September 2023 Special Needs Living Akron/Canton

Page 64

Conquering The World, One Step At A Time!
Harper Cunningham


· All female residents, ages 18 & up

· 6 individual rooms

· Located in a residential neighborhood within walking distance to parks, shopping, and church

· Large ADA bathrooms

· Washer and dryer on main level for independence

· Van on-site for transportation

· 24-hour nursing available, with staff trained in DD-specific, person-centered planning


GentleBrook offers seven locations in Hartville and West Lafayette. Adult residents living in our ICFs receive these benefits:

· 24-hour supervision and on-site nursing care

· Active treatment

· Therapeutic services

· Life skills mentoring & support

· Social & recreational activities

· Transportation to & from work and activities

· Respite services

Contact us! We’re committed to being a helpful resource for individuals and families who want more information about the advantages of an Intermediate Care Facility.

4 September 2023 CONNECTING PEOPLE + COMMUNITY GentleBrook Office 880 Sunnyside SW, Hartville, Ohio 44632 330-877-7700 | Follow us on social media


• (7) Beauty Belongs To Everyone; Mecca White

• (10) Important Community Connections

• (16) Just Saying Thank You

• (24) Cover Story; Harper Cunningham

• (32) Community Impact; Stacy Jackson

• (36) Community Event Recap; Make ‘M Smile

• (40) Brooklyn Waidman

• (42) Savannah Stagles

• (46) Sponsor Spotlight; Dutch Craft Furniture

• (48) Upcoming Community Event; Canton Area Buddy Walk

• (52) Community Connections; SARTA

• (56) Nonprofit Spotlight; Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio

• (60) Lawson Bailey

• (64) Parent Prospective; Rocco Yeargin

• (68) Last Look


Rick Miller (330) 283-8462

Scan the QR Code to Like, Subscribe or Nominate:

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Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 5
Lawson Bailey Make ‘M Smile Harper Cunningham Brooklyn Waidman Mecca White SARTA Savannah Stagles
6 September 2023 COMPASSION • FUN • CHALLENGE • INDEPENDENCE Compassionate and energizing adult day services and residential care for developmentally delayed adults. · Individually customized day programs · Life skills practice · Provided transportation · Wheelchair van access · Tutoring for school work · Consistency: very low staff turnover (330) 758-8418 6963 Promway Ave. NW | North Canton, OH 44720 Scan and visit our new website: OUTINGS: parks, zoos, museums, shopping, movies and more cool places like the chocolate factory, coffee shops and the airplane museum! NOW HIRING! Will train Full benefits Highly competitive pay Flexible schedule Compassionate Care Givers



Introducing Mecca White simply through images


This section is here to give our readers easier access when searching for a trusted neighborhood partner to use. Get to know the businesses that make this magazine possible. Please support them in return and thank them if you get the chance!


Applied Behavioral Connections

Kristen Maple

(330) 309-3133


JTEK Solutions Group, LLC

Jared Chevraux

(330) 323-0943


Bright Minds Learning Academy

Sheila Lahoti

(330) 966-7226

4900 Frank Rd. NW, North Canton, OH 44720


Next to Kin Supportive Services , LLC

(330) 288-8450

Premier Approach, LLC

Christian Manns

(330) 312-6909


(330) 546-0057


BeLOCAL - Stark County

(330) 283-8462


DogWatch of Northeast Ohio

Donnie Myers

(330) 915-6036


The Wow Crowd

(330) 445-4482


Lewis Law, LLC (234) 360-3203


Autism Society of Greater Akron (330) 940-1441


Paragon Accounting and Business Services, Inc. (330) 575-2291


First Christian Church (330) 456-2600

The Chapel Green

Amy Troyer (330) 315-5501


The Wow Crowd (330) 445-4482


Bala Management, LLC (330) 758-8418


Stark Board of Developmental Disabilities

Lisa Parramore (330) 479-3934

Summit DD (330) 634-8877


The Workshops, Inc

Rachel Doty (330) 497-3399


Michael Seemann - Digital Marketing Specialist (216) 288-2061


REM Ohio, Inc

Jo Spargo (330) 644-9730


Jason’s Place

Melissa Hadnett (234) 714-9815


Red Line Advocacy (234) 678-9622

The Guildersleeve School (330) 571-8878


Express Employment Professionals (330) 239-8709


Pegasus Farm

Shelley Sprang (330) 935-2300


Travis DeZordo, Modern Woodmen Of America (330) 704-6211


Fat Daddy Meats (330) 904-0288


Dutch Craft Furniture (330) 893-4041

8 September 2023


Campbell Landscaping (330) 933-9091


Compassion Delivered (330) 575-0996


SafeInHome - Ohio (740) 207-5800


Harvestime Temple (330) 877-6544


Henry Heating Cooling & Plumbing (330) 364-5571


Wings of Change Therapy Inc

Michael Asente (234) 334-0044


American Family - Richard Corns

Haley Seifert (234) 714-2300


A & J Arrangements & Design LLC

Amy Davies-Hinkle (440) 668-6388


Kona Ice of Central Canton (330) 398-0120 kona-ice-of-central-canton


Creative Rehab (330) 806-0497

Independent Employment Services

Malcolm Porter (330) 388-5778


Carve Your Own Path, Inc. (330) 426-7885


Your Guardian Angels (234) 571-0975



Francie Kell (330) 877-7700

Teammates Center (234) 571-5876


GiGi’s Playhouse Canton

Megan Vance (330) 493-9114

The Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio (216) 447-8763


Henry Heating Cooling & Plumbing (330) 364-5571


Special Needs Ohio Podcast

Rob Gorski (234) 817-5851


Pond Wiser Inc (330) 833-3764


Strouble Water Hauling (330) 877-6795


The Golden Key Center for Exceptional Children

Gina Bannevich (330) 493-4400


eXp Realty : The Amy Wengerd Group

Amy Wengerd (330) 681-6090


Brahlers Cleaning & Restoration

Stacy Ignacio (330) 834-0008


Julie Billiart Schools (216) 691-8916


Night to Shine (330) 456-4797 x104

SUPPORT GROUP Sharing Solutions


Clearview Developmental Services

Dean Miller (330) 224-4403



Homeplace Creative (330) 575-8922


Akron Zoo (330) 375-2550

DISCLAIMER: This publication is owned by The N2 Company and is not affiliated with or sponsored by any club, developer, or homeowners association. Articles and advertisements in this publication and opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the views of N2 but remain solely those of the author(s) or advertiser(s). The paid advertisements contained within this magazine are not endorsed or recommended by N2.

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 9
Delivering Neighborhood Connections © 2023 The N2 Company, Inc.



Need to know who to connect with to ask a question? This is where you find out who you need to know!


Phone: 330-253-2555


The Akron Blind Center Inc. is a membership-based nonprofit organization incorporated in 1948 to serve the blind and lowvision communities. They also provide resources, programs, services and classes for Summit and surrounding counties.


Phone: 330-543-1000


Akron Children’s Hospital has been caring for children since 1890, and its pediatric specialties are ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. With two hospital campuses, four health centers, and 50+ primary and specialty care locations throughout Ohio, they’re making it easier for today’s busy families to find the high-quality care they need.


Phone: 234-571-5689


The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.


Phone: 330-940-1441


The Autism Society is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots autism organization committed to improving the lives of those affected by autism. The Greater Akron affiliate was founded in 1987 by parent volunteers of children with autism.


Website: services/services-for-the-visually-impaired


Phone: 330-643-3080


Phone: 330-438-0500

BSVI assists eligible people, beginning at age 14, with low vision and blindness by providing direct, personalized

services to assist them in finding and retaining meaningful work and personal independence. Basic services include personal and work adjustment training, vocational training, mental and physical restoration, and placement assistance.

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 11 challenges of daily living and personal crises. (234) 714-9815 Jason’s Place Inc


Phone: 330-492-8136

Website: help-me-grow/help-me-grow

Help Me Grow is Ohio’s evidence-based parent support program that encourages early prenatal and well-baby care, as well as parenting education to promote the comprehensive health and development of children. Help Me Grow System includes Central Intake, Help Me Grow Home Visiting, and Help Me Grow Early Intervention.


