When Joyce was born in 1944, it was common to place someone with an intellectual disability in an institution. Joyce lived in an institution until she was a young adult. She first became involved with The Arc when she was referred for advocacy help in 1984. Joyce received the help she needed and was soon hired by The Arc to work as a van aide. Someone who was always good with children, she was hired as an aide for the First Step classroom program, a job she still holds today. Joyce isn’t the only one in her family to be part of The Arc. Her great niece is a part of the First Step Class of 2012.
Joyce has also been actively involved in the Chester County Chester County Self-Determination Action Team since its inception in 2000. This committee brings together self-advocates to promote systemic change in the disability service system and empower people with disabilities and their families to speak up for themselves. This team was instrumental in the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation’s name change to the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in 2011. Joyce is proud to have been part of the campaign to end the “R” word.
Never one to sit still, Joyce has taken on the role of a mentor for The Arc’s life skills program. When adults with disabilities need to test out independent living in the community, Joyce willingly takes them into her home and shows them the ropes. Joyce credits The Arc with allowing her to become more independent. She has received help with life skills and now lives in her own condo with her pet bird. Joyce is a die-hard Phillies fan and saves up all year to be part of The Arc’s annual recreation trip to spring training.
“Every day I have a new passion. Every day something happens that just keeps me going,” Anne Bernstein, The Arc’s director of early intervention and social work services, explains of why she has been an Arc staffer since 1976. Anne came to The Arc after completing her masters degree in social work. She had friends who worked for the First Step preschool program and needed a job. Anne thought maybe she’d stay one year then transition to a mental health setting. She explains that prior to working for The Arc, she had never known disability before. Growing up, there wasn’t talk of disabilities.
Anne believes The Arc’s biggest strength is that the organization provides a lifetime of services and sees and responds to the needs of clients and their families from birth to death. Staff see gaps and work to fill them. Anne has filled gaps in coverage like a support group for siblings of children with disabilities, classroom programs for toddlers with autism, and sex education for teens and adults with disabilities. She recognizes that The Arc is a lifeline for the individuals who’ve received services. Even as services have grown tremendously since The Arc’s classrooms were in church basements, the organization maintains its basic organizational values.
When 37-year-old Tom Potts was six-weeks old, his parents found The Arc. Tom was born with Down syndrome, and Jack and Kathy Potts reached out to The Arc for support. That was the beginning of a long-term relationship. Kathy credits The Arc with making it possible to raise a child with special needs from childhood to adulthood. “The Arc is like having another member of the family,” Kathy says.
Tom graduated from First Step and is an active participant in the life skills, recreation, and Comprehensive Employment Services programs. Tom works part-time at a grocery store, takes part in Special Olympics activities, and still finds the time to volunteer at Goshen Friends School and the Chester County Family Academy with Kathy.
Kathy, a retired teacher, has served on The Arc’s board of directors as well as been directly involved with programming. Similar to the Count Me In® Puppet Show The Arc offers today, Kathy helped with a puppet show to teach students about disabilities. Jack, an attorney, has also served on The Arc’s board of directors and was a founding board member of The Arc Community Trust, a non-profit organization that supports people with disabilities and their families with financial planning.
The Potts Family’s connection to The Arc extends beyond Jack, Kathy, and Tom. Son Steve, also an attorney, has followed his parents’ legacy and serves on The Arc’s board of directors. He, his wife, Julie, and their daughters take part in The Arc’s inclusive opportunities for fun, such as The Arc Achievement Walk & Fun Day. Daughter-in-law Susan Potts took part in a 12-part special education advocacy training series The Arc offered in partnership with the National Special Education Advocacy Institute and other collaborators in 2011. She is completing the process to become a Board Certified Education Advocate and help students with special needs receive the services to which they are entitled.
Program director of family support services Carole Ferguson began work at The Arc 33 years ago. She became involved with the organization through founder Ruth Wood and director of advocacy Connie Mohn. Carole began by donating her time as a volunteer. Later she was the program director for The Arc’s recreation program, which was the first of its kind in Chester County. Through her work in recreation, Carole became involved in advocacy.
Today, Carole is considered a go-to advocate for adults with disabilities. She is always willing to take on a client in need and do what it takes to make sure he or she finds a safe place to stay and is connected to needed services. Carole is relentless in her work to protect the rights of vulnerable adults and remove them from abusive and otherwise unsafe life circumstances. Through her intensive work teaching self-advocacy skills to clients as well as facilitating services on their behalf, she forms true friendships.
