of weekly meetings

Being a self-advocate means you are independent and take control of your life. I’m learning to be a self-advocate through People First of Miles City.

Frank Arnold Braden

We have 30 members in our chapter, which is one of 15 chapters in Montana. We meet every Saturday at the Nursing Home in Miles City. Our advisers are Julia Boulden and Barb Geiger.

Besides helping people learn to advocate for themselves, People First teaches other important lessons — that you’re a person first, that your disability comes last and that we can do anything even with our disabilities.

We also enjoy friendship and laughter together.

Like other chapters, People First of Miles City has projects we work on to make our community better. One of our projects is Relay for Life.

I joined People First in Miles City in 2008 and was elected president. As such I also represent our chapter as a senator at the annual Senate in Helena, where we work on important issues such as the marriage penalty.

People First of Montana started in 1994 with the formation of local chapters across the state. In 2000, representatives of local chapters came together to form a statewide organization, the People First of Montana Senate. People First of Montana enhances the quality of life for people with disabilities. It is a network of local self-advocacy groups.
  
I’m a native of Montana. I was born in Wolf Point on July 27, 1951. My parents, who are now deceased, were Frank William and Colleen Braden.

I am one of eight children. I have four sisters: Patty in Wibeaux; Sherry in Portland, Ore.; Lona in Butte; and Tina in Twin Bridges; and two brothers, Fred and Kip, both in Glendive. A third brother, Shannon, passed away.

I spent time at the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder and attended school there.
For the past 20 years, I have worked at the Texas Club Restaurant in Miles City. I like the job because I get to meet and greet a lot of people.

I enjoy riding my bike around Miles City (I actually have three bicycles that I bought myself).
For fun I like to make pottery, using a chalking technique for color. I sell my pottery at the Farmer’s Market in Miles City on Saturday mornings in the summer and fall. I also enjoy making and painting ceramics and working with wood.

There are so many different things you can do with wood. You can carve it, you can sand it and you can even burn it. Burning it is not just throwing it in a pile and lighting it on fire. It is a technique that can be done to draw on a piece of wood itself.

I also enjoy visiting with friends and bowling.

I have won numerous medals in bowling at Special Olympics.

If you were to ask me whom I admire most, I’d say my grandparents, Shirley and Fred.
My favorite movie is “Police Academy.” My favorite TV show is “Walker, Texas Ranger.” And my favorite food is spaghetti.

Frank Braden was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child, but it hasn’t stopped him from enjoying life every day. He greets customers at the Texas Club with his trademark quip, “Have a rotten day.” Most tell him to “have a rotten day” back, and they laugh together.

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