A Wrangler’s Tale – May 2020

Movin’ on in to the MB Side:  Wil comes to Meadowbrook

Wil is proud of his various accomplishments: He collects hats and caps, plays the guitar, loves gardening, competes in the Special Olympics, shares smiles, and much more. His most recent achievement brings a lot of the other accomplishments together; Wil is now a resident of Meadowbrook, New Danville’s residential community.

Wil was on the waiting list for two years, but he and his parents say that being able to live at New Danville was worth the wait. He smiled as his parents explained how important it is that he, and all people with special needs, be given appropriate challenges so each can grow to their own potential. Indeed, Wil and his parents aspire to the limits of what live, learn, work and grow can be for him.

His mom said she first learned about New Danville in 2010 during exhaustive research about special needs programs in several states. She explained the feeling that the family had when they visited New Danville for a tour. “We all knew immediately that this is the place, the environment, for Wil. His sister called it as soon as we drove past the entry gate.”

Though Wil has held a variety of jobs over the years, including at fast food shops, a laundry and a thrift store. “But now he can just chill for a while,” his mom said. His dad added, “Wil loves to paint by number, ride horses, play guitar. He can do more than most people think. We feel good that he is in a place that understands to not place artificial limits.”

Of the many options for activities at New Danville, Wil said, “Gardening is my favorite.” He has learned how to plant, water and harvest, a perfect complement to live, learn, work and grow.

A Wrangler’s Tale – April 2022

A Decade in, James Has a Big Vision for New Danville

James has been a New Danville Wrangler for about a decade. It has been a very busy ten years for him onsite and away. He has a lot of interests and friends, both heavily influenced by attendance in the day program.

He states he is excited about learning, which explains his myriad of interests and sense of joy. This life of joy is a Wrangler’s tale.

“I don’t remember my first day exactly,” James said, “but I know it was a good one.” For all the things that he described as enjoying to do, the years must be a blur. He enjoys swimming – “I enjoy it; it can be fun.” He enjoys diving off the low board, too. He also likes collecting comic books – “They are all my favorites,” he said with a smile. James can be found playing basketball, though he says, “I’m not a good shot all the time, but most of the time.”  He has a good time in the recently returned culinary class – “My favorite is chicken sandwiches.”  James also enjoys art class that includes all types of art, such as ceramics, painting and many other projects.  “Sometimes we need help,” he says, “but it is fun learning.”  Learning and fun are central to James’ outlook on just about everything.

Perhaps the most important thing to James is the friends he has. He said he enjoys all the activities at New Danville, but mostly, “I have a lot of friends here.”

He is certainly impressed with what he has experienced at New Danville. He shared that he and Nicole Martinez (Program Coordinator) have a “dream to start making international global New Danville, in every nation, continent and country because it would be awesome. Then make New Danville commercials.”  (The leadership team at New Danville believes he will be pleased to hear about the dream it will soon be making public.)

A Wrangler’s Tale – March 2022

Kris returns to a different New Danville

Kris knew New Danville when it consisted of a tent and a couple of buildings. He was among the first to be on the scene in the day program (2005) and among the first to move into New Danville’s residential community, Meadowbrook (2010). He left after about five years but has recently returned to the day program. He is impressed with what has changed.

He has been busy and successful over the years. He has grown, as has New Danville. “I saw things were different (when I visited again). There is so much here now,” he said. Time has not diminished his many memories of New Danville, particularly the people. His mother said that he inherently connects to people and likes to know about others.  “I’ve known James for a long time,” Kris said, “and Sherry. She made those pens.”

His mother was active with Jazzy Junque, the upscale home décor resale store that benefits New Danville, at its inception. She was the store’s first part-time manager. She is again helping out as a volunteer. “We’ve been fans of New Danville since the time we first heard about it,” she said.

Kris likes to be active, recalling times when he helped with yard work on site; currently, his favorite day programs are active, too:  bowling, basketball and gardening.

He has had several jobs over the years and now serves as a custodian at a preschool for children with autism. When asked about his favorite part of the job, he said, “I like cleaning up after the little kids.”

Another favorite activity is going to high school football games which he drives himself to. As for sports, he declares baseball as his favorite after saying, “The strike is over now. Now they will start their games again.”

From his perspectives of New Danville over time, what would he like to share with others?  “It is a good place to live.”

A Wrangler’s Tale – February 2022

If it is February, then it must be Valentines…and the anniversary for Meadowbrook residents, Amanda and Mark. Happy second anniversary!

Their story has many of the features of a Hallmark movie.