Carole says since beginning work at The Arc she has become a more compassionate person and learned a lot about disability. She adds that individuals with disabilities have just as much ability as other people. Carole promotes this attitude and has eagerly involved her friends and family in The Arc’s work as volunteers and donors.
Mary and John Pellack first met The Arc of Chester County in 1989 when their daughter Emily enrolled in First Step. Over the years Mary has been very involved with The Arc. She served on the board of directors for 11 years and has been part of numerous committees. Today, Mary chairs the Faith Inclusion Network for People with Disabilities (FIND), an interfaith grassroots partnership of people with disabilities and their families as well as faith, disability, and government organizations.
Mary credits The Arc with giving her family hope for the best for Emily and teaching her that Emily can be part of the community. Mary believes The Arc’s greatest strength is the staff, particularly their experience. She also appreciates how The Arc’s services and advocacy cover the lifespan. The Arc has “staying power” and serves to remind the community that individuals with disabilities are individuals with their own rights and strengths. “The Arc has matured into a thriving organization with very impactful programs,” Mary shares.
Karen Hayes has been with The Arc since the late ’70s, first coming to The Arc shortly after high school. After spending several years with other support organizations, she decided she wanted to become more independent. “Instead of everybody supporting me, I wanted to support myself,” Karen recalls. Gaining independence was very important to her, and she credits the Arc with giving her this opportunity. With The Arc’s assistance, Karen secured employment and began attending Arc recreation events. The highlight of Karen’s drive for independence was finally realized when she was able to move into her own apartment after years of group living.
Through her own experiences, Karen learned about self-determination and the importance of speaking up for one’s self. “I’m a good, strong advocate,” Hayes says, “and I think it is very important to be a self-advocate and speak up for those who can’t.”
Karen has been a self-advocate for close to 40 years, even serving on The Arc’s board of directors in the 1990s. She is currently president of the Chester County Self-Determination Action Team Self-Advocate Sub-Committee where she works to help people with disabilities understand current legislation, how it may impact them, and what they can do to change it. Karen’s greatest concern is ongoing government budget cuts and the effects on people with disabilities. She was also an integral part of advocacy efforts to eliminate “R” word, of which she is extremely proud.
Karen has created lasting memories at The Arc, but most special to her are her first trip to Disney World with The Arc’ s recreation program and some of the very special people at The Arc who have been part of her life and helped her succeed. Karen has built many life-long friendships with other people who come to The Arc for services as well as Arc staff. “I have never known not being a part of The Arc,” she shares. “The Arc is my family. The people at The Arc are there for you whenever you need them.”
Karen continues to be actively involved with The Arc and vows to never stop advocating for individuals with disabilities. “Legislators need to know we are out there,” she says.
Lori Donovan’s first memories of The Arc are of Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb was the first classroom program of its kind in Chester County for children with disabilities. Lori later attended a variety of public schools in Chester County and graduated from Spring-Ford High School in 1985. It was at Spring-Ford that she first received training in food prep, which would ultimately become her career. She continued her education at Elwyn after high school and became certified as a cook.
Lori learned from a young age how to take care of herself and be self sufficient. Her mother, who passed away in 2006, wanted Lori to be able to make it on her own without help from the government’s systems of supports. Lori’s mom did not want to “take advantage of the system.” Lori survives solely on what she earns at her job. She does not yet receive the SSI payments to which she is entitled. That is a work in progress. Since her mother’s death, Lori has gotten into a waiver program and now receives government funding to pay for The Arc’s life skills and recreation programs that have made such a difference in her life.
To those who know her best, Lori is a survivor. Lori’s living conditions in a manufactured home she shared with her mother were dismal to say the least. When her trailer was declared unfit to live in and she became homeless, she stayed at a shelter for almost a week. Lori made it through that experience because she knew it was one step on her way to a better life. Unfortunately, there are very few shelters with space for women without children. Lori had to travel all the way from a shelter in West Chester to her job in Spring City. Fortunately, Arc staff were able to help transport her.
