Home > All Categories > Press Release > AAPD Announces the 2022 Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award Recipients

AAPD Announces the 2022 Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award Recipients

by | Mar 21, 2022 | Press Release

For Immediate Release: 3/21/2022

Contact: Jess Davidson, jdavidson@aapd.com

Washington, D.C. – Each year, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community with its AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Awards. In 2022, AAPD expanded the eligibility for Hearne Awardees to both individuals as well as groups of people working on an initiative together. Two awards are given to individuals or teams, who receive $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities. The recipients of the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Awards are honored at the AAPD Leadership Awards Gala. (You can RSVP for free here to celebrate and learn about this year’s awardees during this year’s virtual award ceremony on April 28, 2022).  

The award is named in honor of one of AAPD’s founders, Paul G. Hearne. Paul was a passionate advocate for the increased employment of people with disabilities. He opened doors for thousands through his leadership of Just One Break, an employment agency for people with disabilities in New York City, and the Dole Foundation for Employment of People with Disabilities in Washington, DC. One of Paul’s core passions was cultivating leaders to advance the disability rights movement. The AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards were established in 1999 to honor his lifetime of leadership and advocacy by supporting emerging leaders with disabilities. 

AAPD is incredibly proud to recognize KiAnna Dorsey and the team of Nate Tilton and Chun Yu (Chris) Wan as the 2022 recipients of the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Awards.

AAPD President and CEO Maria Town stated, “In naming these impressive honorees, we not only celebrate their work, but we also emphasize the importance of a truly cross-disability movement. AAPD looks forward to working with this year’s Hearne Awardees to continue to make our community more inclusive of all disability experiences.”

“Paul G. Hearne understood that investing in upcoming leaders in the disability rights movement is to also invest in the long-term success and sustainability of the work that each of us do today to advance disability rights. AAPD is proud to support the work and development of these emerging movement leaders. I congratulate KiAnna, Chris, and Nate as they join a group of remarkable leaders who carry on Paul G. Hearne’s legacy” said Susan Diegelman, Chair of the Board of Directors of AAPD. 

KiAnna Dorsey (she/her) is a junior at the University of Miami who was diagnosed with a severe nut allergy at 18 months old and by age 2 learned how to recognize her allergens on a label. KiAnna believes passionately in the power of film, television, and storytelling broadly as means of food allergy awareness and education. With the 2022 Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award, KiAnna will create an animated film, Food Friendly, based on her experience living with nut allergies in elementary school. The main character learns to embrace her allergy after meeting a friend at the nut-free table. She eventually plans to collaborate with others, including the disability community and school nurses, to release a self-advocacy curriculum in conjunction with the film. KiAnna works to share her own moving story and continues to uplift underrepresented stories and perspectives in media.

Nate Tilton (he/him) and Chun Yu (Chris) Wan (he/him) are researchers with and cofounders of the Veteran’s Independent Research Organization (VIRO). With funding from the 2022 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award, VIRO will start a scholarship and mentorship program to provide systemic and interpersonal support to disabled Guamanian veterans. One tactic for doing so will be helping Guamanians in their journey of becoming physicians and incentivizing them to stay in Guam to serve disabled veterans by providing scholarship funds and mentorship throughout the entire medical school application process. VIRO will also provide technological support for hybrid community care sessions and a Go-Pro exchange network to disabled veterans in and around Guam who are isolated by geography and infrastructure to foster communities of care. 

The recipients of the 2022 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Awards will be honored at the 2022 virtual AAPD Leadership Awards Gala on April 28. You can learn more about this year’s award recipients and previous awardees on the AAPD website. Please join us in congratulating KiAnna, Chris, and Nate on their accomplishments and leadership.


The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD website: www.aapd.com.