Linda Timmons
Linda Timmons, President and CEO

New Talents and Activities Surprise Family Members

Photo Above: Clay finds joy in many things, including a rock he enjoys carrying around with him.

One of the things I enjoy about my job is hearing the surprise—and the pride—from family members when people we support learn or do something new. Here’s a story about a family who have experienced those feelings a lot lately.

“We are all amazed,” said Kathi Vitas, about her younger brother Clay Lankford, who is 64 years old and recently learned to ride an adult tricycle, one of the many changes in his life. He’s enjoying the ride, too. His host home provider, Brie Rehrs, shared a video with Kathi and her siblings showing Clay screaming with excitement as the wheels began to move under his power.

All of those little, positive changes in someone’s life are important. They make the difference between living and thriving.

Kathi is the oldest of the four children in the Lankford family. Bob was next, then Clay, and Pete is the youngest. They’ve been involved with Mosaic for more than 40 years, since Clay first moved out of the family home at age 21 and onto one of Mosaic’s two campuses. He lived there for 43 years and, just last spring, moved into a host home with Brie as his provider.

“Mosaic has been a godsend for 43 years,” Pete said, and the family was always happy with the supports Clay received. But since Clay moved in with Brie and her husband Mike, they credit the consistent care and one-on-one attention he now receives with helping Clay “flourish.” 

Brie used to work at Mosaic and always had a special relationship with Clay. Although she left Mosaic to pursue another career opportunity, the family asked her to become a “friend” to Clay and accompany him on trips to Florida, Wisconsin and Boston to see his siblings every year. She and Mike then decided to work toward the goal of becoming Mosaic at Home® providers, but Clay’s family took a while to warm up to the idea of him moving from the home he’d known for four decades.

“When we first heard about Mosaic at Home, we thought it was too scary to have him come out of what we knew,” Kathi said. “There are a lot of checks and balances on the campus.”

But as they learned more about Mosaic at Home, they became more open.

“It was clear they take an individualized approach to this. (The Mosaic staff) was really good in learning about Clay and his needs … and then coaching us through the process.” Additionally, the family learned how Mosaic continues to monitor the health, safety and supports a person receives, and the support home providers receive from Mosaic. Even though they knew Brie and her husband Mike, “It is comforting to us to just know there is another layer of support,” Kathi said.

They made the decision for Clay to move. Now, several months later, his siblings are pleased to see that Clay is happy and doing well living with Mike and Brie and their 16-year-old daughter, Kierstin. They’ve been able to watch Clay learn and do new things they’d never seen before.

Clay now lives in a small, rural community of about 120 people. Being naturally friendly and gregarious (“I don’t think he’s ever met a person he didn’t like,” brother Pete said), Clay knows a lot of people, and they welcome him.

“The town has a wonderful bar and grill,” Brie said. “We walk in and everyone says, ‘Hi Clay!’” She added that anywhere she takes him outside of town he knows people as well. Recently, he attended Brie’s company picnic, and several people there knew Clay from his years on the campus. They’ve also met someone in another town who remembered Clay from working with him more than 20 years earlier—no doubt being friendly with everyone helps make Clay memorable.

His days are full, too. Mike works with him every day and said seeing Clay do something he hasn’t done before gives him great satisfaction. With Mike’s help, Clay participates in music therapy (“It is a treat every week,” Brie said), bowls regularly, helps with the grocery shopping, does activities to help him stay physically fit and is a part of Kierstin’s life and activities too. He knows her friends and teammates on the volleyball team and from her confirmation class at church. 

“He feels like he is part of our family, because he really is,” Brie said. “He is included in everything.”

Brie has worked to help Clay eat healthier, and he has lost extra weight he was carrying. She works on helping him with speech and enunciation, giving him high praise when he is able to put longer sentences together. The ongoing one-on-one attention he receives has also reduced the screams he makes when upset. Now, if he screams, it is more often out of joy. His brother Bob said part of the reason Clay is doing so well is because “He wants to please Brie and Mike. They have a remarkable ability to get him to do new things.”

“His care is now targeted just for him,” Brie said. “He is the center of attention.”

Clay also gets to spend as much time as he wants doing things that revolve around music, a lifetime love of his. He likes to listen to records, watch music videos and play on one of the many keyboards he has in his room. He comes by the love of music naturally, his family noted, as their late mother was a music teacher and pianist who would slide Clay’s playpen right up next to the piano. His brother Peter said Clay “could play before he could walk.”

This is the kind of story I love to share, because it shows the work we do at Mosaic not only changes the lives of the people we support, but also the lives of everyone around that person—family members and our workforce included.

“We absolutely love what we do,” Brie said. “It has brought a lot of joy to our lives as well.”

Here’s a video of Clay, Brie and Mike I think you’ll enjoy. 

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