Sunday (4/30/17) afternoon was a landmark event for the Gauld family. We moved Harrison, our youngest member (23), into a group home in nearby Freeport (ME), where he formally begins his adult life.
Although the actual move only took an hour, more than two decades of work, play, exhilaration, anguish, laughter, and tears went into its preparation. At risk of understatement, our entire family is profoundly grateful for the veritable army of friends and supporters whose participation in Harrison’s personal growth and development since he was diagnosed with autism 20 years ago has helped make this exciting new step in his life possible.
In case you do not know, Harrison was approved last month for the State of Maine’s personal funding program known as Section 21. This has made him eligible for placement in a state-approved group home (of our choice) and provides him with additional financial support for food, health, training, and even entertainment.
Harrison’s new home is a small, clean, 3-bedroom cottage on a quiet, country back road. There is one other resident (his age) and a live-in professional supervisor. We like the fact that he will have his independence, and yet we will be able to visit him easily as it’s only 20 minutes away, midway between Bath and Portland. What’s more, he will be able to continue his current programs at Opportunity Enterprises and Universe Gym in Bath with transportation provided.
Driving away from Harrison’s new home, Laura, Mahalia, Scout, and I felt a strange mix of happiness and melancholy that Laura dubbed “Ya Hoo! – Boo Hoo!” Before we headed off to our respective homes – Bath, Manhattan, and Philadelphia – we were flooded with grateful memories. Among these are the countless folks with Hyde ties whose efforts on Harrison’s behalf contributed to this fresh start in his life. Risking the sin of omission, here is just a partial list:
- Early angel and teacher Jeannie Most (parent of three Hyde alums) who helped him begin his journey of speech;
- The Hawaii Ironman Triathlon completed by Bob Felt ’90 as a benefit for The May Center, the place where Harrison and our family learned about ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis);
- The Hyde football teams coached by mentors like Brian Mulligan and Peter Gregory ’89 who invited Harrison to serve as water boy; (Even after that very hot day when he dumped a tub of Gatorade on the ground just to see what would happen.)
- John Bayreuther (former Hyde faculty), who insisted that Harrison participate in his youth soccer program; (Even after that memorable scrimmage when Harrison decided to gather up the ball into his arms and run into the woods with it, befuddled team in hot pursuit.)
- The counsellors at Camp Ramapo (Rhinebeck, NY), a wonderful camp that was run by Hyde alumni parent Bernie Kosberg that provided Harrison with six wonderful summers that he often speaks about today;
- The entire Cardinal Cushing Academy (MA) community for three transformative years and the effort that friends like alum parents Linda Felt and Lynn Dawes made to attend CCA’s inspiring graduation;
- A phalanx of Hyde colleagues who have always supported Harrison’s best self: Lavoe Davis, Pam Hardy, Clay and Judee von Seldeneck, Mike Dawes, Rose Mulligan, Jason Warnick, ‘98 Susie Racine, Sue Schofield, Erin Brown, Tripp Henderson, Kelly & Bill Pinkham, Sharlene Willey, and many, many more;
- The hundreds of Hyde students over the past two decades who have consciously engaged Harrison in conversation, taken him bowling (note team jersey below), attended his birthday parties, been his baby-sitter, been his friend;
Although Winston Churchill was praising the resolve of his fellow British during World War II, he could have been talking about this very moment for Harrison when he famously said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Know that our family will never adequately express the full measure of our gratitude, but today we raise our collective glass to you with a two-part toast: “Heartfelt Thanks… and… To New Beginnings.”
Onward… Malcolm, Laura, Mahalia & Scout