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My journey to DSI's founding

Sometimes I’m asked, how in the world did you get involved in this? Let me share a bit of my story and why I care so deeply about this work…


When I was 5 and my brother Roy was almost 4, he was diagnosed with a golfball-sized tumor in the center of his brain. Because we were privileged to grow up here in the US with access to many services and supports, his life was prolonged, but he now lived with cognitive and

physical disabilities as well as severe epilepsy. My worldview was shaped by hanging out in his special education classroom, going to physical and speech therapy, and just being siblings. But in it all, I didn’t see deficits. I saw his life lived with curiosity, watched him demonstrate unrestricted love, bringing joy to those around him, and teaching me and many others about what really matters in life.


As an undergraduate student, I studied music therapy and had the opportunity to continue to work with people with disabilities as well as other vulnerable populations. Toward the end of my undergrad, I had an opportunity to do an internship in Cambodia. At that time, I didn’t even know where Cambodia was! But doors opened quickly and I was eager and excited for the opportunity. The organization worked in anti-trafficking and I trained staff to use music therapy techniques to help young survivors in our care begin to heal. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to a Cambodian man named

Sarin and started to volunteer at the center he ran for children with disabilities. I saw the local

staff's bravery in standing up for people with disabilities in a society who generally considers them unworthy. I heard their pleas for help, resources, and ways to learn what was going on with the children. I saw firsthand the harsh realities of the inequality, lack of services, and unmet needs, and my worlds began to collide.


After my internship concluded, I returned to the US. I married and followed my adventurous husband (also a special education teacher) to Alaska. There I worked with children with disabilities in the schools and continued to study, now gaining a Masters in Special Education. And the entire time, I continued to stay in touch with Sarin and other friends in Cambodia. And I was fortunate again that my studies now allowed me to research trying to answer this persistent question I couldn’t shake; ‘what is the scope of this problem and who is focusing on this?’


Long story short, over the course of a few years of research and teaching, I came to the realization that the scope of this need is so immense and the workers are so few.  All through that time, I believe that God was continuing to grow a fire inside of me for this mission. After relocating back to the Midwest, I knew that I couldn’t know this, feel so passionately drawn to this mission, and just sit around and wait for someone else to do something. I knew I needed to

take a step of faith and try. So in 2016, with the help of my husband and another colleague, I founded Disability Support International and it's been a tremendous privilege to have a front-row seat to watch this unfold.


Recently I became a mom. And even though my brother passed away when he was 20 years old, his impact and life lives on. My little guy now carries on the name of his uncle Roy and I am constantly reminded that my journey in all of this is continuous...


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