By Shelley Hoss
Published in the Orange County Register June 10, 2013
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The Larsons have raised their son to adulthood. Now, at Glennwood House, he can find refuge.
More than 30 years ago, when Randy Larson, president and co-founder of the Glennwood Housing Foundation, learned that his son, Trevor, would have Down syndrome, he was overwhelmed.
He thought his dreams of Trevor having a childhood similar to his own—surfing and playing other sports—would never happen. He had no idea how to prepare for what was to come.
“I realized right away that I needed to just wipe the chalkboard of my expectations clean because I didn’t know where this ride would go.”
“Turns out, he’s my best buddy,” Larson says. “He’s taught me more than any one thing in my life.”
Of course there have been ups and downs – “all lives have ups and downs,” Larson says. But families with special-needs children experience unique challenges that don’t end when the child grows up. Confusion about the condition and uncertainty about the future can overwhelm parents once they learn their child is going to need lifelong care and support.
Larson and his wife, Ginny did as much research as they could to find out about Trevor’s condition.
Their knowledge grew as Trevor grew. And when they encountered challenges, they improvised.
For example, when he was a child, Trevor asked why he couldn’t play sports in school as his dad had. Larson answered by helping to organize and coach special-needs youth sports, including soccer, basketball and baseball. When Trevor hit his teens, they came up with an idea for weekly Future residents of Glennwood House and their friends. social clubs, including music, arts and outings for young people with developmental disabilities. When Trevor reached adulthood, the outings included ski trips and summer camp.
Now, with Glennwood House, they’ve got another answer for another stage of Trevor’s life.
Next month, Glennwood House is slated to take in residents for the first time. The 30,000-square-foot former residential care facility in Laguna Beach will be a 42-room home to as many as 50 adults with special needs.
Larson says his intention in helping to start Glennwood was to move beyond the recreational sports groups he’d helped create, and to fully address the needs of young adults with special needs as they mature.
For many of the 18- to 45-year-old residents, Glennwood will be their first opportunity to establish their identities as adults. Fifteen trained healthcare and social work staff will assist and encourage the Glennwood House residents to develop skills including self-care, meal planning, grocery shopping, money management and apartment housekeeping.
The families, staff, volunteers and supporters of Glennwood House eagerly await the home’s opening. The residents who have already been chosen are ecstatic that their adult children will realize their own dreams of independence in a loving, respectful group home where their adult children will be able to live and thrive among friends and peers.
“We count our blessings,” Larson says.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but we have chosen to look at our glass as half full, not half empty. It’s what has allowed us to stay focused to see the doors of Glennwood House finally open. I’m so happy as a father to know that I can give this gift to my son.”
Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation.
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