Phone: 844-382-5452


It is the mission of the Ohio Parent Mentors to provide the necessary support and resources to families of children with disabilities and the professionals that serve them by connecting families, schools, and the community to the benefit of students with disabilities.


Phone: 844-382-5452


The OCECD is a statewide nonprofit organization that serves families of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities in Ohio, educators, and agencies who provide services to them.


Phone: 800-324-8680


The ODM provides health care coverage to more than three million Ohioans through a network of more than 165,000 providers. Learn more about Ohio’s largest state agency and the ways in which they continue to improve wellness and health outcomes for the individuals and families served at our website.


Phone: 800-720-9616


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is responsible for managing many vital programs that directly affect the lives of Ohioans.




Phone: 800-766-7426

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is a planning and advocacy body committed to community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities. It is the mission of the ODDC to create change that improves independence, productivity, and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families in community life.


Phone: 800-282-4536


This state agency works to empower Ohioans with disabilities through employment, disability determinations, and independence. Amoung the many services provided, OOD is responsible for establishing and maintaining partnerships with employers.



People First of Ohio is a statewide organization that works with state legislators and builds relationships with other advocacy groups and state agencies. These relationships promote better interaction among people who make decisions in the communities and the state.


Phone: 330-453-9157


This organization is a gathering of blind and visually impaired people, along with sighted family and friends, with a mission and goal to help the blind and visually impaired in the community to help themselves to remain or to become able to live independently and an active member of their community.

12 September 2023


Phone: (330) 297-6209


The Portage County Board of Developmental Disabilities exists to connect individuals and families with the services they need for health, safety, education and a high quality of life.



Supporting the well-being of families and children with challenges, disabilities, and health care needs. Finding tools, organizations, and events in the community to meet the needs of families.


Phone: 330-546-2001


A community of parents/guardians of individuals from transition to adult age with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, professionals who serve the IDD community, caregivers, and policymakers. The focus is to provide information, support, and assistance to all. Everyone is encouraged to play an active role in sharing their resources, knowledge, and experiences.



Phone: 877-255-1509


The Social Security Administration assigns Social Security numbers and administers the Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance programs. They also administer the Supplemental Security Income program for the aged, blind and disabled.


Phone: 330-477-5200


Stark DD connects individuals and families with the services persons with developmental disabilities need for health, safety, education and quality of life.


Phone: 330-634-8000


Summit DD offers early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with developmental delays, as well as transition services for students with developmental disabilities to vocational, habilitation and retirement programs for adults.


Phone: 330-768-7272


TRIAD Deaf Services Inc is an agency providing services to the deaf community in Stark, Carroll, and Tuscarawas Counties. They provide support services, interpreting, leadership, deaf advocacy and education.

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 13
Have a suggestion for an important connection that could be added to this page? Email your suggestion to



(Supports: Carve Your Own Path)

These local businesses are supporting our community in a big way!


(Supports: GiGi’s Playhouse)

DEAN MILLER clearviewdsi

(Supports: Sharing Solutions)


(Supports: GiGi’s Playhouse)

BRANDI PINE cantonoh

(Supports: First Christian Church)


The businesses shown on this page are those committing financial support to local community resources that couldn’t afford to advertise in Akron & Canton Special Needs Living magazine on their own.

Feel free to repay the generosity these local business owners are showing by giving them a Like and Follow on Social Media, a Review on Google or Facebook or if you have a need that can be met by one of these businesses, give them a call. I’m sure they will be thrilled to serve you!

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 17 Job Development Job Coaching Community Based Assessments Career Exploration Follow Along Services Travel Training Ohio Employment First Program ENRICHING LIVES THROUGH EMPLOYMENT Contact us TODAY to learn more: 330-388-5778 Sharing Solutions IDD Support Group for Families, Caregivers & Professionals Contact us TODAY to RSVP for the next meeting and receive email reminders! Follow Us On Facebook! MARK YOUR CALENDARS Before arriving check the Sharing Solutions Facebook page for cancellations. Next Group Meeting: Wednesday, September 6 5:00 pm Social Hour | 6:00 pm Meeting


18 September 2023

J. Albert Studios

Albert is an expert photographer with a studio located in the heart of Downtown Canton. He has mastered the art of seeing the world through photographer’s eye which as he states means “to look for the beauty everything.” Joe has loved getting to know his clients over the years takes pride to have those same individuals continue to come to him most memorable milestones in their lives, their senior portraits, engagement photos, their wedding, and ultimately their children and pictures. Joe loves nothing more than a good whiskey and cigar and home without his camera!


City Of Green City Council

Rocco Yeargin is an honors graduate of Hiram College and the University of Akron School of Law. He works at the Young and Yeargin Law Firm where he helps people with estate planning, probate, and consumer rights matters. Rocco has served on Green City Council for nearly 6 years, serving a term both as President and Vice President. He is a candidate for Mayor of Green for the November 2023 election. Rocco is the father of a special needs daughter and strives to use this experience to help make the Green community more inclusive and welcoming to people with special needs.


Gigi’s Playhouse

Stacy Jackson and her husband, Rick, were married in 2005 and have seven children, 6 boys and their youngest, a girl, who was born in July 2016 with Down syndrome. Stacy graduated from Kent State University with her bachelor’s degree in sign language interpreting and later from the University of Akron with her master’s in special education. Stacy has spent the majority of her career in education as a teacher and interpreter. She was honored to join the GiGi’s Playhouse National Office Staff in June 2022 as the Regional Director of the Eastern Region. Stacy has been part of the GiGi’s Playhouse Canton team from the very first start-up meeting in March of 2017 and has served in several capacities.


Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 19


Daily Focus'

Monday- Money & ME (Self advocacy)

Tuesday- Talking & Technology Skills

Wednesday- What's Happening & Workout Skils

Thursday- Cooking (tasty) & Safety Skills

Friday- Funday Activities

Non-Medical-Transport (NMT)

Teammates Center offers Transportation for individuals in many cities who attend Teammates.

Soft Skills

Teammates Center helps individuals focus on job skills by doing mock interviews, practice job applications, community based volunteer sites, to help improve the skills of your teammate to increase their chances of getting a job of their choice.

Adult Day Services (ADS)

Teammates Center Provides Adult Day Services for your Teammate improve their independence.

Funday Friday

Teammates Center offers activities to bowling alleys, putt putt courses, the zoo, pumpkin patches, art museums, swimming pools, and many other activities chose by individuals who attend Teammates Center.

Vocational Habilitation (VOC-HAB)

Teammates Center Provides Vocational Habilitation Services for your Teammate to better their job skills

Volunteer Job Activities

Teammates Center has many non-paid volunteer job opportunities for individuals who attend Teammates. The VOC-HAB program focus' on individuals who are close to getting jobs and helps improve their skill set by volunteering at sites for an extended period of time to help improve their work stamina.

Teammates Center

323 S Main St, Munroe Falls, Suite 1 Ohio 44262

(234) 571-5876 •

VOC-HAB Recorded Data

Teammates Center keeps records/data of each individual to track the improvement in areas such as quality of work, stamina, communication. We individualize our support to meet the need of the person served. Our goal is to increase the independence of the people coming to Teammates so they can gain competitive employment.

Volunteer Activities

See Continuing Ed. Activities Section of website for more information.

20 September 2023


CLW provides opportunities to build skills and make money. Whether you want to work towards community employment or are happy being in a more supportive environment, CLW is the place to be. We provide training using the I CAN WORK curriculum. We also offer a safe and comfortable space for those who are interested in socializing and making friends through relationship building, activities and outings. Follow us on Facebook and TikTok!

