Visit the Dinosphere at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and you might find a Nashville man working behind the glass.
Joe Broomall is a volunteer “dinosaur expert.” Once a week, he and his support person, Debra Carmer of Columbus-based Developmental Services Inc., make the 80-mile round-trip journey to help clean dinosaur bones in the museum’s Paleo Prep Lab.
For his dedication to his volunteer job, Broomall received the DSI Consumer Achievement Award on Nov. 8.
DSI is a nonprofit that provides services for children and adults with disabilities in 55 Indiana counties.
Broomall was cited for overcoming many learning and social challenges through his passion for dinosaurs, which began when he saw “Barney and Friends” on TV when he was 4.
“This passion, which has been embraced by Joe’s parents, has served him well over the years,” said Sam Simmermaker, the emcee for the awards ceremony.
“When he had difficulty learning to read, Joe read books about dinosaurs. As Joe got older, his interests motivated him to learn how to use the internet and video equipment to make his own dinosaur movies.”
Broomall even learned to budget his money so he could purchase dinosaur models and real fossils, his support staff said.
By visiting the Mid-America Paleontology Society Expo in Illinois each year with his family, Broomall learned to overcome his aversion of large crowds.
Broomall was offered DSI’s Family Support Waiver in 2010, but he wasn’t sure it was for him, his award nomination said. The waiver allows people with intellectual disabilities who live with their families the opportunity to participate in therapeutic, social or employment situations. His parents encouraged him to give it a try.
With the help of DSI’s community rehabilitation program, Indiana Professional Management Group and the museum, Broomall, now 26, landed his dream volunteer job.
“Visitors to the museum can even watch Joe work through a window looking into the lab. Joe also answers visitors’ questions — some of which baffled even the most ardent dinosaur pundits,” Simmermaker said.
Broomall’s interdisciplinary team said his volunteer job has increased his self-confidence as well as his communication, social and vocational skills.
According to his nominees, “Joe just calls it, ‘The most fun thing I’ve ever done.’”