Kauila Haumea: Healing the World a Little at a Time

Forty-year-old Kauila Haumea of Hilo has intense, expressive brown eyes that look deep into you. And he has a beautiful singing voice – a gift, he says, from his father Solomon Haumea, who used to drive a tour bus, and play guitar and ‘ukulele for his passengers.

Kauila also chants, and sometimes when he sings or chants, people are moved to tears.

But mostly, his heart is into healing. It’s about giving back to the community as much as he can, he says. “I want to help to heal the world a little bit at a time.”

Donald Haumea - Table

“When I’m laying hands on someone,” he says, “it’s not only my hands on the person. There are multiple hands at work. My spiritual guides are helping me, and all our healing energy is being combined.”

And, he says, that healing energy doesn’t only benefit the person he’s working on. It also comes back to him.

That’s significant because Kauila has some physical challenges, stemming from a genetic central nervous system disorder that causes him to have problems with his eyesight, balance and gait.

It also causes some communication problems, specifically a speech delay. A couple years ago, he got an electronic communication device called a Vantage Lite. His is a black box sheathed in a worn, black leather case with a grid that lies atop the screen, which makes it easy for him to touch a specific letter. When he does, that letter is voiced. This acts as a prompt and helps him vocalize a word he’s having trouble with.

The device helps him communicate and empowers him to be highly involved in the community around him. Kauila is a member of the local Lion’s Club and of the East Hawai‘i Developmental Disabilities Committee. He is a board member of a local disability rights group, and attends meetings of the Mayor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.

“He goes in order to stay informed with what’s happening in the community,” says Gail Yoshishige, who describes Kauila as “very motivated and self-directed.” She is a Full Life Hawaii direct support worker (DSW) who helps Kauila during the week. Her assistance means he’s able to live in his own apartment; she helps with bill paying, cleaning, shopping and driving him to meetings and the like. Other DSWs help on weekends.

Gail also helps him get to his healing appointments, meetings and other gatherings. Kauila was the first healing arts practitioner to participate at Hilo’s Abled Hawaii Artists (AHA) festival. The annual arts festival features and celebrates individual abilities in the arts, including people both with and without disabilities. The volunteer-run festival has visual artists, performers, entertainers, and tables from organizations that provide services. (The seventh annual AHA festival will be held at Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Full Life Hawaii is the festival’s primary and fiscal sponsor.)

Mar Ortaleza, who is Full Life Hawaii’s employment services coordinator, says Kauila has participated in the AHA festival since 2006. Says Mar, “His initial participation is what inspired me to begin organizing other healing arts practitioners to share their types of healing modalities with the public.”

Last year, Kauila also participated in the two-day Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity at Honolulu’s Hawai‘i Convention Center. Mar organized a healing arts area at the conference, and Kauila was the only healer from the Big Island. His massage sessions were booked solid.

Two women who experienced Kauila’s massages once told him he has “Pele’s hands.”

Donald Haumea - Massage

Mar says that Kauila’s massage, which he has studied formally, includes the Hawaiian style of massage called lomilomi. “And he’s also a reiki practitioner,” says Mar, “so he incorporates a lot of healing energy work in his practice. He also does oli; he chants when he feels like he is called to during his sessions.”

When Kauila does his oli, or Hawaiian chants, Mar says, it’s as though he doesn’t have a speech problem at all. “I think of it as his left brain being the speech part of his brain,” he says, “and that’s the part that is affected. But when you sing, it’s from your right brain, your creative side.”

Donald Haumea - Salvation ArmyKauila explains it by saying that music relaxes his body, and that makes the words come easily.

He sometimes sings at church or with a friend at Hilo Coffee Mill. For 21 years now, he has rung the Salvation Army bell at Christmas, sometimes singing Christmas carols there outside KTA Pu‘ainako. His favorite is “Silent Night,” which he sings in both English and Hawaiian.

Kauila sometimes does Hawaiian blessings. Together, he and Mar blessed the Full Life Hawaii office in Hilo, and they have collaborated on other blessings as well.

“He’s amazing,” says Mar. “It’s like chicken skin. He has the voice of his ancestors when he olis.”

Mar, Donald, Gail

“We are thinking about branching out and doing a healing arts festival and calling it Haumea Healing Arts,” he says. “I suggested we call it by his name because Haumea is a very, very significant name in Hawaiian culture. Haumea is the earth goddess.”

He talks about how important healing is to Kauila. “I think it’s his passion and his life journey,” he says. “I think he said it, when he said that it heals both that person and himself. In a way, we’re all here to help each other heal. We’re healing each other, and healing ourselves, and helping ourselves to feel more complete.”