Ways To Spend Your

Day? PREMIER APPROACH IS THE PLACE FOR YOU! CALL TO SCHEDULE A TOUR! 330-312-6909 | 2056 Wales Rd NE | Massillon, OH 44646 We o er a variety of community activities, all of which are chosen by participants of the program. At Premier Approach you’ll enjoy a fun, friendly & relaxed atmosphere. Get out and enjoy the things you already love, while also exploring other new and exciting opportunities. SERVICES PROVIDED: · Adult Day Support · Vocational Habilitation · Non-Medical Transportation • Secure Document Destruction • Individual, Bulk, and Master Repackaging • Light Assembly • Cycle Testing • Sorting and Inspection • Quality Control Our Vocational Services: Creative Learning Workshop Call: Jennie Msangi (330) 546-0057 For More Information Locations in Canton and Akron: 4465 Louisville St NE Canton, Ohio 44705 111 N. Broadway St. Akron, Ohio 44304 Facebook The Creative Learning Workshop
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 23 We are now accepting students on both Jon Peterson and Autism Scholarships. · K-12 students welcome! · Contact us now for more info and to register Where Every Ability is Celebrated High-quality, research-based instruction with a vocational skill focus specialized for K-12 students with disabilities. Call us: (234) 678-9622 We moved! 1011 Gorge Blvd, Akron, OH 44310 SCAN CALL It's back to school time!


Meet Harper Cunningham, the most amazing nine-year-old second grader you’ll ever meet at Green Primary School! This little superstar has captured the hearts of everyone in her community with her incredible spirit and that mega-watt smile that lights up the room. Sure, Harper has faced some challenges, but let me tell you, she’s a reallife superhero, and with the love and support of her awesome parents, Tonya and Aaron, she’s conquering the world, one step at a time!



When Harper came into this world on March 3, 2014, she surprised her parents with a few extra-special features. Yup, she has Down syndrome, a heart defect, and bilateral cataracts – talk about a bundle of surprises! The beginning was tough for her parents, Tonya and Aaron, as they had to navigate a whole new world of medical complexities. But you know what? Harper’s a little fighter! At just two months old, she amazed everyone when she fought through some tough times in the hospital over the course of 54 days, including open heart surgeries and a feeding tube.

“She ended up having her first open heart surgery during that stay, at three months old,” says mom,


Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 27


Now, let’s talk about Harper’s passions! Green, the Rounda-bout Capital, is the perfect place for this little ball of energy to explore her interests. She’s one of the stars on the inclusive cheer squad, spreading cheer and showing everyone what teamwork is all about. And if that’s not enough, she’s a soccer whiz too, rocking it at the GOAL Soccer League in Green! But wait, there’s more – Harper’s got some smooth moves on the dance floor, thanks to the Dance Movement. Oh, and did we mention she’s a horse rider? Yep, she’s been doing that since she was three, and it’s one of her favorite things to do. Plus, she’s a swimmer, attended the iCan Bike camp, and keeps her brain sharp with summer classes by the Northeast Ohio Down Syndrome Association. Is there anything this girl can’t do? We doubt it!


With parents like Tonya and Aaron, it’s no wonder Harper is such a rockstar. Tonya, being a teacher with a Master’s degree in Special Education, thought she had everything figured out when it came to Harper’s journey. But life has a funny way of teaching us new things, right? Harper showed them that her milestones might take a little longer, but that only makes them even sweeter when they happen. And when it came to school, Tonya was a little nervous about those IEP meetings. Who wouldn’t be? But she soon realized that as a parent, you’re an important part of the team, and speaking up for your child is crucial.

“You are your child’s advocate,” says Tonya. “When it came time for Harper to go to school, I really thought I knew how it would go. I have sat in on many IEP meetings in my 20+ years of teaching, but when it’s your own child, it’s a completely different ballgame. I was a nervous wreck walking into her first IEP meeting at three years old. There were so many people in that room! Parents need to know that you are a part of the team. If something is said that you don’t agree with, speak up. If you have your own ideas, speak up. I have seen so many parents that are afraid to speak up or think that they aren’t allowed. They think they have to just agree with anything that is said and that is so far from the truth. You know your child best and you need to fight for what they need.”

Harper’s got an amazing support system – her family and a loving community in Green that cherishes her and helps her shine. They’re like her very own superhero squad, cheering her on every step of the way. With all this love and encouragement, there’s no doubt Harper’s future is looking as bright as the sun!

So, let’s give it up for Harper Cunningham, the incredible little dynamo from Green! With her positive attitude, determination, and the support of her fantastic family and community, she’s showing us all that anything is possible. She’s proof that even with a few challenges, you can conquer the world and spread smiles wherever you go. Keep shining, Harper! We’re all cheering you on!

28 September 2023
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 29 330-966-7226 | | | 5368 Fulton Dr. NW, Canton, OH SERVICES • ACT/SAT Prep • Math Enrichment • Creative Writing • Comprehensive Reading • Complete Homework Support • Pre School Learning (ages 3-5) • Spanish Tutoring • Science • Sharpen Study Skills We Offer: Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) MENTION THIS AD TO RECEIVE $20 OFF EXPIRES 10/02/23 Right! Start the School Year Off Offering Homework Help Everyday! NOW OFFERING CLASSES IN AKRON, OHIO, ALSO!

The Frog Shop

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 31 @thefrogshopofficialpage Shop Scan to shop online: · local delivery · shipping throughout the US · curbside pickup Cut out & bring in: $5 off $25 purchase or $10 off $45 purchase We carry DIY pond products and more: · Fish Sh!t fertilizer for plants and vegetables · Green Clean algaecide · bacteria and enzyme packets · water conditioner · three types of fish food · lots of unique frog gifts & keepsakes! • 330-833-FROG Frogs, Fun and Healthy Ponds 437 Applegrove St. NW • North Canton, OH 44720 Summer Hours: Thursday and Friday 10 am – 5 pm Or call to schedule a shopping appointment. Northside Marketplace 21 Furnace St. Akron, OH 44308 Tuesday to Saturday 11 am - 7 pm • Sunday 11 am - 3 pm Visit all of our 3 locations! Goodin Store Only 2ND YEAR ANNIVERSARY! October 2, 2023 Now hiring at The Frog Shop! email interest to NEW STORE OPENING! STEAM Indoor Play Center 1278 S. Main St. North Canton (behind Abbott's Bridal) Follow us on Facebook @thefrogshopo cialpage for anniversary party details and our new store opening info!

Question & Answer Session with Stacy Jackson Regional Director of Gigi’s Playhouse

Q. Where do you work currently?

A. GiGi’s Playhouse Inc.

Q. What is your job title here?

A. Regional Director

Q. How long have you been employed with your current job?

A. 15 months

Q. How long have you been employed in this industry?

A. I have been on staff with GiGi’s Playhouse for a little over a year, this is my first job working for a non-profit in this capacity. I have been heavily involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Canton though as a start-up team member, events committee chair, and various board seats including president.

Q. What were your previous jobs in the industry?

A. I have been an adjunct instructor at Stark State College since 2008, in their education department, mostly teaching courses in their American Sign Language program. Prior to working for GiGi’s Playhouse, I also taught ASL at Glenoak High School. The first part of my professional career was spent as an ASL interpreter in the classroom as well as in other various settings.

Q. Educational background

A. Bachelors in ASL Interpreting from Kent State University Master’s in Education from the University of Akron– Intervention Specialist, Mild to Moderate

Q. What do your day-to-day job responsibilities include?

A. Each day is different, which is one of the things I love about my job. But in general, I meet virtually with the leaders of the Playhouse locations in my region on a regular basis, serving as support and pointing them to resources. I also meet virtually with other members of the national office always looking for new and

better ways to provide that support to the network. In between calls, I work on projects and prepare for meetings and presentations. I also get to do a little traveling! Part of my job is to attend conferences and visit the Playhouses in my region to provide face-to-face support.

Q. What is the inspiration behind why you work in this field?

A. My career started with working with the Deaf community. I was fascinated by their culture and language and wanted to make a difference by serving them in any way I could, and I valued my place in their community. I loved working as an interpreter but wanted to be more involved as an educator, so I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree in special education. I enjoyed teaching, especially teaching hearing people about how awesome Deaf people were. It wasn’t long after my daughter Maleah was born in 2016 with Down syndrome, that I got involved with GiGi’s Playhouse, and my passion for making this world a better place for Deaf people expanded into a passion for making this world a better place for all who were considered “different.”

