In celebration of Full Life’s Fifteenth Anniversary…. An Interview with the Founding Family.
Full Life was founded on faith and a belief that “a miracle would happen” for Thelma and Curt Tyler’s son Charlie. The Tylers were very concerned about what would happen to their son when they were gone. In a recent interview Elizabeth Rice and Curtis Tyler, sister and brother of Charlie, shared that that miracle did happen along with a commitment from the family to promote the idea of self-determination for individuals with developmental disabilities on Hawai’i Island.
The Tyler family had opened a home in Kona to address the needs and desires of families and their loved ones with developmental disabilities. Larry Casper and Deann Canuteson came to the Big Island to run that home and support the individuals there, including Charlie. The home worked wonderfully well according to Curtis. The State of Hawaii was very encouraging, but payments from the state were often late and the mainland agency that employed Larry and Deann eventually withdrew. Curt Tyler asked Deann to stay. Her goal was to make sure Charlie would always have someone to care for him and she was the miracle that the family needed. Deann knew about “Waiver Services” the state program that allowed individuals with developmental disabilities to waive institutionalization in favor of services in their own homes and communities. Deann and Larry spent countless days, weeks and months with the Tyler family putting together the plans, permits and contracts for an agency that would assure that Charlie always had care. Finally, the time came to find a name for the new agency. Curt Tyler suggested Full Life, as that is what they all wanted for Charlie and others in the community. “He was very humble”, says Elizabeth of their father. “And very community minded”, added Curtis. It was always about the individuals and the concept of self-determination. “It was very synchronistic.” Curtis added, “The state, the family, Deann and Larry were all in sync.” Deann was a ‘major bright light’ in Charlie’s life and the first President/CEO of Full Life. Larry became the first President of the Board of Directors.
Curt Senior had a strong belief that Charlie , who was born in Kona, and a member of the Kona community, would always be a visible member of the community. He frequently took Charlie with him when he was in the community. “They were best buddies”, added Curtis. Through Full Life, Charlie has been able to live as full a life as the family hoped for and remain connected to the Kona Community.
He has received incredible love and care from his Direct Support Workers and the entire Full Life ‘ohana. Elizabeth’s eyes fill with tears when she says, “Full Life has given Charlie a life. Our father’s vision has remained unchanged” Curtis added, “I know dad is watching down on this. Charlie, just like everyone has unique talents and gifts. Full Life is part of his family. It is not an institution. Stone, Deann, and the Board of Directors have enabled people to come into Charlie’s life who have become his extended family.”
Full Life holds a high standard of excellence, says Elizabeth, that comes from the Tyler family. “It’s about the people Full Life supports,” adds Curtis, “not the organization. Aloha is a big part of Full Life. There is a vision of what is possible for folks to live a full life. The leaders hold that vision. Full Life is pono and it will continue to rise up. The passion that started with Curt Tyler has never left. It is a ‘kakou thing’; it is inclusive.”
Elizabeth, Full Life Director, encourages everyone to come to the annual meeting. “It’s enjoyable; I get to see how dad’s vision in reflected in the passion and caring of the Direct Support Workers and how much they love working for Full Life. “ ~~