I would say there are two things that every parent hopes for their child: good health and independence. Of course, many parents have many other “plans” and hopes as well but I think it is safe to say these two are fairly consistent across the parenting board. For a parent of an individual with special needs, it can be overwhelming and daunting to know what this may mean for not only your child but your own future.
Sometimes as a parent or caregiver, you have to take a step back. Instead of always looking at the BIG picture or for BIG opportunities, look at how the small stuff can make BIG changes or a BIG impact. That is exactly what the Teter family has done for Jeremy and the changes he has made are anything but SMALL.
Jeremy is 25 years old and is now working at Starbucks, cooking his own breakfast and other meals, working out with FITBuddies 2X/week (he has lost 25 pounds since he started due to both diet and exercise), going to the College of Adaptive Arts, and in the last year, learned how to ride a bike. You can tell by the way Jeremy walks that his confidence is soaring and he truly has a feeling of independence. As he says, “I’m a grown man, doing man things!”
Of course there are still other things on his list, but overall, Jeremy feels as though he is “living the life.” HUGE opportunities did not come pounding on the Teter family’s door and these changes did not happen over night. It was a process, a process of small steps that led to a few more doors opening followed by huge progress and change.
This is part of what the monthly happy hours I am currently organizing are all about. Sure, it’s a fundraiser but it’s much more than that. There’s not a person who meets any of my FITBuddies’ participants who doesn’t enjoy getting to know them or love hanging out with them (or at least they all tell me that:); yet, there are far and few between (if any) who are calling these special individuals to hang out on a weekend (or weekday) night. Yes, there are more and more ‘social’ programs for individuals with special needs but trust me, they can tell the difference between being treated as ‘special’ individuals and being treated just like everyone else.
It is simply a happy hour. It is not a huge opportunity, but it is something small that can create a big feeling: a feeling of increased independence and inclusion. Thank you to all who came to the first one and we hope many of you will join us in the future!
A few words from Jeremy, Mr. Independent, the Monday after he came up to the city for Happy Hour:
“Jen, that was the best city night ever. I really think I could get use to nights out like that. Do you think we could do that again?”
A few words from Jeremy’s parents (Bill and Mary Lynn Teter) regarding Jeremy’s night out:
Jen, the ‘attitude’ that ‘the’ Jeremy came home with that evening was priceless!
“I’m accepted”, “I have friends”, “They like me”, “I’m just a regular guy.”
Jeremy showed enough self-esteem for any six guys. We can’t thank you
enough! You provide a lot of ‘somethings’ for these young people that the
parents just can’t give.
Buddies In ACTION is not just about exercise and health; it’s about creating OPPORTUNITIES that increase INDEPENDENCE and INCLUSION.