When Allison and Trip Frizell’s son Tom was diagnosed with Autism in the early 1980’s at age three, they quickly learned that services and support for children with special needs was hard to find near their home in Kansas City.
“We heard about a group of parents working together with the University of Kansas on an intensive applied behavioral analysis program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD),” remembers Allison. “So we packed up our stuff and moved to Lawrence, Kan., hopeful for better opportunities for our son.”
What Allison and her family found was a lifelong relationship with the organization that grew from that program–GoodLife. Today, Tom is 36 years old and thriving within a Professional Family Teaching (PFT) home.
Dreams of a future of possibility
“As Tom got older, his behaviors and needs reached a point where Trip and I knew we were not able to provide him care at the level he needed to live his best life,” says Allison. “Our ideal setting was a place with lots of land where he could live freely among peers, have access to activities he enjoys, and be loved and cared for at the highest and safest level.” Allison and GoodLife CEO Mike Strouse began to dream about a rural farm-like setting for GoodLife residents to thrive, and in 2007 Midnight Farm was born on 40 acres of possibility. Midnight Farm now has three residential homes, an activities lodge, barns, a greenhouse, and more.
Tom lives in one of the homes at Midnight Farm with Ky and Nicole Kannaman’s family. “Unlike a typical group home setting, Tom’s independence and quality of life is maximized in the PFT home,” shares Allison. “He has a roommate, Ed, who is more like a brother, and consistent, hands-on, one-on-one care from Ky and Nicole. Tom knows them well, and they know him well. It’s a really special place.”
Extended family, lifelong independence
In the PFT home, Tom is one of the family. He has to help do his laundry and other chores, showers and gets ready for the day, and participates in meals, trips, and other daily activities. Tom can choose to spend time in his room or on the porch, go visit the barn, and then join others in the living room for a game later on. Tom also participates in day services and loves to spend time in his community. What’s important is that Tom can make these decisions in an inclusive, independent, and safe environment.
Allison and Trip are thankful that GoodLife allows their family the opportunity for a bright future for everyone. “While it’s hard some days to think that our son does not live with us, it’s a comfort for Trip and I to know that we made the best decision for his future while we can,” Allison explains. “We know that Tom is in a stable home and well-cared for, and if or when anything happens to us, that won’t change.”
From joining fundraising efforts with other passionate parents in the ‘80s to today, Allison and Trip continue to help shape GoodLife as the organization grows. Allison is a member of the Midnight Farm Committee and Trip is the chairman of the GoodLife Board of Directors.
“Some days I wonder if we would have survived as a family without Goodlife,” says Allison. “Tom is living the happiest and most independent life he can, given his level of needs. That’s all we’ve ever wanted for him. The more people and love in Tom’s life, the better–and we know Tom receives that with Nicole, Ky, GoodLife, and the great minds at KU.”
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