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Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

As part of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Riverside publishes an annual newspaper feature focusing on a few of the people we serve and sharing their stories with our Miami County community. For 2019, Riverside highlighted 10 amazing folks: Amanda Byrd, Austin "A-Jay" Foster, Don Stanfield, Duane Mullen, Ed Kauffman, Emily Jay, Gwendolyn "Gwen" Carroll, Jasmine Kruger, Joseph Epley and Tanner Cain.

The newspaper feature was published in the Miami Valley Today on Saturday, March 9.

Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Amanda Byrd

“I’m nice and kind, and I like to help people,” that’s how Amanda Byrd describes herself. If you’ve ever met Amanda though, you know she’s being humble. There’s a reason her Riverside case manager, Amy, says she’s one of the nicest people she’ll ever know.


Actively involved at Riverside, RT Industries and her church, Amanda’s the first to help in any situation. She and her fellow Aktion Club members, a service group sponsored by Kiwanis International for adults with disabilities, are always supporting others with their latest service project. She’s also a member of Riverside’s Adventures in Advocacy group, which encourages personal growth and speaking up for one’s self.


Outside Riverside, Amanda volunteers with her church, Zion Lutheran in Tipp City, for their weeknight suppers and other special events. She also works as a Production Specialist at RT Industries and attends their adult day program. While there she enjoys spending time with her friends for group activities.


Though it’s hard to imagine where she’d find the time, Amanda aspires to do more. With a certificate from JVS and an associate degree from Edison State Community College, both in Word Processing, Amanda hopes to find a full-time clerical position.


Working with computers has long been a favorite pastime of Amanda’s, and it’s something she’s wanted in a career for as long as she can remember. The reason? Her role model and father, Jack. A data processor for many years, Amanda has always admired her father and wanted to follow in his footsteps with a career involving computers. She’s hoping to make that dream a reality soon.


Until then though, Amanda knows she’ll be plenty busy doing something else she loves—helping others.

Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Austin "A-Jay" Foster

According to Jodi Foster, her son, Austin, or “A-Jay” as he’s affectionately known, is the ultimate social butterfly. He loves making new friends, spending time with family and just simply being around people. No matter what’s happening, Jodi says, “A-Jay’s always smiling and showing others what it means to be happy.”


In a world of nonstop action, people rarely take the time to get to know one another, especially when it’s someone different from them. But A-Jay is different. He’s someone who doesn’t hesitate to slow down, appreciate life for what it is and simply be happy. In a world that’s always on-the-go, that’s a rare quality. And for a 19-year-old male, even more so.


Since a young age, A-Jay has always cared for others, exhibiting an earnest empathy for everyone. He’s never been one to sit on the sidelines when others are hurting, especially when it comes to family. When younger sister Savannah underwent hip surgery years ago, A-Jay persistently stayed by her side and said, “You’re okay … it’ll be okay.”


That genuine compassion is a trait entirely natural to A-Jay, but it’s something easily found in other members of the Foster family. A-Jay’s sister Savannah and their older brother William are two of his biggest supporters. Along with her parents and A-Jay’s intervention specialists at Tipp City High School, Jodi says William and Savannah have been crucial to A-Jay’s life.


Sure, they may fight on occasion. What siblings don’t? But for this family, they know to slow down and appreciate every moment. And if one of them forgets for a moment, A-Jay is right there smiling and saying, “You’re okay.”

Donald "Don" Stanfield

Donald “Don” Stanfield is one of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet. Between his calm demeanor and welcoming smile, just about everyone who meets him grows to love him almost instantly.


Never one to dwell on the negative, Don appreciates the small things in life and avoids taking anything for granted. If you ask him what happiness means to him, he doesn’t respond with things like money or notoriety. Instead, Don sees happiness as living life, staying busy and spending time with others.


Whether it’s at work or out with friends, if he’s busy, he’s happy. That’s why he works as much and as often as he does. Since graduating from high school, Don has always had a job. Working has helped Don accomplish many goals, such as buying a car a few months ago. It was a goal that made him very proud to achieve.