Q. What part of your job are you most passionate about?

A. The part of my job that excites me the most is hearing about all of the amazing things the various GiGi’s Playhouse locations are doing in their communities. Everyone who is involved with GiGi’s Playhouse, whether it’s the national staff, the Playhouse staff, the volunteers, the families, the participants, we are all driven by a passion to change the way the world views Down syndrome and send a global message of acceptance for all. So, we celebrate stories about acceptance and bring awareness to stories of discrimination. The good, the bad, and the ugly need to be shared because it’s important to recognize

that although we have come a long way, there are miles and miles to go.

Q. What is your favorite success story you have seen?

A. An out-of-state Playhouse I have the privilege to work with is located in a small town. They opened during COVID, and they are already well on their way to raising enough funds to move into a much larger space very soon. Seeing their growth, and the way they engage their community to support their families and the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse is incredible. They are an inspiration and a great example I can share with the other locations I help to support.

Q. If you could go back and talk to yourself at the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself?

A. “You can do this.”

Q. Do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job and why?

A. I know I am making a difference. Whether it’s through an encouraging word to an exhausted president, coaching and guiding a start-up team, sharing tips and tricks between Playhouses, or ensuring Playhouse teams know best practices, although I am not directly working with families, as a current Playhouse board member, I can relate to the joys and struggles the Playhouses experience.

Q. What is something you would change in your field for the better if you could?

A. Funding that is more easily accessible. Each GiGi’s Playhouse is exclusively funded through private donations, grants, and fundraisers.

Q. What is your favorite non-profit organization or volunteer opportunity?

A. GiGi’s Playhouse!

32 September 2023
Suppor�ng Individuals With Down Syndrome, Their Families And The Community Scan to create a "My GiGi's" account online to register for events and see what events match your interests! (330) 493-9114 4061 Bradley Circle NW, Canton, Ohio 44718 Programming is always FREE! Special thanks to Strouble Water Hauling & Paragon Accounting and Business Services for supporting GiGi's Playhouse and for sponsoring this ad!


TWi is a regional disability service provider with several locations throughout Northeast Ohio. Our mission: We nurture skills that foster independence and empower all to live their best lives.

TWi People Programs

· HPC Services: help participants manage day-to-day care and to participate in their communities.

· Day Services: provide pre-employment and vocational habilitation opportunities as well as recreational and leisure activities.

· Transportation Services: help participants maintain independence and stay connected within the community.

· Employment Services: assess each individual to discover and build on strengths and connect them with the right opportunities.



Scan to learn more

34 September 2023


‘M Smile Ohio

Smiles abounded for the 5th year in Hartville, Ohio as Nathaniel’s Hope, Harvestime Apostolic Temple, and the Community joined together to host Make ‘m Smile, the biggest party celebrating kids and adults with special needs!

It was an amazing day where the community came together to celebrate VIPs (kids and adults with disabilities) reminding us all that every life has Value and Incredible Purpose and deserves to be celebrated!!! Hundreds of people gathered together at Hartville Memorial Park to do just that...and help to bring lots of SMILES!

VIPs enjoyed petting zoos, games, lunch, frozen treats, and lots of other goodies! Sharon’s Signers (sign choir) performed “Let’s

It was an amazing day where the community came together to celebrate VIPs (kids and adults with disabilities)

36 September 2023

Go Fly A Kite.” The FISH 95.5 FM once again broadcasted LIVE. Even Nathaniel was on hand to greet VIPs and join the fun! Michelle Herdlick, contributing photographer for Special Needs Living magazine helped capture some special moments of the day and believes that the day communicates an important message to VIPs, “They need to feel

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 37

included and know that they are appreciated for their abilities and who they are, and this is an event that allows them to feel this way.”

Resources from the community were also on display for VIP families to learn about helpful services that could benefit their families.

Lena Hartman, a VIP mom, first heard about Nathaniel’s Hope and Make ‘m Smile and wanted to bring it to Ohio and shared the vision with

Pastor Ray Smith, lead pastor of Harvestime Apostolic Temple. The church immediately embraced the idea and has since hosted this party in partnership with Nathaniel’s Hope. Pastor Ray says, “Make ‘m Smile is all about hope, bringing a smile and sharing God’s love with people.”

Make ‘m Smile originated 21 years ago in Orlando, Florida to commemorate the birthday of

Nathaniel Timothy Kuck, a VIP who moved to heaven at age 4 ½. Since that time, the party has spread to Ohio and Southern California with hopes to continue to expand to other communities around the United States. Be sure to mark your calendar for the 6th Annual Make’ m Smile to be held in Hartville on Saturday, July 13, 2024. To see pictures of this year’s event, visit

Come visit our Award Winning Showroom at 950 S. Main St. - North Canton | 330.526.6009 Monday – Friday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM Evenings & Weekends by appointment Medicaid Waiver Providers • • See our latest projects @jtekgroup OUR SERVICES Stairlifts – Straight and Curved Barrier Free Showers Ceiling Track Lift Systems Wheelchair Platform Lifts Walk-in Tubs & Transition Tubs Ramps (for sale or rent) Grab Bars & Handrails Pool Lifts Accessible Remodeling & Additions Interior Design for Mobility Consulting Services BRING DESIGN & STYLE TO YOUR HOME ACCESS PROJECT Experts in Accessible Remodeling and Mobility Equipment since 2011
Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 39 Creative Rehab is CARF accredited and partners with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), a state agency, to help individuals with disabilities get and keep jobs in the community. Creative Rehab 330-806-0497 |

ALWAYS ON THE GO! Introducing You To Brooklyn Waidman

17-year-old Brooklyn Waidman loves to stay busy!

The Canton South High School Junior is involved in many activities and groups and keeps very active. Whether it’s soccer, dance, fitness classes, cooking classes, 4-H, or volunteering, Brooklyn always has somewhere to go and something to do!

40 September 2023

Some of the activities and groups that Brooklyn participates in are: Mighty KATS soccer through Canton South Soccer Club, GiGi Teen Fitness at GiGi’s Playhouse, Clover Valley 4-H Club, and volunteering in the community at Bridge Point Community Services on the SMILE team.

Brooklyn splits her time between her mom and dad’s homes and has two brothers (Logan and Skiler), two sisters (Hailey and Kelsey), and a plethora of animals including dogs, goats, a donkey, a cat, and chickens! When she is at her dad’s, she loves swimming in their pool, jumping on the trampoline, playing Barbies with her sister Kelsey, and going to the movies and out to eat with her sisters. When she is at her mom’s she likes to play with her dolls, listen to music, and go get her nails done. Brooklyn also loves traveling with

her family for road trips and flying on planes. She goes to lots of places with her family and she especially loves the mountains and the beach. When Brooklyn isn’t hanging out with her family you can find her hanging out with her best friends Laken, Casen, Owen, Michael, Noah, and Chanze. Brooklyn wants you to know that there are lots of activities and groups out there. Get involved and meet a great group of people to support and help you along the way! Some of the activities and groups that Brooklyn participates in are:

Mighty KATS soccer through Canton South Soccer Club, GiGi Teen Fitness at GiGi’s Playhouse, Clover Valley 4-H Club, and volunteering in the community at Bridge Point Community Services on the SMILE team. Brooklyn especially enjoys the different activities they offer at GiGi’s Playhouse. She has done their tutoring, dance, cooking, and fitness classes. She has many friends who go there and always has a lot of fun.

One of the people who inspires Brooklyn is her teacher, Mr. White. He always makes her laugh and is very silly with his face. He makes her do her work at school and has taught her skills like counting money and tying her shoes. Her favorite subject in school is cooking. Mr. White makes class fun and loves to tease her and make her laugh by saying he’ll give her a knuckle sandwich with mayonnaise if she doesn’t listen. She says Mr. White is so funny!

