For March’s National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, we highlight Ray Hardy. He stands as a true testament that adults with Down Syndrome and other developmental challenges can lead meaningful and fulfilled lives that make an impact.
A longtime client of the Walnut Street Center, Ray Hardy is a vocal presence at monthly advisory meetings and new employee and intern orientations. Despite having Down Syndrome, he leads the charge as a passionate communicator advocating for the rights of persons served by the center. He often sheds light on issues that need resolution and attention, such as the right to associate and friendships, desires for certain activities and programming, or interest in new volunteer and work activities. His concern for facility safety also tops his list. At 58-years-old, Ray who is semi-retired has a simple message, “We all need to help one another. That’s how it should be.”
“Ray leads by example with a positive and caring attitude. Down Syndrome does not define Ray. In fact, he has no time for social stigmas,” says Jay Hayston, Director of Day Services at the Walnut Street Center. “It’s his observations and actions that have created positive opportunities and services for more individuals here.”
Ray lives independently in a group home with 24-hour residential support through the Walnut Street Center. He commutes by private transport to organized day habilitation programming that ranges from physical and speech to occupational therapies and nursing. Over the years, he’s worked in paid jobs answering phones to packaging. He has learned to cook, garden and attends dances. Ray’s accomplishments are no surprise. The Hardy’s were an instrumental family in the founding of the Walnut Street Center.
“Ray is a great representative of the agency,” says Hayston. “Through his advocacy for the persons with developmental disabilities, he empowers and inspires others to want to do more.”