Most families want more than just help when caring for loved ones with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD)–they actually want meaningful opportunities, fulfilling lifestyles, places to go, and work or community involvement that brings joy. That’s what Meg and her parents wanted for Kait, and it’s what they found at GoodLife.
Today we meet Meg Ward, director of our RISE program, and her sister Kait, an active participant in GoodLife’s Day Services. Together, they offer a unique perspective into GoodLife’s diversified and individualized Day Services programming.
Meg, what has your GoodLife journey been like?
I joined GoodLife in 2020, and it’s been fun to participate in the world that my sister Kait has been a part of for the last eight years. I have a master’s degree in Low Incidence Disability with a specialty in Transition Services from the University of Kansas (KU), so I bring experience in equipping individuals with disabilities with developing the skills for maximum independence in many different environments, including Day Services, schools, work, and ministry. And, I recently started my own nonprofit, JOYKC, to offer free respite programs for people with disabilities. So aligning my goals with GoodLife’s mission has been a wonderful fit.
Share with us what it’s like to be the RISE coordinator.
Sure! RISE is our unique Day Services program for semi-independent adults, and we spend about 50% of our time out in the community. Most of my role consists of coordinating new and fun activities for our individuals, such as museum tours, volunteer opportunities, and group outings like bowling, or exploring nearby parks. RISE includes a life skills program, and I write a curriculum for that. I also oversee our TEAM (Two Employees Accomplish More) Work program, helping our men and women secure jobs within GoodLife and preparing them to enter the workforce. My role is a fun one because I spend a lot of time asking our individuals, What do you want to do? What do you want to learn? It’s my job to capitalize on the things they are excited about, and that’s special to me.
You mentioned Kait earlier. Would you introduce us to your sister?
Kait’s my big sister! She’s also nonverbal, so I’ll do the talking for her. Kait is a mover and a shaker, and the Queen of Sass! She loves being out and about in the community and can’t get enough of nature and music. She attends GoodLife’s day-service program and it helps keep her busy! Through the program, she spends time in the community engaging with others, she attends music classes, and they’re always doing different hands-on activities. For Kait though, it’s less about the activities and more about the person she is with. Kait is highly relational, and she’s taught me so much about the significance of being present. When she gets to have one-on-one time with staff or individuals that she really loves and trusts, that’s when she’s the most fulfilled.
How has Kait influenced your work with GoodLife?
Some of my earliest memories are identifying that I have a sibling who isn’t like my friends’ siblings. I felt the responsibility of that at a really young age, and for many, that’s not a light thing to carry. For me, it always felt right to want to learn how to advocate for Kait. Because of the intensity of my desire to be her advocate, I dove headfirst into this world. Even still, I want to be so excellent at what I do and understand the systems that impact individuals with I/DD. Kait has been so significant in shaping the way that I view the world, and has inspired me to create opportunities that are meaningful and dignifying for everyone here at GoodLife.
What’s it like to both work and have a family member that receives services at GoodLife?
The severity of Kait’s disability leaves her very vulnerable, so releasing her into the care of GoodLife’s Day Service program eight years ago was a scary one for my family. It’s a walk of faith to trust others to care for your loved one the way you do. GoodLife is a special place full of incredibly compassionate people. We were drawn to Melba’s team and how they work hard to think outside the box about what’s possible for people like Kait. Now as a staff member here, it’s special to get to know the people caring for Kait on a deeper level. I witness the purity of their hearts in also wanting to create environments that are safe and meaningful for people. There’s a trust and a peace there that’s helpful for my family. Not only that, but in my role, I get to be involved in problem-solving conversations that directly impact my sister. That allows me to advocate for her and her peers on a level that maybe I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t part of the GoodLife team. That’s deeply meaningful.
Discover more about our unique and personalized Day Services models here. We would love to have YOU join GoodLife and help us make a meaningful difference, just like Meg! Check out our career opportunities here.