After high school Brooklyn hopes to sing and dance on stage, she says that she is good at those talents! She would also like to cook or clean at a hotel or restaurant. At school, they go to Goodwill and the YMCA to work and learn vocational skills. Whatever Brooklyn does, I’m sure she’ll make tons of friends where so goes!

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 41

Always smiling, Savannah has been through a lot in her 18 years of life but she doesn’t let any of that stop her. Her smile is contagious and will brighten everyone’s day, including that of her mother Cheyenne who says “When you think you are having a bad day, remind yourself that there are so many things to be thankful for and there is always a reason to smile.” Now you can see where Savannah gets her positive attitude and smiley disposition from.

Diagnosed with spinal meningitis at 2 months old, there were definitely sometimes when I’m sure smiling was not on Cheyenne’s radar. Spinal meningitis is an infection of the fluid and membranes around the brain and spinal cord. It spreads rapidly throughout the body and the results can be absolutely devastating including death. “Even with treatment, approximately one out of every 10 people who get meningococcal disease will die, and of those who survive, up to 20% will suffer serious and permanent complications including brain damage, kidney damage, hearing loss, and amputation of arms, legs, fingers, or toes” (from National Foundation for Infectious Diseases/


Lucky to be alive the road ahead was going to be challenging. She had to spend 2 months at Akron Children’s Hospital recovering from her infection. Savannah was delayed in hitting many milestones as a result of meningitis, but always worked hard to get there in her time. Her family enrolled her in the Calico program at the Summit DD. Calico (Collaborative Agencies for Learning and Innovative Childhood Options) was a childcare facility offering opportunities for kids with and without disabilities to learn, play

42 September 2023

and grow together. In 2018 they transitioned their last child into a community childcare and the Calico program ended, but only because so many other childcare centers are inclusive now and Summit DD is available to support many centers in the community. Cheyenne says that they would hold Savannah’s hand each day and help her to walk in and out of the center and that helped her gain the ability to walk on her own when she was 3. Savannah also learned sign language at Calico and continues to use that to this day at home and school. She was able to obtain her own communication device this year to aid her. She does well at understanding others but sometimes

has difficulties communicating back. Hopeful for the new device to help with that. Savannah also lives with epilepsy and growth hormone deficiency so managing those with daily medication is very important. Cheyenne states that “Savannah never lets this get her down or in the way of her happiness.”

A proud member of the Sparkles Cheerleading Team at Springfield High School, Savannah just graduated from SHS “socially” but will be staying in school there for a little while longer. She is proud to be a member of the community and is “always full of cheer” according to her mom so this is the perfect sport for her. Akron Rotary Camp

is also a highlight for Savannah every summer and she just loves participation in most of the activities but especially anything water related. And Savannah absolutely loves spending time with her “favorite” Cousin Quinn who is always a huge help to her wherever they are.

Savannah is a very caring and compassionate person to everyone who comes into contact with her and her mom says she rarely ever shows if she is having a bad day. “Savannah has obtained a great amount of strength in her 18 years and always has a smile on her face…. She is a special person and no matter the circumstances, Savannah will make any day better with just her smile!”

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 43
Savannah is a very caring and compassionate person to everyone who comes into contact with her and her mom says she rarely ever shows if she is having a bad day.


44 September 2023
questions or to register, contact: Lena Hartman (330) 704-7896, Patty Graham (330) 224-2528, Sponsored by Harvestime Apostolic Temple 136 E Maple St | Hartville, OH | (330) 877-6544 | | Harvestime Apostolic Temple Harvestime’s Special Needs Ministry Presents: The Princess Within Special Needs Noncompetitive Pageant
October 21, 2023 12-2 pm
at The Hartville Kitchen 1015 Edison St., Hartville, OH
true beauty comes from within.
you have a talent you’d like to share at the Princess Within pageant? Each princess is escorted across the wheelchair-accessible stage by a uniformed police officer or first responder,
loving memory of Tom
where she is announced as a princess and receives gifts. Those who sign up can share a talent as well. NOTE: we can only accept a limited number of talents, so sign up soon! There will be entertainment and a short, fun lesson on inner beauty. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy refreshments of cookies and a cake! In
Graham. Special thanks to The Hartville Kitchen, Harvestime Apostolic Temple and the innumerable kind police officers and first responders from our community.
The Guildersleeve School of Performing Arts: a Private School with a Public Purpose At the Guildersleeve School, we pride ourselves in establishing goals that nurture students, family and community alike and that produce a healthy and productive result for all three. Inquire about our upcoming Enrollment Open House Events at (330) 510-1371. 1011 Gorge Blvd, Akron, OH 44203


Dutch Craft Furniture

46 September 2023

Being in downtown Berlin was not part of the original business plan for Dutch Craft Furniture. The business had secured a space in the country to rent and needed to set up the necessary billboards to advertise. It was during a meeting about acquiring billboards that the possibility of renting space in town first came up. From that moment on, it became evident God had an infinitely better plan than the one Dutch Craft Furniture’s owners had created. The store opened for business in January of 2009 and has steadily grown to a team of fifteen members in the last 13 years.

Dutch Craft Furniture partners with local Amish artisans throughout the Holmes and Wayne County areas for a complete line of furniture, both solid wood and upholstered. The area is well known for its custom wood working, but the addition of upholstery and quality mattresses has been a wonderful expansion to the product line.

Another growing demand in the industry has been for completely custom spaces, from closets and pantries, to home offices, bathroom cabinets, and entertainment centers. These larger projects include an initial meeting for design ideas and measurements, after which the

company creates a quote with a 3D blueprint of the space to visualize exactly what the best layout will be. Delivery and installation are key components of this kind of work, and customers will appreciate the expertise of Dutch Craft Furniture’s team, from years of custom cabinet installation and trim carpentry in prior careers.

“We just ordered our 15th and 16th pieces, two dressers, a few weeks ago,” said Jim and Patti Giomini. “Obviously, we are thrilled with Dutch Craft Furniture! Many of the pieces were modified to fit our needs. The staff always provides expert design help. They are exceptionally talented, accommodating, and friendly. The hardware selections cover all tastes, and the wood choices and finishes are the best. Deliveries are always perfect, and they will treat your home as their own. We are already looking for our next project.”

From the very beginning, customer feedback has been an indicator of growth and direction. The new styles and stain or paint colors seen in the showroom and on the website start out as a custom request for a specific job. Frustration about long lead times prompted the decision to keep the most popular dining and living room furniture in stock and ready for immediate pickup

Do not settle for a lesser quality!

or delivery. The company invested heavily in its own delivery teams for Ohio and surrounding states, to accommodate customer schedules and maintain core service values. The addition of a new, larger warehouse allows Dutch Craft Furniture to stock bedroom furniture for quick shipment as well. Dutch Craft Furniture’s employees photograph and edit items for the website to maintain the most realistic visual possible of grain textures and color variations.

Amish furniture is an investment that will last for many years, so the website and the sales department focus on educating customers about the hundreds of options that are available. There are pros and cons to all the various hardwood species, depending on how the furniture will be used, the overall style of the space, and personal preference to color and grain texture of the wood.

Do not settle for a lesser quality!

Stop in at Dutch Craft Furniture’s 10,000 square foot showroom in Berlin or shop online at dutchcraftfurniture. com. Let the experts help you determine if Amish furniture might be just what you need to create a living space that you love coming home to.

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 47
Dutch Craft Furniture is located at 4774 US Route 62 in Berlin.

An Event Celebrating Our Local Down Syndrome Community


On September 9th the Canton Area Buddy Walk will be celebrating our local Down syndrome community and we’d love to have you join us! We are thrilled to once again use the beautiful facilities and all-abilities playground at Dogwood Park in North Canton. Included in your event-day registration will be a light lunch, Kona Ice, music and several activities to enjoy with your family and friends. Some have described this local fundraiser as a “family reunion” day for the Down syndrome community - a time to reconnect with families you haven’t seen for a while and a chance to meet and make connections with new families. Mostly the day is a time to celebrate our loved ones with Down syndrome, a chance to shout their value and worth, and an opportunity to enjoy this community of people all connected by that little extra chromosome.

