Tag Archives: MARC Center

A Whole New World

do not despise

In the summer of 1976, Kirstin was enrolled at the Marc Center preschool in Mesa at the ripe old age of thirteen months. I couldn’t imagine what she would do in school at that age. She wasn’t even walking yet. Kirstin had a speech therapist, physical therapist, and an occupational therapist. She was hardly talking, and I didn’t think she was ready for a job. This seemed like a lot of therapy for such a small child.

Marc Center was more than just a preschool. It provided for the needs of special people of all ages. There was a day program for school-aged children who were considered trainable mentally disabled. In addition, adults received services from Marc Center that included independent living skills and vocational training.

In 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act). Today it is known as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). It requires school districts to provide a free, appropriate public education to all children no matter what the disability. Over the years it has been redefined and today carries so much clout that it sends school districts into a tizzy trying to comply. In 1975 the concept was new, but school districts had to figure out a way to include these students in their schools or face losing federal funds. What that meant at Marc Center was that they no longer needed a program for school-age children. Starting in the fall of 1976, all of their students would be going to public school.

Since we came on the scene the year 94-142 went into effect, we never saw what the school program was like at Marc Center. But we did have a great deal of involvement in the adult program. Our experiences at Marc Center opened up a whole new world to us. It was a world of shocking truths and amazing changes. We were there to witness them all.

At that time, the Arizona legislature was holding hearings about what should be done with a residential facility in Coolidge, Arizona. It was home to hundreds of people with mental retardation who had been institutionalized there, some of them since birth. Housed in a clinical setting, most residents had no hope of ever leaving. Families had been encouraged to place their children there and many of those children spent their entire lives institutionalized. Now those people who had been isolated from society were asking for a chance to live in a home like everyone else. Craig and I attended some of the hearings. We sat in awe of those residents from the institution who now stood before the legislative committee and pleaded their case. I can’t imagine how I would feel having to face such a panel, but these people were articulate and sure of what they were asking. I thought of other minority groups who had to fight for equal rights. Like Martin Luther King Jr., they were talking about their dreams for a brighter future. I thought of Chief Seattle, asking for fair treatment for his people, or Cesar Chavez and the California grape growers, fighting for fair working conditions. They did not expect someone else to speak for them but stood up for themselves just like any other group of people battling injustice. What they wanted is what was spoken of in the Bill of Rights … life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They wanted to be able to live as independently as possible in the community with the rest of us. It seemed like a simple truth to me; they should have that right.

Fortunately, the Arizona legislature saw it that way as well. As a result of these hearings, most of the Coolidge facility was closed, and all but the most severe residents were placed in group homes in communities throughout Arizona. Of course there were some difficulties with neighbors who had no knowledge of people with cognitive challenges. Some were convinced that their new neighbors were oversexed and unable to control themselves. But little by little, the former residents of the Coolidge facility won their rights and adjusted to their new lives.

We met a man who had lived in an institution for thirty years and was now learning to balance his own checkbook. Like many others, he was benefiting from participation in the adult program at Marc Center. Their levels of abilities varied, and so did their needs, but now they had a chance to live as independently as they were capable of. It was an amazing experience, and we felt so fortunate to be a part of it.

Today, there is only one intermediate care facility in Arizona. It houses about one hundred residents whose needs are so severe that they are unable to survive outside a clinical setting. In the past five years, no new patients have been added to that facility. The goal of the DDD is to keep those with intellectual challenges in their homes if at all possible. In fact, Arizona ranks number one in the country in that regard. In addition to living at home, supported living arrangements and group homes are also very good options. Ultimately, the choice comes down to the person with the special needs, and that is as it should be.

From This Little Light of Mine: A Woman with Down Syndrome Shines Brightly in the World.

My Husband–My Hero

82539460F022Today is Craig’s sixty-ninth birthday, so I decided to dedicate this week’s post to him.

Craig was born in Mason City Iowa. His father, Donald, was the son of an Iowa farmer. Donald served in the army  and returned from World War II to become an accountant. Shortly after Craig was born, his father contracted Polio as many people did at that time. Craig also had polio. I can’t even imagine the torment his mother, Mary, went through knowing that her whole family could be wiped out by that disease. Donald did pass away, but Craig recovered.

When Craig was three years old, his mother moved them to Phoenix,  Arizona. In time, all of Mary’s brothers and sister moved to Arizona as well. When Craig was nine years old, his mother married Rex Farley and they purchased a home on Stella Lane.  Soon Craig’s brother Kevin was born, followed thirteen months later by his brother Mark.

In high school, Craig developed (no pun intended) an interest in photography–taking sports photos and photos for the yearbook. That was how we met. We were both seniors at Washington High School. I was in lots of clubs which gave Craig plenty of opportunities to take my picture. It is not surprising that I am in our senior yearbook so many times.

Craig was able to turn his love of photography into a career. He worked as a school photographer and a wedding photographer. Later, he became an aerial photographer, flying all over the valley shooting pictures through a hole in the bottom of the plane. He is responsible for many of the murals you see in museums.

Throughout his working years, Craig has owned many businesses–a Circle K franchise, Radio Shack, video store, satellite installation, and low voltage contracting.  This required him to work far beyond the typical forty-hour week. In spite of that he was always able fit in time for his family and community. In addition to camping trips and family vacations Craig was involved in all our children’s activities. He helped build and operate the bicycle motocross track in Chandler. He coached Little League and helped with Boy Scouts.

Craig has been involved in every community we have lived in. In Chandler, he was the president of the Chandler Jaycees and later the Arizona Jaycees. He was the chairman of the board for the MARC Center in Mesa–an organization for children and adults with cognitive challenges. In Prescott Valley, he was an assistant to the Scout leader and president of the church council. He also assisted with Special Olympics. Since we moved to Chino Valley, Craig has served as an eucharistic minister at our church. He was also the sponsor of Prescott Oasis–a self-advocacy group for adults with disabilities.

A longtime hobby Craig has enjoyed is raising and training treeing Scan_20160330walkers. He has entered them in competitions around the state of Arizona as well as California and New Mexico. His dogs won countless awards for field trials, water races and bench shows. He was a certified bench show judge for many years with the United Kennel Club.

Now retired, Craig continues to be a loving, supportive husband, father and grandfather. An avid hiker, he has traveled most of the trails in our beautiful Arizona highlands. For me, he has always been and continues to be my soulmate and helpmate. I’m so thankful for the years we’ve had together and look forward to those remaining.