They met in 2014, both being residents of New Danville’s Meadowbrook residential area. Their first date came after a few coffee dates on each other’s front porches; it was to see the movie Goosebumps in 2015, though Amanda admits to noticing Mark early on.

On a trip to the mall with the Social Club, Mark caught Amanda’s eye. She smiles broadly when sharing that she noticed him.  “Oh, he’s a cutie, I thought to myself,” she said.

A week after they were married, they went on a cruise out of Los Angeles where they were able to go on various excursions and enjoy a lot of activities on the ship. A week after they returned, the COVID situation started shutting down cruises and travel.

“We loved the shows, like the ‘Age of Aquarius’ show,” Mark said. “I thought the comedies were great, too,” Amanda added. “Especially Jeff Dunham’s show. I like the Peanut character a lot.”

Mark has a deep curiosity for information, evidenced by him citing extensive details about the cruise line, the various ships, ship capacities and more. Amanda enjoys creating with her hands, particularly by sewing and crocheting a variety of items.  “I like to shop, too,” she said, “especially at Hobby Lobby for my projects.” Mark’s handwork is primarily with computers that he likes to work on. They enjoy walking together at a nearby park or around the New Danville campus. They both agreed that going to movies continues to be fun.

They recently added a little puppy to the family. The busy couple is going to be busier as they look to the future.

“Two years have gone fast. Very fast,” Amanda said. They both are looking forward to the future. As the Hallmark movies remind us, time flies when you are with someone special.

A Wrangler’s Tale – January 2022

Rob:  Everyone has a story that they want understood by others

Rob’s been around. And around and around, mostly in his bright blue golf cart in which he spends a few hours a day driving around the New Danville campus.  Rob has been around in life, too, and when asked if he wished others understood more about him and his story, he quietly nodded in response.

Rob loves mobility. A big fan of trucks and SUVs, Rob enjoys going to the Houston Auto Show with his father.  He particularly likes the Nissan trucks, Frontier and Titan.

His mobility includes a variety of home over the years.  He has lived in Hope Village in Friendswood and Brenham State School and other communities, as well as at home with his parents over the decades before arriving at New Danville two years ago. As he shares his life story he recalls people’s names clearly and quickly. “It is easy to remember people’s names,” he said matter-of-factly.

Rob’s mobile nature has transported him to a variety of experiences. He has sung in several church choirs and does so now. He also participates in Special Olympics in bowling; he would like to get back to participating in track-and-field, too. He has held a variety of jobs over the years, though he admits that finding employment now is particularly challenging. Ironically, transportation challenges are one of the issues for him.

Among his life’s accomplishments, Rob cites two growth phases with great pride “when I developed as a man.” In high school he encountered a bullying situation. He learned first-hand the effects of bullying. “Don’t be a bully,” he said. “Find someone else to help resolve the problem.” More recently he has reached another growth step of which he is most proud. “My mom and dad are looking for providers for me. There are some things that I just can’t do very well. I’ve tried, but I need help cooking and cleaning, and stuff. I’m just not good at it.” Reminded that it takes courage and humility to admit the need for help, Rob said, “Yes.  I’m trying.”

A Wrangler’s Tale: Dec 2021

What has life been like for someone who has been at New Danville since the day it opened?  That is a Wrangler’s Tale; that is Brooke’s tale, and that of her parents, Diane and Jerry.

“I remember the first day,” Brooke said. “It rained so hard. Water was running through the tent. But I came back.”  It was 15 years ago that she first attended New Danville’s day habilitation program. About 18 months ago she was able to move to Meadowbrook, New Danville’s residential community.

Jerry said, “They had the tent, the cabin and that was it. Oh, and porta-potties.”  Diane smiled with an observation, “Things have certainly changed here.” The cabin has become a classroom and food pantry, and has been joined by homes for 36, a greenhouse, two classroom buildings, the recently dedicated Charbonneau Family Building for pallet manufacturing and more. Amidst all the changes over the years, Brooke and her parents have been involved in just about everything New Danville has ever offered.

When asked what the most important change was for her when she moved to Meadowbrook, Brooke was quick to answer, “Friends. Being social.” She nodded often as Diane expounded on what it means to the family, including their pet dog, for Brooke to be part of a community and a typical lifestyle. “She and her friends socialize, and Jerry and I come up to spend the weekend with Brooke sometimes in her place. Her place…that makes all the difference. Independence is special.”

Jerry and Diane volunteer much of their time to New Danville. Jerry helps out in the woodshop and Diane at Jazzy Junque, along with the help they provide at various activities such as the recent Christmas Marketplace where Wranglers were able to shop for free to get presents for their loved ones.