After working for three years as a dishwasher at Fazoli’s in Troy, Don recently decided he wanted a change of scenery. Now he works three days a week at Proctor & Gamble in Vandalia, and he loves every minute of it. It doesn’t matter if he’s loading boxes onto skids or packaging products, Don’s happy to be active.


When he’s not at work, Don enjoys relaxing in his apartment and watching sports. An avid Lakers and Ohio State fan, he tries to never miss a game. But he doesn’t just stick to the sidelines. Don likes to be a part of the action. He’s registered to play on Miami County’s Special Olympics volleyball team this spring, and he’s bouncing around the idea of playing softball again this summer.


He also loves hanging out with his friend Lonnie, especially when there’s a concert nearby. The two have been friends since they were teenagers, and they’ve been inseparable since then. With someone like Don though, it’s easy to see why anyone would want to be his friend.

Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Duane Mullen

Ask anyone at Riverside about Duane and you’ll be greeted with a smile and a chuckle. Everyone knows—and loves—Duane Mullen.


Duane has received services from Riverside since he was six years old. And since 1977, he’s worked in the agency’s Facilities Department as a dedicated custodian. Many people have come and gone during Duane’s time with Riverside, and he’s left an impression on nearly all of them.


There’s just something about Duane that makes him a joy to be around. No matter who you are or what kind of day you’re having, he’s there with his trademark grin and a joke. And if it’s not a joke, it’s a comical anecdote about something one of his co-workers did. He has quite a memory, too, so his friends know to be prepared for him to recall something embarrassing they did yesterday, last month or twenty years ago. If it made others laugh, he’ll remember.


But it’s all in good fun and is Duane’s way of showing he cares. That’s another thing about him—he has a big heart for everyone around him. After all, spending time with those closest to him is one of his favorite things to do.


Whether it’s bowling with his friends or going to Rapid Fired Pizza with co-workers, Duane’s the life of the party. If there’s dancing and singing involved, Duane is sure to be in the center of the action. One of his favorite things to do is sing. He’s serenaded many co-workers at their retirement parties and can often be found singing the National Anthem at Special Olympics events.


Duane’s personality is just one you can’t help but love though. He says working at Riverside is one of the things that makes him happiest in life because of his co-workers, but what Duane may not realize is he’s the one that makes everyone else happy.


Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Ed Kauffman

For Ed Kauffman, family is a top priority. Whether it’s grabbing a bite with his mom, Rosemary, or riding his electric scooter to his brother Jarrod’s house, Ed adores time spent with those he loves. That’s why he and Rosemary relish their weekly breakfast date at Buffalo Jack’s with Ed’s role model, Grandpa Davis.


Ed also never passes up the chance to visit his girlfriend, whom he sees twice a week. Recently the two celebrated Valentine’s Day together, and he has a picture to commemorate it. He keeps the photo safely saved to his new phone, one of the latest ways he’s utilizing modern technology.


Besides allowing him to save pictures, the phone also syncs with Ed’s hearing aids. Now he can easily talk with family on the phone and listen to the latest John Denver song. And for someone who loves family and gospel music as much as Ed, that’s crucial.


This phone is just the latest change Ed has seen since first receiving services from Riverside. Having been with the agency since he was 2-years-old, Ed’s been involved in many ways. From Special Olympics basketball and long jump, to 4-H, to Bell Choir, Ed’s tried just about everything. And that includes activities outside Riverside, too.


Rosemary has always encouraged her son to be involved with his community, so he’s known from a young age that the world’s his oyster. At 50-years-old, he may not participate in as many activities as he used to, but he’s still a busy guy. He currently serves as a volunteer committee member for the Arc, participates in their bowling league, and is Riverside’s longest standing Bell Choir member with over 25 years’ experience just to name a few.


