It's a rare public speaker who would bill himself as "defective" on purpose.

Jonathan Mooney does. And he adds words like "different," "slow" and "less than."

As a dyslexic youngster who couldn't read until he was 12, Mooney grew up hearing all those derogatory tags.

His mother, however, knew he "didn't need someone to fix me, I needed someone to fight for me," Mooney told the audience at the sold-out annual dinner and award celebration May 18 of The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region, a nonprofit serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It was an audience that understood everything Mooney had experienced including what he had gone through to not only learn to read, but to miraculously graduate from Brown University with honors; to write books even though he had been told over and over that he would never have what it takes to succeed. He tells his story in "The Short Bus." Along the way he founded the advocacy group Project Eye-to-Eye for students with learning "differences." "People with differences have to quit being different," he said. "We're blinded by that deficit lens, not what they can do."

Appreciative listeners included a strong list of annual award winners who spent time with Mooney, who cheered them on.

Named Achievers of the Year were Devin Binford, Martin Caris, Sara Feher, Melana Fisk, Rickie Gavin, Christopher Hitchens, Gwenyth Johns-O'Leary, Gary Lavender, Amanda Rhuby, Tino Valencia, Milo Woodring and Joaquin Zaragoza.

Linda Golden received the Bert Fellows Award for outstanding volunteer service.

Rob Wrubel was named the Don Haney Award winner for his "extraordinary work fostering positive change."

Nancy Homan received the "Do the Right Thing Award" for being a tireless advocate for students, "no matter what the risk."

The 2013 President's Award went to Cindy and John Hooton of Stargazers Theatre and Event Center. who were recognized for providing a site for events for many agencies, including The Arc's new film festival. In accepting the award for his parents, Evan Hooton said the family does things for nonprofits because "we love it" and acknowledged The Arc award was important to them because of his brother, "who is very special. He's my best friend."

Employers of the Year were the Arc Thrift Stores, Colorado Springs Sky Sox and Chefs Catalog.

Board President Jonathan Walker said The Arc has entered a new era, which started with the hiring of executive director Wilfred Romero and the naming of last year's President's Award winner, Christina Butero, to their management team.

New staff are dealing with "the surge in diagnosis of autism and its various permutations, which we believe is the new frontier in the area of developmental disabilities," Walker told the audience.