The “cliff” is something that all parents of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) worry about, and Fishers’ resident Mari Kennedy was no exception.
Falling off the “cliff” refers to when an individual with a disability loses their federal entitlement to special education—usually at age 22—and are thrown into an underfunded and uncoordinated system in which few serves are available as a matter of right.
The Census Bureau estimates that 1.7 million American children have IDD. As Mari’s son, Ryan, ages out of special education services, she and the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability (FACD) formed the Thrive Social Club.
According to Mari, “There are very few age-appropriate, community-based social opportunities for young adults with IDD after high school. Their typical peers go off to college, so those inclusive friendships disappear. Also, these adults generally don’t drive nor have great communication and social skills. Because of all this these individuals lose their friendships when they graduate. Thrive was created to fill this gap after high school.”
Thrive Social Club is guided by an advisory board consisting of members with a strong interest in the club’s mission. Joining Mari on the board are Cecilia Coble, Fishers City Councilor and Chair of the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability; Kelly Hartman from Outside the Box, a services provider for those with disabilities; and Dana Pottschmidt from Opportunities for Positive Growth, a service provider for individuals with disabilities. Dana is also involved with the Kiwanis Aktion Club, a program for adults with disabilities. Terri Smith, Zenobia Curtis, and Angela Touseull are parent board members.
Mari says, “Thrive Social Club’s mission is to create inclusive and fun social opportunities for young adults with IDD. So much of the lives of adults with IDD is surrounded by state-supported services and staff. Thrive is not under this model. Thrive is a club. It is not a service. A big bonus is that families that in many cases never knew each other when their kids went to school now are connecting. This connection of support networks helps our members.”
The club meets twice a month, and currently has over 70 members ranging in ages from 18 to 30 years old. Past events have consisted of swim parties, hikes, attending Fishers Summer Concerts and Movies in the Park, dance parties at 31Svn, pizza hangouts, and volunteering. Mari’s goal for Thrive is, “That lasting friendships are made!”
Amy Crell is the Volunteer Coordinator for the City of Fishers. She and her husband have lived in Fishers for 31 years, where they raised their three children. Her favorite things to do in Fishers are enjoying bike rides, taking daily walks with her dog Dot at Cumberland Park, visiting the Fishers AgriPark, and shopping the Fishers Farmers’ Market and local boutiques. She also enjoys gardening, exercising, volunteering, and hanging out with her kids and close friends. She is on the Executive Committee for Fishers Multi-Faith Community for Compassion and is a founding member of The Indiana Multi-Faith Network. Her favorite aspects of Fishers are the people, the strong sense of community, and the abundance of fun and interesting opportunities to get out, get involved, have fun, and be enlightened.