Though the ways he’s involved may be changing, Ed has no intention of slowing down. He’s ready for whatever path is next, especially if he has his family by his side.

Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Emily Jay

There’s a reason friends and family describe Emily Jay as a firecracker. Between her red hair and vibrant personality—not to mention having been born on July 4th—Emily Jay is always on the move. Whether it’s a favorite pastime, like getting her nails done, or adopting a new hobby like fishing at the pond behind her house, Emily loves filling her days with fun.


Lately she’s tried and conquered several new adventures. Several months ago, Emily started using her new augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, and she’s already made a lot of progress.


This AAC is a speech-generative tablet that helps Emily communicate. It begins by her selecting a letter or picture from the screen and then the device voicing whatever she’s selected. With her mom Sue’s encouragement, Emily has come around to using the device despite being a bit hesitant at first.


According to Tonia Rohlfs, Emily’s Riverside case manager, Sue is one of the reasons Emily has been so successful both with the device and in life. Tonia can’t say enough about how supportive Sue is, “She’s so passionate and is Emily’s best friend. Whenever Emily wants to try something new, Sue is right there making it happen.”


Much of the same can also be said about Emily’s provider agency, Toward Independence (TI), which provides in-home care to help Emily live in a home with a roommate in Piqua. Along with Sue, TI staff have also helped Emily thrive. Recently, TI introduced Emily to a calendar system that allows her to plan her day—something she adores. Not only has this new system decreased Emily’s anxiety by allowing her to schedule her day, it’s also given her the chance to see how much more she can do in a day. And for someone who enjoys having fun, she appreciates that very much.

Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Gwendolyn "Gwen" Carroll

Nothing can stand in Gwen Carroll’s way. She may be young, but she’s a warrior.


In November 2018, just after her first birthday, Gwen underwent a disarticulation of her right knee, an amputation method that allows doctors to cut between the bone surfaces rather than through the bone. For anyone, no matter their age or fitness level, post-operation recovery can be extensive and painful. For Gwen though, she was crawling and bearing weight on her right leg the very next day. Within a week, she was off all pain medications.


Nothing was going to stop her, which is exactly what her parents, Megan and Chris, anticipated. Despite their own uncertainty about Gwen’s pain and recovery time, they knew their little girl would find a way. According to Megan, “Gwen is very headstrong and determined to get her way. When she decides she’s going to do something, she figures out a way to do it.”


And she did. Between the support of Megan’s parents and the services the family receives through Dayton Children’s Hospital and Riverside Early Intervention (EI), Gwen is charging ahead. Her latest feat? Learning to feed herself using a fork and spoon. Even though she only has two fingers on her right hand, Gwen and Occupational Therapist Penny Hines have developed a way that works for Gwen.


Penny has been working with Gwen ever since the Carrolls began receiving Riverside’s EI services in September 2018. EI services take place through visits to the child’s natural environment, which is often his or her home or other community-based setting. Since 2018, Penny has been working with Gwen and her family to give them the tools they need to help Gwen continue to succeed.


As an active child, Gwen loves playing with her older brother Dominic. She also enjoys spending time with her mom and the teachers and her friends at daycare. And in typical Gwen fashion, she’s not going to let anything stop her from doing what she loves. Gwen knows what she wants, and she’s going to do whatever she can to get it.


Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Jasmine Kruger

Senior year is the school year many teenagers dream about. It’s the chance to start the next step, pursue dreams and discover yourself. For Jasmine Kruger, it’s all of that and more.


This May, Jasmine will officially be a Tipp City High School graduate, and she has big plans for her future. She hopes to be accepted into Project SEARCH, a one-year high school transition program available through Upper Valley Career Center that provides students with disabilities training and education on their way to employment. Several of Jasmine’s friends have participated in the program, and she has high hopes for being accepted into the program.


She’s excited to learn more about different trades within the medical industry, but she’s also particularly interested in gaining real-world job experience. Having worked a summer at RT Industries, Jasmine hopes to return to their production line, but this time as a regular employee.