Lori now lives in a beautiful Old Victorian house that has been converted to apartments. She shares her great new home with her cat, Tyler. It’s thanks to The Arc’s Shelter Plus Care Program that Lori can afford the apartment. This program provides affordable housing for people with disabilities who are homeless. Instead of struggling to pay the market rate for apartments, people in this program pay 30 percent of their income for an apartment integrated in the community.
Al Thomas first joined The Arc’s board of directors in 1988. In this round of three 3-year terms, he rose through the ranks to treasurer then president and served two additional years as past president. Per our bylaws, Al had to rotate off. We are so glad we didn’t lose him in that off year! Al rejoined the board and once again served as president.
The now-retired Arc bicycle race was Al’s first call to help The Arc. He joined the committee for the bicycle race. Having proven himself at the committee level, Al was soon asked to join the board where he played a huge role in the facilities committee that built us the amazing building we’re in now.
There aren’t too many committees Al hasn’t served on. Outside of his committee work, Al has been instrumental in securing funding for The Arc from First Presbyterian Church of West Chester. Over the years, he has also been willing to speak up on behalf of The Arc, whether it was to a local Rotary or as an advocate with government officials.
Al remembers his most gut-wrenching memory being when The Arc closed an adult day program it was operating. It was a difficult decision, but The Arc’s board was not comfortable operating a program that was so underfunded quality care couldn’t be assured. It was a very emotional experience. The Arc’s highly successful capital campaign is Al’s best memory. “It was an extremely emotional journey because we’d never fundraised to that degree before. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull it off,” Al recalls.
“It has been so rewarding to see how effective The Arc has been. It’s what’s kept me engaged. The Arc’s done such wonderful work that’s evident every day,” Al shares. “Staff are genuinely motivated by the mission.”
If there’s one thing Bill Mullin isn’t afraid to do, it’s inviting his family, friends, and colleagues to get involved with The Arc. When it was time for Bill’s son Ethan to attend kindergarten, his home school was not accommodating the family’s request that Ethan participate in full-day kindergarten. Bill and his wife, Ruth, grew frustrated and reached out to The Arc. With the help of The Arc’s education advocacy program, Ethan began full-day kindergarten.
Wanting to give back to an organization he credited with helping provide educational opportunities for Ethan, Bill began volunteering on the development committee. He was elected to the board in 2008 and now chairs the development committee. Ruth has also volunteered for The Arc as a gala committee member and chair. Thanks to Bill and Ruth’s tireless efforts reaching out to friends, family, and coworkers, The Arc’s annual community gala has continued to grow each year.
Bill is not afraid to ask others to support The Arc. “I explain how important charitable donations are in keeping programs like music therapy going,” Bill shares. “In everyday life, most would not see a big deal in us cutting out a program like music therapy, but to a child with a disability, it could be the missing link in getting that child to respond.”
“Volunteering at The Arc motivates me to want to do more,” Bill says. “I never leave the building after a meeting without thinking, ‘What else can I do to help?’
The First Step preschool program was operating out of a church basement when three-year-old Tommy Faix was a student. That was 37 years ago and his father, Don’s, first introduction to The Arc of Chester County. Over the years, the Faix Family lost touch with The Arc, but that all changed 10 years ago. A committed advocate for his son, Don was very involved with the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as a volunteer. It was through this volunteer work that Don met Diane Carey, The Arc’s executive director.
“It’s the people that drew me back in to The Arc. I was immediately impressed by Diane. She is a good problem solver,” Don says. “Diane and The Arc are willing to innovate and not stay with the status quo.”
Don was recruited to join The Arc’s governmental affairs committee and was soon invited to join the board. He currently chairs the governmental affairs committee and has been an instrumental part of The Arc’s annual legislative breakfasts from the beginning. Don believes it’s critically important to educate legislators about issues affecting people with disabilities and their families.
“I stay involved with The Arc because it’s a local organization that does really good stuff with a business view,” Don reveals.
"Love for the children, that's why I'm here," Margo Warren shares. In her 38 years at The Arc, Margo has seen the number of children in the early intervention classroom program grow from a dozen to nearly 80 each year. She has also seen growth in the number of children with physical and developmental disabilities and the many challenges these children's families face. Thankfully, Margo says, technology has allowed parents and caregivers to be more educated and informed about their children's challenges, and families are faring far better with the resources available to them.