It is clear that being busy comes naturally to Brooke. Over the years, she has worked in woodshop and in the production program, participates in the Social Club, enjoys a variety of classes and was part of the recent Christmas Parade float that won the Outstanding Float Trophy at the superheroes-themed parade in Willis, TX. Of course, she also has her eye on additional things she’d like to see at New Danville, such as a community/rec center. She is looking forward to the soon-to-be-created park area that will have stationary exercise equipment. Jerry wrapped up the Brooke story nicely. “She has a community and she is living on her own like anyone else.” Diane and Brooke smiled and nodded affirmation of the Wrangler’s Tale of good times.

A Wrangler’s Tale – November 2021

From Day Program to Resident

Morgan’s parents asked, “Do you want to move back home?” She immediately responded “No” with a grin. Everyone laughed. She has come a long way in the four years of being associated with New Danville, recently becoming a resident, too.

Her parents said that she could not converse and interact four years ago the way she did for the interview for “A Wrangler’s Tale.” And what an interview it was!

The reasons she likes New Danville are the same that empowered the transformation her parents talked about, and that she is quite proud of.

“I love the activities,” Morgan said. “And my friends. And the classes. And going to the movies and stuff.”

While several Wranglers enjoy gardening class, Morgan’s preference is getting her hands dirty. No sideline gardener, she. She enjoys working in the dirt. She enjoys a variety of classes that involve busy hands:  sewing and crafts, woodwork, and art (including jewelry making). She also enjoys the opportunities to go into the community on field trips and with the Social Club for movies, eats or shopping.

A graduate of Huntsville High School, Morgan likes the various gifts her dad used to bring back from his work travels far away from home, ranging from sweatshirts to jewelry. “I have brought Morgan those flattened pennies you can get out of machines from places all over the country,” her dad said. Morgan smiled and nodded.  She likes keeping such treasures.

Her grandpa likes keeping treasures, too…the ones Morgan makes in woodworking, art and craft classes, in particular. He has dedicated a wall in his shop for the display of her handiwork.

When asked what she was most proud of from the past four years, she referenced several things: friends, activities, and learning new things. Her mom asked Morgan, “So, you feel like an adult now, don’t you?”  Morgan smiled with her quiet “Yes.” A sense of independence is a beautiful thing, and for Morgan and her family, that is the greatest treasure of all.

A Wrangler’s Tale – October 2021

“I wouldn’t trade this place for anything,” Luke said. His mom, Christina, nodded in agreement. “I remember the smile on his face,” she said, “after a visit here. It took us a year to decide, but we both knew it was the right place because it gives him a sense of independence.”

Independence is hard to come by, thanks to the many effects of a dozen brain surgeries. Luke continues to grow more independent, the journey bringing challenges to both Luke and his mom. She explained the challenges she has faced to make sure Luke has as many experiences as possible, like walking across the stage at high school graduation. Luke shared about facing the challenges of limited mobility and vision.

Among Luke’s favorite programs at New Danville are cooking and the “What’s Happening” class. When asked whether his reputation for liking to share his opinions on a variety of topics was true, he nodded, smiled, and replied, “Yes.”  His favorite topics? Politics, current events…life.

“I was his caregiver for eight years,” his mom said, “and I wanted to be sure that he would be safe and appreciated wherever he landed. The staff at New Danville are loving and understanding. It was scary when I heard that there were field trips to town for movies or pizza. Luke’s sister joined in and now she loves being a part of the fun. I was worried for his safety and about the responses of people. People can be cruel in what they say or how they act. Being around people with challenges who are growing more independent has been good for Luke.”

“We respect each other’s disabilities,” Luke said. Respect is at the heart of the journey for independence, self-esteem, and relationships.

Luke’s mom shared a moment that she and Luke are particularly proud of. A while back, there was a fellow Wrangler who was having a hard time drinking a soda because of his tremors. Luke, being personally familiar with the condition and its frustrations, put a straw in the can and held it so his friend could drink easily. Luke smiled at the sharing of the story. His mom re-emphasized that a lot of Wranglers have been through a lot, but they, along with the staff, are there for each other.

A Wrangler’s Tale – September 2021

After eight years with another program for adults with IDD, Audra came to New Danville in 2017. Barbara, her mother, said she could see the effects immediately. How those changes came about is a Wrangler’s Tale.

“We loved it here,” Barbara said, speaking of their first impressions of seeing New Danville.  “It is quiet, peaceful and everyone is so caring and positive,” she added, reflecting her observations after years of experience here.