Until then, she’s happy spending time with family and taking advantage of Riverside’s many services. According to mom, Gaylyn, Riverside’s recreation activities, especially the Special Olympics basketball and cheerleading programs, have been a great way for Jasmine to make friends.


Special Olympics sporting events have also been a wonderful opportunity for Jasmine to spend more time with family, inviting them—including her 16 cousins—to her games. Jasmine enjoys attending her cousins’ sporting events, so she loves the idea of them coming to some of hers.


Family is essential to Jasmine and is something she always wants to have. Though she has big plans for life after graduation, having her family close is ultimately what matters most. They’ve always been there for her as her key support system, and she wants to make sure she can return the favor if they ever need it.


Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Joseph Epley

There’s a reason his mom and dad refer to him as their little hero. Joseph Epley is one special 8-year-old boy.


Despite his young age, Joseph has an old soul. He’s wise beyond his years, and there are just certain things about him that make you stop and really think. At first glance, he appears to be an average young boy—full of energy, always on the move and asking a million questions. But then it happens. In the middle of typical “boy” talk about Hot Wheels and mac ‘n cheese, he utters a nugget of profound wisdom that makes it seem as if he’s lived three lifetimes.


But that’s Joseph. One minute he’s just walking through the grocery store, and the next he’s stopping a stranger to ask if he can pray for them. And it’s this compassion that Joseph’s dad, Marvin, thinks will determine his son’s future, “If he keeps his personality, he’s going to help a lot of people. He’ll probably be a minister.”


By the way he’s constantly smiling, it’s easy to see why someone might think Joseph is another carefree kid simply living life. Yet what others don’t know is the hurdles he’s overcome to get there. Behind that adorable smile lies dozens of surgeries, years spent in leg braces and chronic pain throughout his entire body. But does that stop Joseph? Of course not.


Today, he’s a third grader at Cookson Elementary School in Troy. He is actively involved with Miami County Special Olympics softball and basketball. He’s also participated in Riverside’s youth swimming lessons at the Troy YMCA, and he hopes to continue lessons again this spring.


And that’s just the beginning. If he has a dream, Joseph knows there’s nothing that can stand in his way.


Riverside Developmental Disabilities Becca Mason

Tanner Cain

According to Amy Cain, her son, Tanner, brightens the lives of those around him. Not only does his smile radiate, but his deep belly laugh is infectious and makes everyone feel better about life. All anyone has to do is see his smile and hear his laugh to believe that no hurdle is too big.


Tanner has overcome a fair share of obstacles, having been diagnosed with Partial Trisomy 20 and Cerebral Palsy before the age of 3. He’s had countless doctors’ visits and frequent hospital stays with various illnesses. He’s also had to learn to walk using a gait trainer and orthotic splints.


Yet none of this deters him. Instead, Tanner uses moments like these to show everyone how special he really is. Just when he’s reached a point where anyone would feel defeated, Tanner pushes through. This go-getter attitude doesn’t surprise Amy though. “Tanner is making strides, and he’s not stopping! Despite the challenges that he faces, he’s so happy,” she says.


Tanner is full of surprises too—something Amy and her husband Nathan have come to know very well. Recently, the three went to dinner and much to Amy and Nathan’s amazement, Tanner showed them how he’d learned to drink from a straw all on his own. But it didn’t stop there. Tanner surprised them again at home when he suddenly started feeding himself with a spoon.


It’s moments such as these that make Amy grateful for Riverside’s Early Intervention (EI) Services. When asked about these services, Amy shared, “I always tell people it saved his life because Tanner would honestly not be where he is developmentally today without EI. I truly feel like Tanner’s EI team has been our second family.”


Amy is convinced it’s this family that will help Tanner lead a happy, independent life. Along with Nathan and their large extended family, Amy believes, “Riverside will help us show the world that although Tanner has disabilities, he has MORE abilities.”