Mar says he really admires Kauila for being a great observer and having such a strong presence. “Despite an obvious obstacle, he has a strong presence because of who he is inside,” he says.

“I think he has a very strong connection to his ancestors, and you can see that and hear that and feel that when he does his olis. I also think he has a strong presence in the now, because of the challenges that he’s had in the past, and the challenges that he has to adapt to at every moment.”

Mar stops and thinks a minute. He says, “I just look forward to him finding more ways to heal.”

To heal others? Or to heal himself?

Mar doesn’t hesitate. “I mean that both ways,” he says.

Next Chapter Book Club: Friends, Food and Fun

Over a year ago, when Barbara Hoist started at Full Life Hawaii as its human resources and office manager, executive director Stone Wolfsong asked if she wanted to head up a book club, too. Barbara says she couldn’t believe her luck.

The once-a-week Next Chapter Book Club she now leads is part of a program from The Ohio State University Nisonger Center established 12 years ago so that anyone, regardless of reading ability, can belong to a book club. There are more than 100 “chapters” across North America and Europe. This is the first Next Chapter Book Club in Hawai‘i

Barbara looks forward to Wednesday afternoons, when she heads down to their Next Chapter Book Club meeting spot, outside of Jamba Juice in the Kona Coast Shopping Center. Members always arrive early for the hour-long book club, she says. “They get there 15 or 20 minutes early, every time, and push tables together. They always have the table ready for me.”

The Next Chapter Book Club folks.

A small poster, which says “Next Chapter Book Club,” stands on the table and identifies the group.

“People walk by and see the poster and they can see that the members have developmental disabilities,” she says. “And they see us sitting around, laughing, and reading a book. It’s education. We are showing the community that people with developmental disabilities are out there and doing these things and having fun.”

“We have a beautiful conference room in our Full Life office,” she says, “and I could have everybody meet there every week, but we’d be hiding. We wouldn’t be out in the public eye.”

Damian takes notes at the Next Chapter Book Club

These days, about five core members attend regularly, and others come occasionally. Book club members must be 17 or older, but otherwise the club is open to anyone with developmental disabilities who wants to get together to read a classic novel, make friends and have some fun. Barbara says current members range from a young man in his 20s up to two sisters who are in their mid-60s.

“We’re very social,” she says, “and as well as reading together, we’re becoming such a tight little group of friends.”

As a group, they choose from a long list of abridged novels from the Classic Starts series, which are written at about a 4th or 5th grade level. The hardcover books are slightly larger than a paperback and are nicely bound with some illustrations.

Secret Garden

The club’s first selection, when it started in 2012, was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. It was a big hit.

When they finished that book, a family member invited the group to her home for an English tea party and to watch the movie on DVD. She made cucumber sandwiches, quiche and sweets, and served tea using her grandmother’s antique tea service.

“I was nervous about that,” says Barbara, “but she said, ‘You know what? It’s just sitting in a box.’” The party was a huge success, and the dishes were fine.

According to Barbara, the family member suggested that the book club pay attention to what was different between the movie and the book, and said that she was impressed to see how much of the book’s story the book club members had absorbed and understood.

The next book, which they all decided on together, was The Story of King Arthur and his KnightsKing Arthur

One day, while reading that, one of the book club members, a woman with Down syndrome, brought a big, plastic sword; the kind sometimes used as part of a Halloween costume.

“It was Excalibur!” Barbara says. “She’s a ball of fun, and she was so proud. We had a lot of fun with that.”

When they finished the book, Barbara hosted the group at her home for a pizza party –  “because nobody wanted to go out and roast venison or anything,” she says. Together, they watched “Sword in the Stone,” the Disney movie about King Arthur.

Sanoe Wong, who is in her mid-30s, was already a reader, even before joining the book club. She sometimes shows up with three or four books she’d just checked out of the library. She says she is very happy to belong to the book club. “I like to read every time,” she says. “It’s my favorite.”

Now they are reading The Arabian Nights. “Scheherazade, 1001 Nights…. Those are some wild stories!” says Barbara. “It’s interesting culturally, visiting that part of the world, and how weird the stories are.”

Arabian Nights

When they are done with this book, she speculates, they might have some Middle Eastern food. Maybe some hummus and pita, she says, and some baklava.

At each meeting, she helps book club members recap what they read before. Then the members take turns reading, and they talk about it as they go. “Because not everybody understands every word,” she says. “We discuss the story, learn new words and how people live differently in other times and places in the world, and compare that to how we live here in Hawai‘i.”

