Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, felt everyone, regardless of ability, should be given an opportunity for spiritual growth and expression. Out of that conviction came a retreat and small group experience called Faith and Sharing. In many cities in which … Continue reading
Some of Monica’s mom’s friends were planning a fashion show fundraiser. The daughters were going to be the models. Then one of the girls thought of Monica and wanted to include her. The girls had tea at Sally’s house and tried on vintage dresses. Then they all went to The Limited and tried on new clothes. The fashion show was about femininity and elegance and how they have been expressed in our clothing. Also how the clothing of other countries influenced clothes in the United States.
The girls arrived early on the day and practiced walking on the platform.
Then they all got dressed in a special room. There were lots of clothes and accessories. The girls helped each other.
The show started with some very beautiful and very old dresses.
Later there were the dresses from other countries. Monica’s first dress was a dirndl showing the influence of clothing from Austria. (Perfect for that Sound of Music fan!)
After the vintage dresses, everyone had lunch. Monica was seated with the other models, not her mom!
After lunch, the girls modeled the new clothes from the Limited.
Monica knew just how to stand to show off the dress she was wearing! It was a lot of fun!
Everyone knows Monica loves the Sound of Music. Our good friend Melissa made a dream come true this weekend. Melissa organized a trip to Columbus to see the Broadway production of Sound of Music. Monica packed her bag herself and could not wait to meet up with the girls on Saturday. We were impressed that she remembered to pack things like her earplugs so she could go swimming, a little container to take her thyroid medicine and vitamins, and her charger for her phone. There were four chaperones and four young ladies about Monica’s age on the trip.
They stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a break and arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon.
They had a blast in the pool. They enjoyed the Happy Hour snacks.
They got all dressed up and headed out to the Ohio Theater downtown.
Monica described everything to us. The theater, the orchestra, the set, the beautiful voices, the children! She loved everything about seeing the live performance. Afterwards, they positioned themselves where the actors came out and Monica got to meet the woman who played Maria von Trapp. What a thrill for her!
When they got back to the hotel they had pizza and cookies and giggled in their pajamas.
In the morning, they all went to Mass together at St. Patrick church and out to lunch at Spaghetti Warehouse.
This weekend excursion is something we never imagined would happen. We never thought we would have an opportunity for Monica to be included and taken care of so well. We could relax at home and know she was safe and having a wonderful time.
Monica’s brother Greg now attends Cleveland State University’s Washkewicz College of Engineering. At a welcome back event last week he won tickets to the CSU basketball game being played at Quicken arena – the “Q”. Monica hunted up an old Vikings jersey and green t-shirt for the game. She had a blast.
We are so grateful that God gives different gifts to different people. Some are called to be teachers, or doctors, or to work with elderly, small children or people with special needs. We have met so many wonderful people who choose and enjoy providing for the needs of people with disabilities. Two programs that Monica enjoys are the PinPals bowling group and SOAR dance exercise classes. Both programs were started by ordinary people who felt called to serve people with special needs.
The PinPals bowling program is held at Bay Lanes, in Bay Village, Ohio. Mark Nazario, the owner of Bay Lanes opens on Saturday morning just for this group. The bowlers range from barely school age to adults and nearly fill all the lanes. Mark offers a great price to make it affordable and Mary and Bob Custer put the participants into groups so they are bowling with peers, some with bumpers or other aids, some really good bowlers! Mark had a great video created highlighting the group.
PinPals at Bay Lanes
Monica is in the video with her bowling friends. They all get encouragement and praise throughout the season and certificates at the end. This is significant to many young people who would never have the opportunity to be on a team or get recognition at their school.
More recently, she has joined some activities sponsored by Scott Montgomery at SOAR. She attends a dance exercise class on Mondays. Not only is the physical activity good for Monica, but the people volunteering with SOAR truly show an interest in each of the participants. Two weeks ago, they all sang Happy Birthday to Monica and last week they took a photo of the group for a Get Well Card to one of the participants who was hospitalized. The participants have a wide range of ability to participate in the exercise, but all are encouraged to keep moving and enjoy being together.
Our family will join in the support of The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio by donating $1 for every view to Monica’s blog on October 17.
Monica has been at her new job for over 6 months now and loves it every day. In July, she was recognized for perfect attendance again!
