Strides to Thrive Benefit Walk
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When my sister Debbie was born, my parents were 26 and 27 years old. They thought that their new baby daughter was perfect. The doctor came back into their hospital room to say that he wanted to run some more tests, there might be a problem. A short time later, he returned to say that Debbie had Down Syndrome. My parents were handed a textbook filled with technical terms along with unflattering and disturbing photos of people with Down Syndrome.

The doctor and others recommended that my parents consider institutionalizing my sister. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. My parents would raise Debbie as a “normal” child, as they would any other child. They took every day at a time, every challenge at a time, and gave me, Debbie, and my sister Lauren every opportunity to grow and succeed.

Fast forward ten years. My parents wondered, as do other parents of disabled children, what will happen when school ends? What will happen to Debbie if they weren’t here to care for her? When she gets older, will my sister Lauren and I be responsible for her? How could they ensure that Debbie would have a safe, nuturing place to live with opportunties to work, socialize, and participate as a full and active member of our community?

The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes was born in the living room of my home. I remember very clearly the many, many meetings that took place over those first few years, with a small group of caring and committed people - including my parents Gary and Annette Henkin. All of their work and social lives took a backseat during the initial years as they got JFGH off the ground. Since that time, many JFGH homes have been opened, and occupied by hundreds of disabled adults, made possible by the love and support of many, many generous people.

Today, 25 years later after its inception, it’s my turn to step up to the plate. My sister Debbie has been living in a JFGH home and is very happy. She has a good job, good friends, caring counselors and lives as independently as possible, certainly what my parents and others had in mind when JFGH was just an idea.

But more can be done. Residents don’t have as many opportunities to get out into the community. Staffing, logistical, and transportation issues prevent some group home residents from taking advantage of the many cultural, recreational and educational events in the Washington region.

JFGH provides housing and employment assistance. We can help to enhance weekend activity opportunities with the new JFGH Activities Fund. This Fund has been created to provide new and stimulating weekend activities for residents so that they can more fully participate in the many opportunities that exist in our area. Specifically, we will be able to hire more staff to physically accompany residents to outside activities, to underwrite the cost of transportation, and to facilitate the coordination of outside activities that may involve multiple houses. The Fund may also help to pay for outside groups to visit individual homes with activities that can take place directly in the home, ranging from cooking to exercising.

We are grateful for your support of disabled adults in our community.

Jackie Henkin Vinick
Event Chairperson

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