Lifespan – Abilities Illuminated

Meet Christina

Two years ago Christina and her mother relocated to Charlotte and she joined the unique CAET program. Christina’s goals were to become involved in her community, increase her job skills and meet new people. She worked one-on-one with her Community Coach to search for opportunities. Soon she began volunteering at a nursing home, participated in a bowling league, and attended compensatory education classes. After graduating from CAET, she became a participant in the Supported Employment program. She began working with her Senior Employment Specialist to find a job. Christina obtained a job with Papa Johns doing light duties and gained a reputation as the “Pizza Box Folder”. Chris Shoaf, general manager at Papa Johns, boasts that she has the “world record” in his store for folding the most pizza boxes in one shift! Christina states that she enjoys working at Papa Johns because she likes having her own money and her manager and co-workers are all very nice. Her next goal is to advance her employment opportunities and wants to work in a hospital as a laundry attendant. She continues to work with her case manager, and LIFESPAN’s Supported Employment team to discuss options. LIFESPAN illuminated Christina’s abilities and she explains that she is  happy to have received support through LIFESPAN and will most remember the fun she had and the new people she’s met.

Meet Isabella

When Michelle Jeans learned she was three months pregnant in July of 2008, she was a twenty-five year old college student with a dream of completing her BA in Finance. She accepted the unplanned pregnancy as a bump in the road and was excited about becoming a mother. When she went for the first ultra sound at nineteen weeks she learned there was a problem. Her unborn baby girl was diagnosed with Spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube during the first month of embryonic development. Isabella (the name means “beautiful one”) was born on December 23, 2008 at Duke University Medical Center. She was whisked away to NICU where she was observed for 24 hours and then taken to surgery where highly skilled doctors put her spinal cord and its nerve roots back in the spine. In addition, a shunt was surgically installed to provide a continuous drain for the cerebrospinal fluid produced in the brain and drained to the abdomen. After surgery, doctors presented a long list of things this “beautiful one” would never do, including walking and becoming toilet trained. In the summer of 2010 Michelle was looking for the best daycare option. She visited LIFESPAN Circle School in Burlington and fell in love with the vibrant center where children with developmental delays and those without—learn together. The weekly daycare fee was yet another bump in the road, but, Alamance Partnership for Children stepped in and offered to pay a portion of the weekly fee. Today, Isabella is thriving. She attends physical therapy at LIFESPAN and is a bundle of energy. She is taking 5 to 6 steps on her own and then is walking with crutches. The expectation is that she will soon achieve full mobility—on her own! And, she requested to wear “big girl panties” like her friends at school—Isabella is being potty trained (her urologist is amazed). Although there have been many bumps in the road for Michelle and Isabella—today, life is good! LIFESPAN has provided opportunities that enable Isabella’s abilities to be illuminated. Michelle graduated in May with a degree in finance and is now engaged to be married. Isabella has a bright future with an incredible mom, much community support, and a new daddy on the way!

Meet Keri Beth

Keri Beth Kontos is a young woman, 31 years old, who is full of life. She participates in LIFESPAN’s Creative Campus’ in Troutman. Keri Beth lives with parents, Bob and Rhonda Kontos of Statesville. Keri participated in a previous LIFESPAN program that involved daily enrichment opportunities but little community involvement. She has limited verbal skills—but a huge smile that communicates all that she needs to say. LIFESPAN Arts & Gardens program offered Keri a much needed highly structured program that held her interest and challenged her to participate, fully. In the past Keri liked to move from room to room and engage for a short time in activities and then move on. Today, she has become a full participant in the classes. She gained confidence and loves to meet people. After classes on campus, Keri gives back to her community by participating in meaningful volunteer work at several places, including Gorden’s Hospice House in Statesville. Every Wednesday morning, Keri Beth arrives at Hospice and greets staff with goodies (cookies or candy provided by her family). Keri then goes to each patient’s room and delivers a newspaper with a smile and a nod. Keri’s new found confidence allows her to work the rooms and share her compassion and encouragement with each patient, family member and staff. Recently, a community leadership group toured LIFESPAN in Troutman. The instructor in the health and wellness class asked that each participant sitting around the table state their name for the visitors. Keri had never spoken her name so a staff member would always make the introduction. This day was different, after the person seated beside Keri Beth stated her name, instantly she opened her mouth and said “Keri Beth”. The room became silent for a minute, everyone was stunned, but Keri Beth was glowing with excitement and her peers began to cheer. It took a minute for the visitors to understand that they just witnessed a 31 year old woman who had just found her voice and was now an equal with her classmates. Keri Beth is now contributing to society. She confidently and enthusiastically gives of her time and talent to benefit others. She found her voice and confidence—and her abilities were illuminated. Keri’s family and staff believe that the variety of classes offered at LIFESPAN matched with community opportunities has benefited Keri with her social and interpersonal skills, and has broadened her horizons for future opportunities.