We have been very blessed because our daughter, Ally, has been a part of the Promise Christian Academy story almost since its inception. After graduating in 2014, she returned to Promise in a partial academic vocational training capacity where she practiced time management, clocking in and out of jobs and basic work-related skills.
For many parents with special needs children, the years when they are beyond the age of 21 are the scariest. Up until that time, these young adults are engaged in a school setting with intellectual stimuli, social interaction and structure. What happens post-secondary education? This is a question … and a decision … that every parent of a young adult with special needs will face.
This year, we really felt the need to transition Ally into a job outside of the school setting. At the same time, we were moving homes. I leaned into a dear friend who is the Group President for all the BJC community hospitals and asked her if she could possibly connect me with someone at Progress West Hospital, a beautiful community hospital located ten minutes from our new home and right on the way to our office. She graciously connected me with the Recruiting Manager at Progress West, Hannah Grewach. Hannah asked if Ally and I could come in and meet with her. We did, and Ally did amazingly well! She was friendly, outgoing and agreeable to the job options that Hannah described. Hannah then introduced Ally to Cheryl who oversees food services. Cheryl indicated that there would be many jobs that Ally could do, such as roll silverware, attach labels to the meals, hand out cookies or other baked items in the afternoon to the patients and a host of other things.
Leaving a special needs child in the hands of strangers is another very scary endeavor for a parent. Special needs children can often be very trusting and naive about the world. However, I felt an incredible peace about the situation as everyone at the hospital seemed to know one another and were all incredibly friendly. It felt very much like a family to me.
Hannah and her team worked to piece together several jobs that Ally could do from 9:00 – 3:00 on her workdays. I was extremely hopeful that this would work out because every time we drove by the hospital, Ally would quickly remind everyone in the car that this is where she was going to work.
It did work out and Ally was beyond excited to get started! On her first day, Greg, my husband, dropped her off as I had an early morning meeting with the CIO of a major company in St. Louis. I learned in this meeting that the CIO’s wife had studied at Washington University, done her residency there and now had her own private practice. We chatted about the healthcare profession and the incredible impact doctors, nurses and technology can have on patient outcomes and care. It is such a noble profession, truly a ministry.
I was reflecting on this conversation later in the afternoon as I was driving to pick Ally up from her first day of work. It occurred to me that while Ally may not have the ability to bring physical healing to the patients at Progress West, there would most certainly be emotional healing taking place with not only the patients, but perhaps even the doctors and nurses who carry so much stress. When it comes to healthcare concerns, anxiety, worry and uncertainty are usually at the top of the heap. I experienced this first-hand three years ago when my Mom became very ill. On more than one occasion, Ally was the singular voice of reason and calmness during a very emotional and physically exhausting time.
We have always said that what Ally lacks in perceived intellectual ability, she makes up for 10x in EQ (Emotional Quotient). At least two or three people a week tell me how much joy Ally brings to them with her presence. She oozes unconditional love, concern, acceptance and a positive outlook on life – being with Ally is like pouring refreshing water into a thirsty soul. It’s a special kind of healing.