One thing that has not changed over 38 years is the love Margo has for every child she touches and the love they give back to her every day she is in the classroom. Margo's nurturing spirit and encouraging ways have helped her connect with the hundreds of children who have come through the program. Daily, children fight for a spot on her lap during circle time. Somehow she manages to find a spot for all of them. Margo points out the unconditional love many students offer. "They see your heart, they gain confidence in you, and are anxious to please you," Margo shares.
One of Margo's most rewarding experiences was a chance meeting with a First Step graduate who is now a teenager. The former student remembered Margo immediately from her First Step days and proudly shared that she just graduated from high school. "Thank God for early intervention and what we do to integrate our students," Margo says.
Margo speaks very highly of The Arc's wide array of activities for children, teens, and adults with disabilities. She also praises the family involvement and strong bonds that exist between the caring, loving, long-time staff at The Arc. Margo says The Arc's greatest strength has been providing awareness to the community and helping people understand that children and adults with disabilities are people just like we are. "They want to give love, feel loved, be honored, and feel respected. They want to give in their own way. They want to clap their hands, and we help them do that," Margo says. "People need to get involved and see the possibilities for their children and loved ones with disabilities-see that The Arc is a place where families can grow and how much we so love these children."
In 2007, The Arc of Chester County was awarded the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations' (PANO) Seal of Excellence for successfully completing the Standards for Excellence® certification program. The Arc voluntarily opened itself up to scrutiny by a "jury of its peers" who examined The Arc for compliance with PANO's Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.
Standards for Excellence® are based on fundamental values such as honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility, and accountability. The Arc's programs and services as well as management, fundraising, and financial practices were examined in depth before the certification was awarded. The Arc of Chester County was the first Arc chapter in Pennsylvania and the second nonprofit organization in Chester County to be certified under the Standards program. The Arc is one of only 54 organizations in Pennsylvania and 200 in the country to achieve this distinction, which is available nationally to qualified nonprofits.
"Having this certification identifies The Arc as a quality organization and places us head and shoulders above other providers in the field," Diane Carey, retired Arc executive director, says. "It also brings a level of credibility and prestige that can be hard to find in the nonprofit world."
The Arc has always been a leader in education advocacy. The Arc of Pennsylvania, founded in 1949, was the first organization in the country to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities to a free public education. In 1972, The Arc, then known as the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children, filed suit against the Secretary of Education, State Board of Education, and Secretary of Public Welfare on behalf of 13 children who were denied access to free public education. Because of this lawsuit, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agreed to develop plans to identify, locate, evaluate, educate, and train all school-age children with developmental disabilities. This historic action led to the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which afforded all students with disabilities a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This law was reauthorized in 2004 and is now called Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA).
The Arc of Chester County believes the need for education advocacy to facilitate improved school compliance with IDEIA within Chester County is great. As part of its commitment to represent the needs and wants of students with developmental disabilities, The Arc of Chester County established its education advocacy program in 1999. Since then, the program has supported and helped thousands of students with developmental and other disabilities realize their rights to free and appropriate public education.
"Families are the primary source of support for a loved one with special needs," explains director of advocacy Connie Mohn. "Our role is to help them become the best advocates they can for their children."
Six-year-old Aidan McGuire joined The Arc family at age three when he began attending the First Step early intervention preschool. At age one, Aidan was diagnosed with a rare chromosome translocation. No other documented cases of the same translocation exist, so there is no prognosis for Aidan's development.
When Aidan started preschool, he wasn't comfortable in group settings. "He also related much better with adults than other children," mom Marie says. "Now he has opened up and tries to communicate with his peers." Aidan's teachers even describe him as a leader at school.
"Aidan loves to help, swing, and be silly," speech therapist Diane Speroff shares. He was often seen taking orders and retrieving soda from the soda machine for Arc staff.
Thanks to his Dynavox Maestro, Aidan found his voice and can use this tool to speak in complete sentences. "He left First Step with great pre-academic skills," veteran teacher Deb Landers comments.
During Aidan's time at First Step, communication skills with his talker improved dramatically as did his ability to sign. Aidan's social skills also grew leaps and bounds thanks to First Step. "He was so happy at First Step that we wish he could have gone there until he's 18," mom Marie says.
In addition to First Step, Aidan's family has taken the opportunity to participate in The Arc's family events: Breakfast with Santa and The Arc Achievement Walk & Fun Day.
