Ryan turned 26 today!
As I write those words, I find it difficult to believe that 26 years have passed.
It was just yesterday…..
Ryan was 4 months and starting Happy Hearts, the Barber Center child care program
located down the street from our main building. Its close proximity provided me the opportunity to visit during lunch and check in on him. And then he celebrated his first birthday with a “party” with his fellow classmates.
Soon after his diagnosis at 2, we were implementing ABA programs mornings, afternoons, and weekends. He was a busy young man!!!! And so was I. It was “hard work,” but I do attribute much of his success to the intensity of the program in his very early years. He loved visiting his Aunt Tootie (Dr. Barber), sitting on her couch, and eating the special crackers she kept just for him.
From elementary through middle school, he was fortunate to have some strong
administrators (especially Mrs. Mosely) and caring teachers who challenged him to be the best he could be. By the time he was in high school, he was ready to say goodbye to school and move into the world of work. He volunteered at Bello’s Market as a Junior and Senior, and was offered a job there upon graduation. He continues to work there Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings, completing their maintenance needs. Hard to believe, but he’s been employed there 6 years! Afternoons find him working with our Transitional Work Service program in maintenance. He loves working! He has probably the best work ethic of any young person that I know.
Another facet of Ryan is his interest in and commitment to fitness. This summer, he was on the golf course after work and on weekends. I do laugh, it takes me three shots to get to his 250 yard drive! Ryan started young; he participated
in the kid’s marathon at age nine, and has been running ever since. He completed the Barber Beast on the Bay for the 5th year in a row, and was smiling as he crossed the finish line, after running 10 miles!
As I look back over the years, I know that I have so much to be grateful for: family, friends, outstanding staff, and the Erie community that welcomes children and adults with disabilities.
And the future??? My expectations continue to be high. Who knows what the future will bring? He has accomplished much more than I ever would have dreamed!
Tune in next year and I’ll fill you in on what Ryan’s 26th year held!