Then Barbara holds onto the books until the next time. “At the end of the session I give them the book and they’re absolutely thrilled. That’s not what we were supposed to do, but I thought, ‘Why not?!’ After we started a new book, some of them told me they went back and were looking at The Secret Garden again.”

Lois intently read her book at the Next Chapter Book Club.

Part of the fun of the book club, she says, is as a social outlet. “I think they’re really enjoying that. We’re just bonding as a little group of friends that check in with each other every week. I think we’ve made some pretty solid friendships.”

At a recent meeting, they celebrated member Edna Phillips’ 56th birthday. Edna says she likes the book club because she can read better now, and she enjoys reading the stories and learning from them.

Barbara says she would love to expand the group to include even more people. It’s open to anyone, regardless of reading ability or even comprehension ability. “That’s really minor compared to what we’re really about,” she says, “which is community exposure and friendship and doing something so-called ‘normal.’”

Jennifer listens to another reader at the Next Chapter Book Club

She is also always watching, she says, for someone who would like to co-facilitate Kona’s Next Chapter Book Club. “I would train them,” she says. “It’s not hard.”

And she’d love to have so many members that they need to expand and add additional groups.

“It’s about being out there and having fun,” she says. “We laugh and have a good old time.”

She says as much as members seem to really like it, she just loves it. “Pinch me!” she says. “This is part of my job?!”

Louie Perry: Hitting His Stride

Louie Perry used to look at photos of Greece and wish he could see the place where the Olympic games originated, but he never thought it would actually happen. The 30-year-old Puna resident is a champion runner despite some serious health problems – a severe asthma attack at age 2 left him with brain damage and mild mental challenges, and he continues to deal with chronic and severe asthma.

But not only did the charismatic Pāhoa High School graduate visit Greece two years ago, he also won three gold medals there at the World Special Olympics, an event that drew 7,000 athletes from nearly 180 nations.

Louie has been a client at Full Life Hawaii for about four years and Full Life’s Mar Ortaleza has worked with him the whole time.

Louie Perry Mar Ortaleza

Louie Perry and Mar Ortaleza

Mar says when they learned Louie was chosen to go to Greece, they couldn’t believe it.

“We talked about it and he was elated,” says Mar. “Me, too. It was the first time he’d gone out of the country, and he had a great time. He enjoyed the food and he said the women were beautiful.”

Louie says Greece was “a whole different world,” and that he liked it even more than he expected. Two years later, he is still marveling at all the ancient ruins. “And they’re still using them, as their markets!”

He says that the Special Olympics was challenging. It was very hot where they trained and he was surprised, too, by the crowds. “Choke people!” he says. “All the seats were taken, it was packed, and you’re like, ‘Wow! There are so many humans!’”

He ran in three different individual events, and won the gold medal in each. He also participated in a relay event, where his team took the silver.

Those were pretty amazing accomplishments for someone with asthma so severe that doctors say he shouldn’t be able to run.

“There’s people worse than me, but I do have pretty bad asthma,” he says. “It’s hard to have asthma and run. But I think I was born with a strong heart and that makes me able to run.”

Louie Perry Laughing

He does get sick more easily than most, and the Big Island’s vog is a real problem. “I take medicine and use a machine every night,” he says. “And when the vog comes, I get super sick and have an asthma attack.” Mar says Louie frequently ends up at the emergency room.

But nothing slows him down for long. Whereas most Full Life Hawaii clients have just one direct support worker (DSW), Mar says that Louie is “such a dynamic person, it requires a whole team to assist him.”

Three afternoons a week, one DSW takes him to Kamehameha Schools, where Louie is a volunteer assistant coach for the boys’ cross-country team. “I run with the faster guys, and then when I take it easy, I go with the slower guys.”

After practice, the same DSW takes him to Ninjitsu practice, where they both participate. Louie says, with a smile, that the martial art teaches them how to be ninjas.

“We’re still on the basics,” he says. “Rolling. Basic steps. It’s the best exercise ever, and we have fun.”

Mar, who now works as Full Life Hawaii’s employment services coordinator, helps Louie these days with his photography business.

“One of Louie’s big dreams was to elevate his hobby of taking underwater photos to a micro-enterprise,” he explains.

He says that Louie is able to get marine life photos that are challenging for some photographers.

“Spending time with him underwater, I realized that he is in touch with nature,” says Mar. “The fish don’t swim away from him; they just hang out.”