Thanks to provisions for preschool education in 1972's right to education legislation, First Step of Chester County opened its doors. The program filled a gap for families and their preschool-age old children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As Anne Bernstein, 36-year First Step veteran staffer, recalls, "It was the idea of 'we belong with everybody else' and 'it's the right thing to do' that was the catalyst to creating the program."
In First Step's first year, 20 children were enrolled at a classroom at Kennett Meeting House. The program quickly grew to 60 children with the opening of classrooms in church basements in West Chester and Downingtown and a community center in Coatesville. Today, the program serves up to 80 children annually at its state-of-the-art West Chester location.
Since its inception, First Step has maintained its signature 3:1 student to staff ratio with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and nursing to support medically fragile children. The concept of an interdisciplinary team has remained a staple of the program. First Steppers' needs have become notably more complex over the years as children are facing greater physical and medical challenges. "Even with these changes, what remains is the idea of community access and inclusiveness: what The Arc is founded on," Bernstein adds.
The longevity of the core staff and the significant accomplishments of so many of the children who have completed the program, from speaking their first words to taking their first steps, are what Bernstein attributes to the program's continued success. "Staff stay and grow with The Arc. They develop and share skills and competencies providing the consistency that is needed in understanding each child's needs and working with the children day after day," Bernstein says.
First Step presents life-cycle opportunities as many grown First Steppers later return for additional Arc services. More than half the individuals served today in The Arc's recreation program, Camp Safari, and Comprehensive Employment Services programs are First Step graduates.
The Arc continues to find ways to fill the gap for children with disabilities. This includes integrating an autism support program into First Step 15 years ago. Art and music therapy are other additions. Thanks to The Arc's 2000 capital campaign and subsequent gifts, First Step has a custom-built site with seven classrooms, a gross-motor room outfitted with specialized therapy equipment, an adaptive outdoor playground, cafeteria, nursing station, and therapy offices.
What does the future look like for First Step? As Bernstein shares, "We will continue to fill the gap and deliver the fundamentals that are the foundation of the program--the staff-to-student ratio, the communication and relationships with the children and families, and all the therapies combined. It's what makes it work so well. No one else can do what we do, as well as we do."
In 2000, parents of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, service providers, educators, advocates, self-advocates, and staff support from The Arc of Chester County and the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities created a self-determination advisory committee. The committee's goal was to implement changes to the developmental and intellectual disability service system through education and identification of needs by challenging barriers that limit funding and community resources as well as promoting independence and choice.
From the advisory committee 20 people, 90 percent of whom are self-advocates, formed a sub-committee known as the Chester County Self-Determination Action Team Self-Advocate Sub-Committee. Today, "the Team" consists of 14 self-advocates and two staff supports from The Arc. The Team continues to meet monthly to gain an understanding of, and commitment to, the principles of self-determination. Self-determination is based upon choice, control, quality, stability, safety, individuality, freedom, relationships, success, mentoring, accountability, collaboration, and opportunities to contribute to the community.
The Team believes that individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families deserve the very best the system has to offer. Through advocacy agencies like The Arc, people with developmental and other disabilities are learning they have abilities and are able to make their own choices. They are learning they can speak up and make choices in how they live, work, and spend their leisure time. Through groups like the Team, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their family members are learning their rights as well as the obstacles and issues facing them and the disability community at large. As a result, they are supported and taught to advocate for change for both themselves and the system as a whole.
After learning about the campaign to end the use of the "R" word at The Arc of the United States' 2009 National Convention, members of the Team returned to Chester County to effect systemic change in Pennsylvania. The Team led a successful campaign to speak out against the use of the "R" word. They shared how hurtful the use of the "R" word is and asked Chester County residents to sign a pledge to not use the "R" word in a hurtful or derogatory way.
The campaign inspired the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation to officially change its name to the Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Also citing inspiration from the team is Pennsylvania Senator Andrew Dinniman who introduced Senate Bill 458. Passed by both the House and Senate, then signed into law by Governor Corbett, the bill eliminated the use of the term "mental retardation" in the Mental Health/Mental Retardation Act of 1966. People-first language will now be used instead.
Before there even was The Arc of Chester County, Agnes Chesko was connected to Ruth Wood through their family physician in 1952. Agnes had concerns about her son Bobby's development, and her helpful physician suggested she contact Ruth, whose daughter Merrily had special needs.