Since its inception in 1995, the Buddy Walk® has become “the world’s most widely recognized public awareness program for the Down syndrome community” ( More than 250 local

Buddy Walk® events take place each year, most of them occurring in September and October. The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is the founding organization behind the Buddy Walk and they now host the New York City Buddy Walk® along with the Times Square Video presentation. This hour-long jumbotron video showcases a diverse group of 500 individuals with Down syndrome - it’s a big, bold way to show the world how beautiful the Down syndrome community is!

All local registered Buddy Walks give back a portion of their raised funds each year to the NDSS so they can continue their work in providing resources from prenatal diagnosis through aging and end-oflife care (and all the beautiful times in between). NDSS’s mission is “to empower individuals with Down syndrome and their families by driving policy change, providing resources, engaging with local communities, and shifting public perceptions.”

The Canton Area Buddy Walk is a registered NDSS event and is privileged to be able to give a percentage of our fundraising back

to support the incredible work they are doing. However, most of the money raised will stay local to the greater Canton area. So when you give, you are supporting those with Down syndrome right here in NorthEast Ohio. In the past, fundraising from the Canton Area Buddy Walk has been able to provide adoption assistance, family support, and give back to GiGi’s Playhouse Canton so they can continue to offer their services and programming for free. And we look forward to doing more of that


this year! Want to get involved? Visit our website https/ to get started!

• Register to participate by joining an existing team or starting a new one

• Donate towards a specific team or individual

• Sign Up to volunteer on event day

• Help cover the cost of the event by selecting “sponsor” to make a general donation


Canton Area Buddy Walk

Saturday September 9, 2023

10am - 12pm

Dogwood Park 241 7th Street NE North Canton, Ohio 44720

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 49
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More than 2.1 million times every year people use the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) to meet their transportation needs. Among them are thousands of people with disabilities who travel to work, school, medical appointments, stores, senior centers, libraries, parks, restaurants, entertainment venues, Akron, Cleveland and the hundreds of other destinations we serve in Stark County and beyond. We are extremely proud of the essential role SARTA plays in enabling these valued and valuable members of our community to live full, independent lives.

“Over the 25 years since SARTA first hit the streets, we have become the trusted transportation option for people with disabilities and their

families because they know we are totally committed to providing safe, affordable, reliable, convenient, accessible mobility services to every member of our community every day,” SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad said. “It’s a commitment we demonstrate both by our performance and our embrace of both the spirit and the letter of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation passed by Congress in 1990 that has vastly improved the quality of life in the United States over the past 33 years.”

SARTA’s embrace of the ADA is reflected in every facet of the awardwinning transit agency’s operations beginning with the entire fixed route bus fleet which is 100% ADA compliant. The vehicles have low floors, lifts,

ramps, are able to “kneel” down to make boarding easier, offer priority seating for people with disabilities, and can accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility devices. All SARTA’s transit centers which serve as the vibrant hubs of the system are also ADA-accessible. For those who are unable to travel on fixed routes, SARTA offers ProLine the system’s ADA-compliant countywide prescheduled, point-to-point, shared ride service. Proline is available to:

• People who, because of their disability, are unable to board, ride or exit an accessible vehicle in fixed route service;

• People with disabilities who are able to use accessible

52 September 2023

vehicles, but accessible vehicles are not available at the time when they need transportation;

• People who can ride accessible vehicles, but whose disability prevents them from getting to and from a bus stop.

For more information and to apply for service please visit reservation-on-demand-services/proline/ or call 330-455-2292 | TTY 7-1-1 (1-800-750-0750.

In addition to ProLine, SARTA also created Medline, our innovative service for people with disabilities who hold Level One, Self, and I/O Medicaid waivers. Medline delivers free non-medical transportation to employment sites, adult day support, or vocational training on specially equipped vehicles driven by highly trained SARTA staff.

We recognize that utilizing SARTA may seem daunting to new or infrequent riders. That’s why we offer free travel training to groups and individuals that provide detailed info about our routes, programs, and apps. We especially encourage people with disabilities and families who are eligible for and/or use ProLine to enroll in a class. The topics addressed during the session include:

• Program rules and regulations

• How to apply for ProLine service

• How to use ProLine

• How to schedule, review or cancel scheduled rides by phone or online.

For details visit https/ fares-rider-guides/travel-training/. To schedule a Travel Training class, please call 855-887-2782. Our friendly Outreach Specialists are eager to help you learn how to get the most from SARTA.

You may have noticed that we’ve referenced our website, a number of times in this article. It’s a great source of information for everything SARTA, and of course, it’s fully accessible.

Thanks for taking the time to read about SARTA and our commitment to providing safe, affordable, reliable, convenient, and accessible mobility services. Whether you are a regular rider or are contemplating joining the millions of people who travel on our system each year, we’ve saved a seat just for you. Welcome Aboard!

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 53

Ships and Delivers Frozen Wholesale Meats to You. We are a small locally run business and we work with local farmers to bring you the best.

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SUPPORT, EDUCATION, & ADVOCACY! Welcome to the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio

In 1982, a handful of parents whose children had Down syndrome began to meet informally over coffee for socialization and support. The organization, first called Mothers Who Care and then Parents Who Care, became the Up Side of Downs in the late 1980s. On September 18, 2021, the Up Side of Downs announced a name change and became the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio. The change was made to provide the organization with a more current and descriptive name for its purpose and mission. Now, more than 40 years after the organization began,

the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio has grown from a grassroots parent movement to a staffed non-profit organization providing service to more than 1,000 families throughout Northeast Ohio. DSANEO programs focus on the three components of its missionsupport, education, and advocacy. Programs are designed to meet the needs of families, beginning with diagnosis through supporting individuals with Ds and their families during their lifetime. Through a variety of programs, the organization helps families navigate through ages

and stages and engages parents, grandparents, siblings, and those with Down syndrome. DSANEO supports families with in-person and virtual hospital and home visits. DSANEO conducts support groups as well as private Facebook groups, moderated by DSANEO staff, that allow for opportunities for open discourse and idea sharing. Support groups include Moms, Dads, Baby and Toddler Play Groups, Grandparents Group, Circle of Support (for families dealing with a dual diagnosis of Ds and Alzheimer’s) DS+ (for families dealing with a dual diagnosis of Ds and autism), and De

56 September 2023

Familia a Familia, a support group for Spanish-speaking members. For young siblings, DSANEO partners with University Hospitals to offer SibShops, a program for siblings ages 7-12. DSANEO is an active member of Transition Boosters, a consortium of organizations providing programming for families of transition-age youth, the Employment Collaborative of Cuyahoga County, which helps individuals with disabilities secure employment, and the Northeast Ohio Coalition of Disability Organizations (formerly ADA Cleveland). DSANEO is also active with the Developmental Disabilities Practice-Based Research Network (DD-PBRN), led by Dr. Carl Tyler of the Cleveland Clinic. The mission of the DD-PBRN is to improve the health and healthcare of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) throughout their lifespan through research, education, and advocacy.

DSANEO offers educational programming for children with Ds from 18 months of age through adulthood, recognizing the critical need for enrichment for young learners as well as ongoing learning opportunities for adults.

The organization offers a blend of virtual and in-person programs to meet the needs of students with Down syndrome in Northeast Ohio. ACES (Able, Capable, Empowered, Strong) is comprehensive programming for adults designed to engage people with Down syndrome in a variety of ways, through education, support, and social activities. ACES includes Living and Learning life skills classes, Cooking with Confidence, and Sunburst Social Squad social outings. Social programs provide additional support and an opportunity for advocacy in the community. DSANEO hosts a blend of in-person and virtual events, understanding that more families can be reached by offering both options. Advocacy is an important aspect of the organization’s work. The largest event is the annual Northeast Ohio Buddy Walk, which brings several thousand people together for a day of celebrating people with Down syndrome in the community. The

connect, and employ adults with Down syndrome. Sunburst Snacks currently employs four individuals with Down syndrome and sold over 3,500 snack boxes in 2022.

