By Marisa Jackels, lead writer at Tellwell
Submitted photos courtesy of Creative Care for Reaching Independence and AB Images
Meet Brad, David, Greg and Lane. Four men who, with the help of Creative Care for Reaching Independence (CCRI), get the opportunity to live life with no reservations or hold-ups. CCRI, a local non-profit that works to enhance the lives of people with disabilities, is helping these four roommates by creating a more accessible home for them to sing, dance, socialize and relax together.
“What I love most about my home is who I share it with.”
These are the words on a wooden sign hanging in the home of Lane, David, Brad and Greg; four friends who have lived together with support from CCRI for 10 years. One visit to their house and you will understand how true these words are for the four guys.
Lane will most likely answer the door. He’s the self-proclaimed leader of the house and welcomes guests with a smile.
“Let’s take a tour,” he offers.
The house is filled with memories and pieces of the four friends’ lives together. A Batman piñata rests against the wall, Lane’s favorite superhero, in preparation for his birthday party. Handcrafted art pieces created by David hang on the walls and the kitchen table is covered in colored stock paper, glitter, popsicle sticks and crayons.
“Hi, you’re cool,” David says with his signature grin and repetitive way of speaking. “You’re cool.”
Greg is a dancer and the TV is often playing some of his favorite music videos; “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums are a few current favorites. The Beach Boys, however, are the reigning favorite among all four housemates.
“When Greg dances, he controls the dance floor,” says Amber Lobdell, one of the CCRI caregivers who works with the four guys. His favorite move? “Definitely the hip sway.”
Then there’s Brad, a music-lover and social butterfly who is known for his charm and sense of humor. When he enters the room, you know it; he has a loud voice and contagious laughter that puts everyone in a good mood.
It is clear from their home that these four are more than roommates. They’re family. They cook meals, celebrate birthdays and watch movies together. They tease one another, throw pillows at each other and bicker over the front seat. Sometimes they want their alone time and to spend time in their rooms; but often the draw of their roommates’ laughter is more powerful, and soon everyone is around the table making cookies or singing along to The Beach Boys.
“David, that color blue looks so nice on you!” Brad says to David. David laughs. “You’re weird,” David says. “David, quit calling me weird!” Brad says with a grin, shaking his head.
Spend an afternoon around these four friends and you’ll quickly start to understand why the CCRI caregivers who work with them quickly fall in love.
“You can be having a terrible day and as soon as you walk through the door… they just make you happy. I don’t know how else to describe it,” says Tia Halvorson, who has worked with CCRI for two years. “They remind you of something bigger than yourself.”
While the four guys love their home, it has its challenges. David works hard at his physical therapy appointments, but he is losing his range of motion. Stairs have become a challenge, and his bedroom is in the basement. In addition, David’s sensory aversions don’t allow him to use the shower and the only bathtub in the house is a deep, jetted tub that is a strain for David to get in and out of.
Brad has difficulties as well. Due to arthritis and neuropathy in his knees, Brad relies on a wheelchair to get around. The lack of openness in the house causes frustration for Brad, who struggles to maneuver to bring his dishes to the kitchen sink. He even eats at a separate table while his roommates prefer to eat around the counter. He requests regularly to “soak in a tub”, which isn’t possible in his current home, due to it being located in the basement.
It’s because of these growing frustrations that CCRI began entertaining the possibility of building the four guys a new home.
“As they get older, their needs change. We try to make sure that wherever they’re living is as accessible as possible,” Duane Hickel, a CCRI caregiver of 17 years, said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about getting around your own home.”
The new home will have plenty of open space and accessibility for all four friends to move around, share meals and have time to themselves. Lane, who enjoys doing book work and managing the schedules of the house, will get his own office space. Greg will still have plenty of room to dance. David won’t have to worry about stairs causing him trouble and will even have his own art room. Finally, Brad will have access to all parts of the house and the ability to take a nice bath whenever he’d like.
“I feel excitement about the new house,” Brad said. “I’m excited to do a lot of activities.”
Being together has increased the quality of life for all four friends, CCRI caregivers said. David, for instance, was much more quiet and reserved in previous housing situations. Since moving into this house, he talks and smiles so much more. Lane, who lovingly calls his roommates “my boys,” is noticeably sad whenever one is away from home, and joyful when everyone is around. At a recent wedding they attended, all four roommates could be seen tearing it up with Greg on the dance floor.
“They really enjoy each others’ company and get along well,” Duane said. “Rather than looking at options where they had to be split up, we looked at ways to keep them together.”
Life is not always easy for the four guys. Together, they’ve said goodbye to friends who have passed away. Together, they bravely face the various challenges that come with their disabilities. And together, they continue to bring joy to each other and all who are around them. The best thing about their home is the people they share it with — and for Lane, Greg, Brad and David, when they’re together, they are home.
Want to follow along with the guys on their journey to a new home? Follow #Build4TheGuys on Facebook and Twitter and watch how the community’s gifts bring incredible joy to their caretaking staff, and especially to “The Guys” — Lane, Greg, Brad, and David.
To learn more about the work Creative Care for Reaching Independence does, check out creativecare.org.
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