Bobby was Agnes and Bill Chesko's fourth child in four years, so Agnes was familiar with developmental milestones for babies and toddlers. "I remember when I would go to pick Bobby up out of his crib. He wouldn't raise his arms to me like my other babies," she remembers. "No one listened to me when I told them something wasn't right with him."
It wasn't until Bobby was eight that the Chesko Family received a diagnosis. Physicians at Johns Hopkins told the family that Bobby had phenylketonuria, also known as PKU, a recessive metabolic genetic disorder. Left untreated, PKU can lead to problems with brain development. Estimates are that PKU affects one in 15,000 births. Today, PKU is easily diagnosed through tests administered to newborns and can be treated. Bill Chesko, Sr. was instrumental in advocating for legislation in Pennsylvania that made PKU testing mandatory before newborns can leave the hospital.
In line with how people with intellectual disabilities were commonly treated in the 1950s, Agnes and Bill were told to institutionalize Bobby when he was five. Similarly, the fall Bobby should have started first grade, Agnes was told by his local school that "There was no place for him." A woman of action, Agnes took Bobby to West Chester Area School District Superintendant Stetson's office. She left Bobby there and went outside to hide in the bushes. Thanks to Agnes's persistence, Bobby was granted the opportunity to attend school. He attended the Child and Career Development Center until he was 21.
An active member of the Republican Women's Committee, Agnes understands the importance of reaching out to governmental officials to get the job done. Bobby is a familiar face to local legislators, just as Agnes has intended. "I want them to picture Bobby instead of just 'mental retardation' when they're voting," she explains.
When a "right to occupancy" was holding up the expansion of what is now Handi-Crafters, Agnes took it upon herself to write to the governor's wife-one mother of a child with special needs to another. Sure enough, after the first lady's visit, the right to occupancy came through. Even though Handi-Crafters spun off from The Arc, the Chesko Family still remains connected. Bobby participates in Handi-Crafters' day program for older adults. He rides there using The Arc's adult transportation program.
Today Bobby enjoys a variety of The Arc's recreation events, such as Phillies games. Agnes and Bobby, as well as sisters Pat and Nancy, are fixtures at The Arc's signature events. Pat and Agnes have both served on The Arc's board of directors, and Pat has worked as an advocate for the organization.
When Joshua March was born in January 1998, it was with unexpected medical issues. Joshua's challenges included hydrocephalus, seizure disorder, extremely low muscle tone, and severe developmental delays. Despite numerous genetic studies, no genetic disorders or syndromes to explain Joshua's challenges have been identified. Joshua began early intervention services with The Arc when he was five-weeks old and graduated from the First Step preschool.
Today at age 14, Joshua functions at about a two-year-old development level. He needs constant supervision to ensure his safety and requires moderate-to-complete assistance with all tasks of daily living. He still has seizures regularly. He's had various surgeries through the years, but as mom Susan describes, "He's a very happy boy-full of hugs and kisses, smiles and squeals."
As Susan recalls, "When Joshua was first born I kept asking, 'Why? Why? Why?' My husband, Stephen, reminded me that, at the time, we had a 'high maintenance' dog with many medical problems who we cared for as if he were human. Then Stephen said to me, 'Susan, maybe God looked down and said look what these people have done for this special needs dog, just imagine what they could do for this child.'"
Susan and Stephen feel blessed to have The Arc, and there aren't many services the March Family hasn't used-from First Step to Fun Club and Camp Safari to advocacy. "We feel so lucky that we, and all families who have loved ones with challenges, have so many opportunities today," Susan says. "It wasn't too many years ago that people like Joshua would not have had the opportunity to go to school, live at home, play and learn with others, and would not have the chance to worship. We are so very fortunate that today our loved ones, no matter their ability, are able to love, learn, and worship the same as all others."
In addition to parenting Joshua and working full-time jobs, the Marchs find the time to give back to The Arc. They have been an integral part of events such as The Arc Achievement Walk & Family Fun Day and Breakfast with Santa. Susan and Stephen gladly reach out to their friends, extended family, and colleagues to raise awareness and funds to support The Arc's programs.
"Although having a child with profound disabilities does not stop our family from doing many things, there is a huge comfort and safety to be with our friends that we've met through The Arc and the many, many other families and friends we have made through their services," the Marchs share. "We find comfort, complete acceptance, and solace here."