Audra is a Wrangler II. “She looks forward to each day at New Danville,” Barbara said, “and I get to hear all about the many things she did during the day when she gets home.”

“Audra had some behavior issues at her previous program,” Barbara said, “but not here (New Danville). I remember telling the staff when we first started coming here that if there were ever any behavior issues, call me. I have yet to receive the first call. I think it is because everyone at New Danville is positive. They provide undivided attention to the Wranglers and Wrangler IIs. As a parent, I can tell who really loves the clients, and it was clear when I first met the people here, and it has proven true ever since, that the team at New Danville loves all the clients.”

A Wrangler’s Tale – August 2021

“They are my heart,” says direct support professional Debbie Rigsby. It shows. Debbie works with our Wrangler IIs and it is pretty clear she is theirs, too.

Wrangler IIs have more challenges than the Wranglers and need special attention and assistance. Some are nonverbal. “Our goal is always to help our clients develop as many skills and as much independence as possible. Some days are better than others, of course, but every day is a good day in its own way.”

The Wrangler IIs have had exciting opportunities lately, thanks to the generosity of New Danville friends. The weather wreaked havoc with scheduling plans for the new Catch and Release class where Wranglers get to fish (link to past article). For most of the summer, only Wrangler IIs had the opportunity to participate. While attention spans may be short, the joy is not on these expeditions. With staff members taking care of baiting hooks and removing the “trophy” bluegill of the day, the Wrangler IIs were able to enjoy the outdoors, serenity, and simple pleasures of catching fish.

“Anything we can provide that gives them a sense of independence, normalcy, and socialization is good. Every small step is a big win,” Debbie said.

When it comes to dancing — there is a lot of music enjoyment and dancing at New Danville — the Wrangler IIs enjoy the movement and socialization. Next to the assembly room that also serves as the lunchroom, dance hall, and movie theater, is a more quiet space for the Wrangler IIs to enjoy being part of the crowd but distanced from the noise and commotion.

Achievement matters. Every class and program strives to offer opportunities for achievement and accomplishment. Thanks to a recent contribution (link to story), the Wrangler IIs are using iPads with apps designed specifically for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With them, they are enjoying the successes of coloring, playing games, communicating ideas with icons, and much more.

“My mentor told me years ago,” said CEO Eva Aguirre, “that all joy is equal. The joy the Wrangler IIs show with every success reminds me of his words from many years ago. They epitomize his wisdom.”

A Wrangler’s Tale

Justin’s mom never thought that she and her son would need New Danville’s services.  Thanks to a recent scholarship, his progress continues. The many lessons they have learned together is a Wrangler’s tale.

“I wish more people could learn from what Justin has – have a big heart, don’t judge, don’t hold a grudge. The world would be a better place,” Justin’s mom, Sandy, shared in a recent conversation. They have been through challenging times to have the gifts revealed though.

They both see New Danville as a gift and a blessing. Justin has been able to return to the day program thanks to the generosity of the Assistance League of Montgomery County who provided scholarship funds for day program fees. “I feel blessed to be at New Danville,” Justin said, “and appreciate being there. I feel blessed that this (ALMC’s scholarship support) is happening for me.” Five years ago, neither Justin nor his mom would have ever imagined that they would be part of the New Danville family.

Sandy first heard about New Danville years ago through its then-presence at Market Street in The Woodlands. Luckily, the memory stuck.  When Justin suffered a traumatic brain injury several years ago and she found no brain injury centers that would take his insurance, she recalled New Danville. After some research, she concluded New Danville felt right for them.

Justin and his mom share an affinity for the outdoors, animals and art. Justin enjoys experiencing all that, and more, at New Danville.

“He has come so far,” she said. “He is not the same person he was a few years ago (after the injury). He is now able to create things and he loves to share them with others.”

Sandy feels the progress he made at New Danville before the COVID lockdown served him well during the 15 months he was unable to come to the day program. “He continued his improvement, but it was lonely.” Justin nodded and said, “I love New Danville. The people, going to class. I like art class. I created presents for my mom in art and for a friend in woodshop.”

Justin’s short-term memory remains an issue, though it is improving. She said that in 2019 Justin spent a lot of time with the miniature horses and could remember them at the end of every day. “That was pretty special,” she said.  “I was surprised and pleased that he has remembered for so long that he made those gifts. He would often not be able to remember what he did during the day by the time he got home. But he is improving. The doctor said that his brain is building new neural networks. His activities at New Danville are helping make that happen.”

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