East Lansing’s Judy Winter is one of only 10 women nationwide to be selected as a 2019 Women of Worth honoree by L’Oreal Paris for her development of Eric “RicStar” Winter Music Therapy Camp.
Winter, along with each honoree, will receive $10,000, along with support via national paid media, educational and training opportunities, and a large-scale platform to share their story. Winter plans on using the earned monies to ensure campers can attend for free, with hopes to introducing new technology to the program.
“Technology opens up the world in a way it never has before for individuals with disabilities,” Winter said. “Our campers are not designed to be observers, as they are too much in life, they are designed to be participants and we make sure that happens.”
After graduating from Michigan State University in 1980, Winter worked at WKAR TV for eight years selling underwriting and hosting local programs. In 1990, her son, Eric, was born and diagnosed with cerebral palsy after a traumatic delivery. The challenging experience led to Winter shifting her career to write a regular column featuring the success stories about individuals with disabilities. She published a book, “Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs.”
“This population wasn’t even talked about then,” she said. “If they were, they were talked about in terms of institutionalization and I said uh-uh that’s not happening here.”
She co-founded RicStar in 2003 in honor of her son, who died unexpectedly. Winter and Cindy Edgerton, the founder of Music Therapy Clinical Services at MSU’s Community Music School, designed the camp to provide one-on-one support to individuals to help them make important gains in their physical, emotional and social abilities through music lessons. According to Winter, RicStar is the only camp of its kind in the Midwest.
Over the years, Winter has received various awards for her volunteerism with the camp, including the 2017 Points of Light Award (founded by former president George H.W. Bush), the 2018 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2019 United States of Women Ambassador for Michigan (an offshoot of the Obama Administration’s Office of Women and Girls). She said she considers the honor from L’Oreal Paris as a new milestone that will take the camp to the next level.
“The beauty of this award is not only incredible validation for our family, because it’s ultimately Eric’s award anyway, but for the families who will feel like they’ve been heard … because this news is international. This a powerful moment for all of us.”
Voting for the national honoree is underway on WomenofWorth.com and ends Nov. 15. The national honoree will receive an additional $25,000 to support her cause.