Medical Outreach provides support for families and medical professionals, striving to support the best outcomes for people of all ages with Down syndrome. In 2022, DSANEO hired Dr. Laura Cifra-Bean as Medical Outreach Director. Laura provides education and resources for healthcare professionals and students and conducts presentations to groups such as Case Western University genetic counseling students, Baldwin Wallace physician assistant students, University Hospitals grand rounds, and medical/pediatric residents.

2023 Buddy Walk was held at the Tri-C Western Campus on August 5th. October 12th is Cleveland Down Syndrome Day, which came about as a collaboration with Cleveland City Council to recognize people in the community who advocate and support people with Down syndrome. Since 2016, DSANEO has operated Artful 21, a bricks and mortar and online store featuring the work of over 20 artisans with Down syndrome. 90% of the proceeds go back to the artisans and individuals with Down syndrome who work in the store. In March of 2022, DSANEO launched Sunburst Snacks, designed to prepare,

Laura has created an email newsletter that is sent to over 150 local medical professionals quarterly with the latest updates on Down syndrome. The DSANEO website is updated with healthcare guidelines, medical resources, research, and information on healthy aging. Medical Advisory Board meetings are conducted twice annually, bringing together local health and research experts serving the needs of individuals with Down syndrome. These meetings, and ongoing communication with this board, provide the latest research and information on complex medical issues, preventative health strategies, and relevant resources. DSANEO hosts parent webinars about updated healthcare guidelines for children and adults with Down syndrome. In October 2022 the organization mailed Family-Friendly Global Medical Care Guidelines for Adults to every family in NEO with a loved one with Down syndrome age 18 and up.

More information about DSANEO can be found at or by calling 216-447-8763.

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 57
58 September 2023 CALL TODAY: (330) 426-7885 Carve Your Own Path, Inc. | 840 Rothrock Rd, Suite 203, Copley, OH 44321 | Caregiver Stress CARE FOR YOURSELF TO BETTER CARE FOR YOUR LOVED ONE · Prioritize caring for your basic health and wellness needs · Find a supportive person or group · Make time for things you enjoy · Reach out to professional services to learn stress management and other coping skills Save the Date: Carving the Future Fundraiser Friday, November 3, 2023 Sponsorship Opportunities Available

YGA Transportation

YGA Transportation is the leading medical transportation throughout Summit, Stark, Medina, Mahoning, Portage, Cuyahoga County. YGA Transportation services include: • Wheelchair • Recreational • Dialysis Transport • Psychiatric

• Long-distance Transport • Grocery Shopping • Doctor's Appointments and so much MORE!

Community Integration Day Program

The Community Integration Day Program offers a variety of activities designed to promote socialization and integration among individuals of all ages and abilities. The program provides structured activities, educational classes, socialization events, and recreational outings that are designed to facilitate the development of relationships, communication, and understanding. Participants are encouraged to explore their interests, express themselves, and learn new skills while engaging in meaningful activities with peers and staff. There is an emphasis on individualized and group learning experiences, building self-esteem, and developing meaningful relationships. The program is designed to help individuals become more independent, self-sufficient, and integrated into their community. It offers a safe and supportive environment where everyone can be successful. We offer HomeCare/HPC and MANY other services. Call Us Today for More Information!



Next to Kin offers hands-on employ-ability skills training that addresses personal care, self-determination, job readiness, recreation & leisure activities.


Next to Kin will assist individuals with their daily living activities in the individual's home. Duties performed at a place or residence may include housekeeping (laundry, dishes, meal prep, etc.). We can also assist with appointment making, nutrition, and personal care.


Respite is for individuals who are unable to care for themselves for a short-term basis, because of the absence or need for relief of those persons who normally provide care.


Next to Kin offers Adult Foster to individuals who are not capable of living alone. We provide a quality and private home setting.


Next to Kin provides support that promotes getting out and being involved in his/her community

FOR A LOVED ONE CAN BE EXHAUSTING. LET US HELP! GET IN TOUCH | Lucshunda Blackwell, CEO | 924 E Tallmadge Ave, Akron, OH 44310 | 95 Hanna Parkway Suite D3, Akron Ohio 44319 • 234-571-0975 •

Meet Lawson Bailey, the amazing seven-year-old dynamo from Carrollton, Ohio! Lawson is not your average kid—he’s a bundle of energy and enthusiasm, and he’s winning hearts left and right with his charming smile and infectious laughter. Let’s introduce you to this extraordinary young boy and his journey of resilience and triumph!


Born on September 11th, 2015, Lawson’s parents quickly noticed something unique about him and his eyes. It turned out to be Nystagmus, which caused his eyes to move uncontrollably from side to side. As a young family, they faced this challenge head-on, navigating through the uncertainties that came their way.

But that wasn’t all—when Lawson was only nine months old, he stopped growing altogether! Can you imagine the worry and concern that must have filled their hearts? After numerous

The Funniest Kid In Carroll County!

The Extraordinary Lawson Bailey

tests and consultations with specialists, they received the diagnosis of SeptoOptic Dysplasia, a condition affecting the eyes, pituitary gland, and brain. It was then that they realized that Lawson’s eye conditions and growth issues were due to this condition.


Despite facing tough times, the Bailey family remained strong and united. At 15 months old, Lawson underwent eye surgery to help with his Nystagmus and vision. His vision might be poor, but he has been defying expectations and impressing doctors and family alike with his ability to overcome the odds.

To ensure Lawson receives the best care possible, he has an amazing team of doctors made up of an endocrinologist, ophthalmologist, and neurologist. Thanks to their expertise and the support of his loving family, Lawson started growth hormone injections and

testosterone shots, leading to beautiful growth and development.

Lawson’s hormones don’t always behave as expected, so he also takes thyroid medicine to keep them in check. But that doesn’t hold him back one bit! At the age of two, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which often goes hand-in-hand with SeptoOptic Dysplasia. Yet, with his family and community rallying behind him, Lawson has been making great strides and spreading joy wherever he goes.


Speaking of community, the Bailey family hails from Carrollton, Ohio—a small, rural town that they adore. It’s a beautiful place to raise their

60 September 2023

three boys, and it’s where they’ve found a supportive and loving village. Maranatha Bible Church has become their sanctuary, and they’ve made cherished friends who have embraced them just as they are. Through the ups and downs, Lawson’s big brother and little brother have been his unwavering “bookends,” offering love and support every step of the way. With such a loving family and a caring community, Lawson thrives, never backing down from challenges and always preserving his bravery and kindness.


Lawson’s journey might have had its tough moments, but he’s never alone in his struggles. The Golden Key, his wonderful school, has played a significant role in his development.

The dedicated teachers and staff at Golden Key have created an inclusive environment where Lawson can explore his interests, from his love for Paw Patrol to jamming out to Luke Bryan. Lawson also enjoys camping, playing Minecraft, swimming, and cherishing precious moments with his family.

“The Golden Key has been such a blessing to us,” says mom, Katie. “They reached out to many families at the Golden Key to involve them in the Challengers baseball program. Lawson is considered legally blind, so handeye coordination sports can typically be difficult for him. His coaches and mentors are so wonderful with him on the team and they count to three so Lawson knows when to swing the bat and he hits it every time! It’s a huge boost of confidence for him and has been one of the sweetest moments for our family to watch Lawson be involved in such a fun activity and actually be able to successfully hit the ball. While playing, he gets so excited that he forgets to run once he hits the ball!”

new way. The Bailey family has also learned along the way how important it is to advocate for Lawson. They do their best to spread awareness of Autism and acceptance wherever they go, and they are always constantly trying to teach others the beautiful differences that Lawson holds and that it is okay to be different!

Katie encourages other families going through similar experiences to reach out and find support, whether it’s at school, church, or through various therapies. There are countless resources available, and though it might be daunting to step out of one’s comfort zone, the difference it makes in a child’s growth and sense of belonging is immeasurable.



Being a part of the special needs community has taught the Bailey family the importance of finding understanding and accepting people who support them wholeheartedly. It may take time, but once they find these remarkable souls, they feel embraced and understood in a whole

Lawson Bailey’s story is one of courage, love, and the unyielding power of family and community support. He’s an inspiration to everyone around him, and his journey reminds us all to cherish life’s beautiful moments, embrace our uniqueness, and be a friend to everyone we meet. So here’s to Lawson, the funniest kid in Carroll County, and his wonderful family—may they continue to thrive and spread joy wherever they go!

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• What would happen if your loved ones didn’t have you to care for them?

• Is there a plan that both protects their government benefits for health care needs while also leaving money to enhance their quality of life? Special Needs Trusts save assets on behalf of people with disabilities while protecting their eligibility for means-tested benefits.

Akron & Canton Special Needs Living 63 In Memory of Pookie’s Special Girl
your loved ones by having a plan. At Lewis Law, LLC
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It’s hard to describe how I felt when our doctor advised us to “live our lives and see what happens.” He just told us shortly after Caitlin’s (Katie) birth in 2001, that she had something called “Ring Chromosome 13,” a rare genetic disorder that results in the deletion of genes on the 13th chromosome. Of course, no two cases are the same, and as the geneticist shared it is impossible to know exactly how the disease would affect Katie. So, we did just that -- we lived our lives and waited to see what would happen.

Katie’s first few months were relatively uneventful, marked only by some slower development than we experienced with her older brother. She was, like all children, advancing on her own curve. At nine months old, however, Katie stopped eating entirely. We tried everything – different foods, textures, levels of mush -- nothing worked. It became evident that the same basic lack of muscle control that affected Caitlin’s speech and motor skills was affecting her digestive system as well. The answer at the time was

inserting a GI feeding tube through her nose to provide nutrition, hoping it was a stage that Katie would outgrow. But she didn’t, at least not yet. Unfortunately, the GI tube was not a good solution because it required frequent replacement. Each time required baby Katie to swallow the tube to insert it. To say the least, she hated it.

When Katie was two years old and still working through the feeding challenges, her mother, Michelle, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our focus shifted. To get Katie’s feeding struggle under control and easier to manage, we decided to have a feeding tube surgically inserted so that we could reliably feed Katie by syringe directly into her stomach. Her “Mic-Key” button, the name the doctors gave it, was the pin to the problem that we needed at the time.

Turning to cancer, Michelle underwent treatments that were as intense as they were ineffective. After an 18-month battle, she passed away. Katie was just shy of four years old. When Michelle passed

Katie lost her biggest advocate, her mother, who fought for her own life, while struggling to offer Katie the best life possible.

A year after Michelle’s death we moved to Green to make a fresh start. And a year later, I remarried, and together Katie’s new stepmom, Melinda, and I refocused on her development. Over the next few years, we worked closely with Katie’s school teachers creating and implementing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to help her realize her potential.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, it became clear that Katie would never learn to read or write, her speech would not miraculously improve, and she would never approach an average level of function. Through it all we discovered how truly extraordinary she is in so many other ways.

By the time she reached her tenth birthday, Katie had learned to eat again and perhaps fell too much in love with food. Now, we must control her portions, or she will overeat! And although Katie still requires significant help with self-care at twenty-one, her real gift to the world is the purity of her joy. Blessed with an infectious laugh, Katie causes everyone to smile. Through mentoring programs at school, she has made so many friends that it is impossible to take her anywhere without classmates stopping her to share a hug or kind words. She loves life, and her “people,” and looks forward to every day.

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In reflecting on Katie’s challenges and successes, here are a few lessons I have learned as a caregiver, father, and friend:

1. Embrace uniqueness. While it is tempting to become frustrated or lose patience with Katie’s lack of progress at times, I recognize the great privilege it is to be her parent— especially when I reflect on the effort her birth mom made to share that privilege. I’ve learned to celebrate the fact that there is no one in the world quite like Katie, and I get to walk with her through this journey.

2. Choose joy. The years have taught us that there are several things that make Katie happy such as animals, music, and her favorite people. So, we’ve learned to focus on those things rather than her limitations. For more than ten years, Katie has enjoyed therapeutic horse rides at Pegasus Farm. She LOVES her grandma’s cats and playing with Thor, our “notas-intimidating-as-his name” Yorkipoo puppy. She also participates in Challenger Baseball for special needs kids through the Green Baseball Softball Federation.

Over the years, Katie has developed a musical affection for The Beatles. As such we make sure we catch the Beatles tribute band, A Hard Day’s Night, every time it comes to the Kent Stage. And when the band members take the stage, her screams of delight and exuberant dancing bring joy to everyone, especially her fellow fans witnessing her “Beatles bliss” for the first time.

more pronounced. Every parent of a special needs child grapples with social acceptance. Katie’s very committed aides and teachers at Green High School met this need by becoming our second family. It was this sense of belonging that had Katie bound for the school bus every morning. A big reason for this was Katie’s relationship with one of her favorite “people”, Flo Dujanovic, or Mrs. D as Katie calls her, her classroom aide. Mrs. D’s kind heart helped Katie in numerous areas from social maturity to developing fine motor skills.

Like Mrs. D and countless others at Green Local Schools, finding others willing to personally invest in our child has proven the most effective therapy. For Katie, the desire to please a friend is the best motivator in helping her thrive.

4. Help the next person. I have always been inspired by people who have used a bad break or tragic event to help others by


creating a foundation, assisting with a nonprofit, or simply helping someone navigate a similar challenge. The truth is a parent of a special needs kid is in a unique position to help other special needs families. For me, as a member of Green City Council, this means using my position and influence to create a more inclusive community for special needs residents. It means supporting legislation to hire an ADA consultant to recommend improvements to all City Parks.

At a more hands-on level, I’ve helped organize focus groups, made up of parents of special needs children, to recommend structural improvements to city playgrounds, and inclusive programming for special events resulting in a sensory-friendly time during the annual Trick-or-Treat Trail and Easter Egg Hunt. At the end of the day, I find that helping others in the community dealing with a similar problem lightens the load for all of us. This is the true meaning of community. Today, Katie attends an enriching program at Modern Support Services in Green. And she is satisfying her lifelong dream of becoming a farmer at Gentlebrook Greenhouse in Hartville. Fittingly, Caitlin means “pure,” and Joy is her middle name because Katie brings pure joy to our lives every day.

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3. Find people who care. As Katie’s academic limitations became more obvious with age, her need to belong became uniqueness.
66 September 2023 We seek to provide every child with autism an individualized program that employs the research-based methodologies of Applied Behavior Analysis. Building Skills. Fostering Relationships. Changing Lives. AUTISM SCHOLARSHIP, MAJOR INSURANCES, AND OHIO MEDICAID PLANS ACCEPTED! AutismNowacceptingScholarship applicationsfor the2023-2024 schoolyear! 330-309-3133 Call TODAY to lean more! NEW SERVICES: Speech, Occupational, Physical & Music Therapies! Special Needs Ohio wants to be part of your village. So welcome to the family . . . we look forward to connecting. SUBSCRIBE Visit for more info. New Episodes Every Friday! It’s Free | It’s Fun | It’s Family What You Can Expect: Tons of valuable information about people, places, agencies, and organizations that exist to support our families. What You’ll Find on Our Podcast: Interviews that educate, inspire, and provide hope, direction, and a connection to a fantastic community you might not even know is all around you. TUNE IN SHARE
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Call (330) 445-4482 for the latest info. TIMES VARY BASED ON EVENT & YOUR AVAILABILITY. Sep 2 Lake Anna Fireworks 5:30-10:30 pm Sep 11 Cleveland Cheesecake Factory & Lake Walk Sep 23 Mum Fest 9 am-3 pm Sep 6 DD Dance We work with families and Service and Support Administrators (SSA) to pair adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a dedicated provider who will provide a friendly and stable environment for your loved ones. Additionally, we work with families who have children transitioning to adulthood to have continued support. Who We Provide Services To: Individuals • Families • Young Adults Shared Living Network What We Do We're here for you. We will assist with licensing the family member to provide support. CALL US TODAY! 330-445-4482 Sep 29 Cider Fest 4 pm-9 pm
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68 September 2023
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