From our board, Michael Stanisich

Though I sought to be a part of Devenio once I learned of its mission and had the opportunity to meet with Gena, what drew me to the organization has roots to my interactions with a single individual decades prior.   

Sean was the son of my mother’s colleague who we’d visit regularly (my mother was a public school elementary teacher for 30+ years). The parents would play bridge while Sean and I would hang out and play. We’d explore puzzles, build forts, and joke around together. No different and not distinct than any of my other friends. Sean was born with Down syndrome. Though we grew apart as the years passed, my friendship with Sean left an indelible mark that has remained with me to this day.

Thanks to my mother, I was taught to treat people with Down syndrome and other disabilities (physical or cognitive) are no different than anyone else with whom I engage. I’d like to think that it’s served me well and taught me valuable lessons related to respecting people who possess unique qualities, regardless of mental or physical capacities.

It is this same belief that is reflected in everything that Devenio aims to achieve on behalf of our beneficiary population. To recognize someone as being “special” is not necessarily a bad thing on the surface though I believe it to be insufficient. Every person possesses value beyond transactional relationships and it is up to each of us to recognize and acknowledge that value in ourselves and in others.

Herein lies the challenge. Building unique opportunities for specific groups of people with the intention of nurturing the opportunity into an afterthought.

I play soccer and have done so since I could stand upright. Youth league for boys, men’s leagues for adults (20s, over 30, over 40), and co-ed adults (also broken down by age group). No one considers any of these people who play in these leagues, “special,” and the majority do not give a second thought to their structure. These leagues were established to fill a need within the community, plain and simple.

Ironically, this is what success looks like for Devenio’s Fun Bunch Program as well as for our other initiatives.

Though we as a community should collectively celebrate every instance a barrier has been broken, to do so for an extended duration suggests that acceptance of the values that others contribute to our community has not been fully recognized.

I believe that we are on the path to achieve these objectives and also why I am proud to play a small part in Devenio’s mission.