Monica is working for an agency that does job training and placement and provides services for adults with disabilities. The agency made an agreement with a long term care facility to provide a group of workers to help the staff with the needs of the residents. There are six adults on Monica’s team and they do a variety of jobs at the facility. Most of the adults are similar in ability to Monica, so she truly has peers to work with. But just like inclusion when they were in school, they are all working alongside the regular employees, sharing the regular employee lunch room and interacting with all the ‘regular’ residents of the facility. So we have the benefits of friends and the benefits of having ‘typically developed’ examples of work behavior.
On an average day, Monica will help clear away the breakfast dishes after the residents finish and prepare the dining room for lunch. She will help with some food prep activities in the kitchen such as pouring small glasses of juice and putting them on trays in the refrigerator or dishing up fruit or putting cookies in baggies. She might then go with a partner to the resident rooms to ask if they would like to join the morning activity. They may help to escort the residents to the activity. If the day’s activity is exercise time or singing time, she may join the activity. On Tuesdays, some of the residents have knitting circle, so Monica joins them. Monica’s group may empty trashcans, or restock some supplies in the rooms. They might fold towels in the laundry. They might help with shredding or collating in the office. They will also clean up after lunch. The services of Monica’s group allow the facility staff to focus more individually on the resident’s needs and the residents enjoy the interaction with the members of Monica’s team. It’s a win for everyone.
Monica works Monday through Friday, 8:30-1:30. The agency provides a bus that picks her up from our home and takes her to work and brings her home in the afternoon. Monica gets up happy every day and looks forward to another day of work. She proudly takes care of her uniform. She comes home tired and satisfied.
We are all so happy with the new situation. She is working and giving service. She has a regular routine. She still has family time. She can pursue other activities, like exercise class now. The agency she is working for has helped her set goals and meet them.
Monica lived all the events of her senior year to the fullest. We were delighted to see her in cap and gown and carrying the bouquet of roses. She was a terrific hostess at her celebration. Her work at a Summer Internship through the County put her in a position to be ready when a job opened in the fall. She now puts herself 110% into her new job. She is on the cleaning crew at a county building: sweeping, mopping, cleaning tables and chairs in the cafeteria, etc. She is progressing well in her piano lessons and played a string of songs for us at this year’s caroling party. She also works one morning a week for a mom of six kids here in Fairview Park as a mother’s helper. Mary Ellen’s volunteering is in transition now with Monica’s schedule changes, so the two of them will be investigating involvements they can do together, of course looking forward to having more time with her sister and her nieces in the year ahead.
An essay by a fourth grade cousin in 2004
Down Syndrome Kids
“Look, two retarded kids are holding hands!” A classmate whispered excitedly. I
didn’t know what to do — should I stand up for them? Have you ever been in a tough
situation? If you have, you should apply the Four-Way-Test. This is made up of four
main questions. 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair? 3) Will it build good will and better
friendships? 4) Is it beneficial to all concerned? Well, I wasn’t sure about this one. I’d
just apply the test. Then we’d see if this classmate was right to laugh!
So, was it the truth? Well, no. It was not. Definitely not. These kids had the right to hold
hands .God made them just as he did us. True, they had some disabilities. But, don’t we
all have some problems? It’s not nice to make fun of people, even if they are different. I
have a cousin named Monica who has Down Syndrome, and she’s fun to be with. She’s
generous too: last year she gave away all her Easter candy. Anyhow, she has feelings
like anyone else would. We really should respect them as we do each other. Maybe you
don’t realize it but, they may have problems and they do have ears. They can hear you
talking bad about them, too.
Next, is it fair to all concerned? Nope, it can’t be fair to make fun of problems a person
was born with. How would you like it if everyone made fun of you? I know I wouldn’t
like it, not one bit. Monica is different on the outside but, on the inside she’s very much
the same as you or me. I love my cousin and am glad and thankful she was put into my
family. So, technically it’s NOT fair at all. I really wish the expression “put yourself into
another person’s shoes “ were possible. Then, you could feel what the other person feels like.
Then, the question, will it build goodwill and better friendships. Will it? No.
Friendships. Are you kidding me? It’s hard enough to make friends for kids like Monica.
I really hope that these kids will be nicely treated in the future. Many kids manage the
friend business fine, others don’t. Kids with a disability are sometimes excluded from
games because they look different than the other children. These children are made to
believe that no one loves them, which isn’t true but, people treat them bad so, how should
the kids know.
Finally, is it beneficial to all concerned? No, no, and no. So, should we make fun of these
kids? Definitely not. I should tell my classmates to stop. It’s the right thing to do. No matter
what they say. I’ll stand up for myself and for Down syndrome kids!