When Mitch was just ten days old, he had a stroke. Four years later, he began experiencing seizures, which would continue until he was 10 years old. The stroke and seizures mean that Mitch has trouble using both the left and right sides of his body—but it also inspires him to focus on his abilities rather than his disabilities.

Mitch has a friendly, laid-back demeanor, but he is also bold in speaking out on injustices against people with disabilities. Inspired by the advocacy and inquisitiveness of his father, Ralph, an independent journalist in the Colorado Springs area, Mitch learned to speak up for himself and others in uncomfortable situations—and quickly learned how important his voice was. He also developed his confidence and relationships as manager of his high school football team.

In 1993, Mitch’s dad served on The Arc Pikes Peak Region Board of Directors, one of the many boards in the disability community that Ralph took part in. It was through this connection that Mitch first became aware of The Arc locally—and so began Mitch’s own leadership with The Arc network.

After graduating from Manitou Springs High School, Mitch’s family moved to Florida. Five years later, Mitch headed back to Colorado on his own, ahead of his family’s impending move. His deep roots and connections carved his early adulthood—he worked at The Broadmoor World Arena, Safeway, Colorado College, The Arc Thrift Store, and other local establishments and coached the Manitou Springs High School football team.

In 2007, in a full circle moment, Mitch was invited to join the Board of Directors at The Arc Pikes Peak Region.Mitch Routon stands a podium on a stage, speaking to an audience at The Arc National Convention.

According to Wil Romero, The Arc Pikes Peak Region Executive Director, “Mitch is Mr. The Arc. He is everything you could want out of The Arc and a constant voice to hold us accountable. He keeps our mission and impact top of mind for staff and volunteers every day. He’s a staple in our program and a voice for how we should be supporting people with disabilities and the new demands and challenges being faces by people with disabilities today.”

In 2009, Mitch wanted to expand his advocacy to a new level. With the support of his local chapter, he successfully championed himself to become a member of The Arc of Colorado’s board of directors. According to Tonya Kelly, a past president of The Arc of Colorado, “Mitch is an inspiration to me and other board members and to advocates with IDD around the state. He brought his lived experience to The Arc of Colorado’s public policy efforts, testifying at the Capitol and calling legislators on the phone. His efforts inspired others to speak out as well. As president, I recruited Mitch to become Vice President, and he was the first person with IDD to serve on The Arc of Colorado’s Executive Committee, becoming President in 2021. He has shown the organization that those with IDD know no boundaries and deserve to be seen in leadership roles. Under his leadership, we became a stronger board and nonprofit. He also supported the organization as we hosted The Arc’s national convention and established an endowment for the organization.”

In 2018, Mitch was ready to take his advocacy to the national level and became a member of The Arc of the United States’ Board of Directors, and now serves as our Secretary.

“I wanted to join the board to get involved politically and ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else. I think it is very important that we stay on top of disability rights. Every year, we see Congress say we don’t matter by trying to cut our health insurance or ignoring improvements to Social Security. It’s critical that we go to Capitol Hill and Washington, DC, and are heard by our members of Congress,” says Mitch.

In 2019, Mitch’s advocacy culminated in an opportunity to be heard directly from his member of Congress while attending one of The Arc’s keystone events—the Disability Policy Seminar. This event brings together advocates nationwide to learn about key policy priorities and then go to Capitol Hill to speak with their Members of Congress. Before the event, Mitch was a regular caller to his representatives’ offices around disability issues, but he sometimes did not feel heard. During the Hill visit, Mitch noticed his Member of Congress walking past him, intending to bypass The Arc’s group. Undeterred, Mitch stopped him to share his thoughts on disability issues and ensure he and other Coloradans with disabilities were heard.

For Mitch, support for The Arc is all about advocacy and people with disabilities.A man with disabilities stands outside. He is holding hand written signs that read, "Disability Rights are Human Rights!!" and "Stop Discrimination Now." The U.S. Capitol building is in the background.

“The Arc focuses on people with disabilities and ensures they have what they want and need. Our bottom line is we care about people. I serve on the board and make sure the organizations are running well so that the people with disabilities we serve are being taken care of,” says Mitch.

For the past 30 years and throughout his life, Mitch has worked tirelessly to advocate for himself and others—and hopes that other people with disabilities will join him as leaders of The Arc.

“I hope there’s more people with disabilities who want to be a president of the board, vice president, secretary, or treasurer. I would love to see more people with disabilities in a leadership role and connecting with their local, state, and national chapters of The Arc….Supporting The Arc is the right thing to do because, at the end of the day, The Arc is here to help people.”

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