Situation: “The family that Peter and I grew up in was a large one,” his sister Pat says. “There were seven of us, and Peter was the youngest.”
After their father died, Peter retreated into himself.
“As a child I remembered him talkative, like talking my ear off and having fun and running around,” Pat says. “And then over time he got much quieter and less talkative and less active.”
Peter, who has Down Syndrome, came to live with Pat and her husband in St. Louis after living with a brother in Arizona.
How United Way helped: “I started getting him busy,” Pat says. “We had heard about Paraquad through word of mouth and we sent him to school there. From the minute he got there, Paraquad became his favorite place to be outside of the home.”
At Paraquad’s College for Living classes, Peter learns skills to be independent and self-sufficient. He’s learned to take the bus by himself, to cook, to choose healthy food and some money management skills.
“I like to cook,” Peter says. “When I go to the store, I get my own foods to eat.”
Now, he excitedly grabs the mail to check for his name, and when he sees the Paraquad mailings, he immediately sits down to choose his classes for the next semester.
Pat shares the moment she knew the social, fun-loving brother she remembered was coming back, during his first year at Paraquad.
“There was a karaoke night at Paraquad,” she says. “They did not expect Peter because he was still kind of quiet. But he did take that microphone, and he thanked everyone at Paraquad for what they had done for him and said he loved all his friends there.”
Today: Peter started his own business, called Peter’s Card Shop. He paints the artwork and sells the cards for $1 each. So far, he’s sold about 2,000 cards.
“Peter wants to give whatever he makes out of his greeting cards,” Pat says. “He wants to donate that back. I think Peter has a feeling of thankfulness inside of him.”
He also works on a stage production every year, plays basketball once a week, goes to dances twice a month and has outings with his friends from Paraquad.
“It makes me feel very proud to see him walking out the door with confidence,” Pat says. “He enjoys his friends in the community and the structure that Paraquad offers him to continue growing in his independence. He’s learning to enjoy his life again the way I remembered him – that part of him is coming alive again.”
One of the goals for the next six months is for Peter to move into his own apartment. He likes the idea, as long as he’s near friends.
“I cannot imagine what I would have done if United Way had not supported Paraquad, because my brother’s growth has been so connected to Paraquad,” she adds. “I donated to United Way before, but now to know personally the benefits of United Way and what it has provided – I just say donate, it does make a difference; it makes a difference bigger than you can imagine.”
About Paraquad: Paraquad, funded by United Way since 1990, works to enable adults and children with all types of disabilities to live with independence, dignity, and self-reliance through a wide range of programs.
Want to receive more stories like this?
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST