Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

John Henry's Story

By June Peach, Louisiana

Our son has been successful because of a 10 year period he lived in a large facility and because he works daily in a large facility now while living at home.  He is now 47.   Here is his story:

During the 10 years he was there he learned independence and to do many things by himself and when to ask for help as well as how to help the physically handicapped men living with him.  Returning home on his 17th birthday, John Henry went to public school until he reached the age of 23.  Since then he has been employed by Pecan Grove Training Center for 24 years and is able to live at home and use the independent skills he learned at Ruston State. 
 
John Henry is employed at Pecan Grove Training Center as a dishwasher, food scraper, and pot cleaner and the person who puts deliveries on the shelves and/or in the freezer/refrigerator.  He rides city buses to and from work.  He uses independent skills he learned while at Ruston State School in order to accomplish all of this.  John Henry has been raised by the central Louisiana community.  Families like their children being around him to help them learn tolerance and acceptance of people who seem “to be different” – people of God in different religions particularly open their arms to him. 
 
John Henry loves God and he knows God loves him.  He has been an avid “church-goer” and attends often in 1 week a Methodist service, a Baptist service, a Pentecostal service and a Catholic Mass. 
 
We have not been able to keep him from kissing or hugging the pretty ladies.  He is always on the “go” and ready for action and does not like to sit and do nothing.  The local high schools use him as a runner and a water boy at their athletic events which means so much to him.  Louisiana College coaches, team players and their families even welcome him. 
 
 He visits nursing homes and helps when events come to town (circuses, rodeos, etc)  he helps get the residents from vehicles to inside the event and then helps at the end to get residents back into vehicles. 
 
For almost 30 years John Henry has had a Thanksgiving Day Parade, twice around the block in his neighborhood around 5 o’clock.  He has watched the Macy’s Parade and the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, eaten too much, watched football and at 11 years of age wanted to be in a parade.  Two of his uncles and his daddy got out pots and pans and began to walk down the block with him and neighbors who were tired of being inside came out to see what was happening and joined in.  Now the City Police, City Marshall, Sheriff, and deputies, the fire department, the ambulance company, the high school bands and over 200 people join in the twice around the block parade with John Henry in the lead with his whistle directing everyone. 
 
He rides his bike all over and the community watches over him – many bringing him home with his bike in the back of their car or truck when the weather turns bad, he is out of his area, or any excuse he can find. 
 
When John Henry’s dad and I asked “Why” God answered with “Why not” and we took that and became strong advocates for the mentally retarded.  Our company manages a 120 bed residential training center, one daughter and one granddaughter are special education teachers. 
 
There is no one answer right for everyone – some need institutional care, some group home or supervised independent living and some can make it at home.  Because of Ruston State School and all the skills he learned while there, John Henry is able to live at home today. 
 
VOR must continue to fight for individual rights.  John Henry enriches the life of so many and has taught me so much.  Don’t try to fit everyone in the same mold – you are different and have different opinions – so are and do our special people.  God made us all. 
 
Thank you VOR for all you do to get our message to the masses.