“I assisted him in creating a very marketable portfolio, getting his general excise license, creating a business card, refining the quality of his art and getting some of it matted and framed.” Louie’s photos range from $1 postcards to $80 to $100 framed prints, and they sell.

“His photography is going to outlast his body and his ability to run,” explains Mar. “I’m helping him prepare for his old age.”

Inspired by working with Louie, seven years ago Mar established the annual art festival called Abled Hawaii Artists. It’s held each July at Hilo’s Prince Kūhiō Plaza. “The intent is to allow artists with disabilities to show and sell artwork,” he says, “and also to have community inclusion. This year, we also had about 10 healing practitioners who were sharing their massage, reiki or energy work with the public for free.”

Margie is another Full Life DSW who helps Louie regularly. Louie thinks of her as “the horse girl,” because she likes horses and teaches him about them. More frequently, though, she helps him find jobs, drives him to the work site and sometimes works right alongside him.

He likes labor-intensive outside jobs, like building rock walls and shoveling cinder. “He’s a very, very hard worker,” says Mar. “He’s very strong and very able; he’s definitely not a slacker!”

Louie Perry

Louie says he learns different things from each of his Full Life DSWs. “And they’re friends,” he says. “Nice friends. We get to go places and it makes me smart. If I didn’t have them, I’d still be managing, and getting places, but it would be harder. I’d be walking, getting to the bus. They help me go different places and learn different things.”

Louie at AirportFull Life Hawaii, says Mar, helps Louie “access the community.”

Speaking of community, he says that when Louie got back to Hilo from Greece, a crowd met his flight.

“It was surreal,” says Mar. “Louie was kind of a celebrity. People were asking him questions and taking pictures. The mayor met him at the airport with a proclamation declaring ‘On this day in the County of Hawai‘i it is Louie Perry Day.’ Louie was blown away.”

How do you top that? What does Louie hope for his future? The quiet and good-natured man, with the easy smile and laugh, thinks a minute.

“I’m doing what I want to do,” he says. “Helping kids learn, and run. They’re younger, stronger, quicker than me, and they can be faster than I am. I’ve gotta teach the younger ones.”

Kamakoa Dela Cruz: A ‘Brave Warrior’

The first time I met 9-year-old Ethan “Kamakoa” Dela Cruz, it was a beautiful fall afternoon. He greeted me with a hand slap, and then leaned in to give me a friendly hug and kiss.

We were at a park near his Kohala home, along with his Full Life Hawaii direct support worker Katherine Belleci. “Aunty Kat” has worked with Kamakoa for about a year, focusing on four areas that are challenging for the third grader who was born with Down syndrome: socializing, words, physical activity and personal hygiene.

The day before, she’d taken Kamakoa for a therapeutic horseback riding lesson, and I asked him if he liked riding horses. “Yeah,” he said, touching my arm. “How about you?”

That, Kat tells me later, is exactly what they’ve been working on – having conversations that go beyond just saying, “Hi.”

Horse

“He can’t say some sounds well and it’s hard to understand him, so we work on speech patterns,” she says. “When he says a word I don’t understand, we talk about it. We figure out what it is, we say all the sounds, and we say a whole sentence with the word. It’s going great. He’s voluntarily using whole sentences on his own now. And his speech patterns are so much clearer. After a year, we’re actually having real conversations now.”

While Kat and I talked at a picnic bench, Kamakoa got up and started walking off. Kat watched for a moment and then gently followed. She told him he could be on his own but he needed to stay nearby. He did a little happy dance – “He loves having his freedom,” she told me – and then sat down on the grass not far from us. After awhile, he was lying on his stomach and arms, comfortably resting.

When his mother Malia Dela Cruz was pregnant, she had an ultrasound and then, at the doctor’s recommendation, an amniocentesis test. It was April Fool’s Day when they got a phone call saying their baby had Down syndrome, and at first Malia and her husband thought it was a bad joke. But it wasn’t.

“We were pretty devastated,” she says. “Just kind of grieving, in shock – not knowing how to deal with it.”

“Now, though, we don’t know what our life would be without him,” she says. “We feel blessed.”

The baby was born prematurely, and at two weeks old, he had heart surgery for a hole in his heart. He was in Kapi‘olani Hospital’s NICU for five weeks. Before he went home, nurses trained his parents to administer oxygen and use his feeding tube.

Malia and her husband Eugene named the baby “Kamakoa” – Brave Warrior, or Child Warrior – because they wanted him to have a strong name. Malia says it ended up being very appropriate.

“When we got him home,” she says, “he really thrived. After maybe a month, he pulled out his feeding tube. And he didn’t need oxygen anymore. He was just this trooper.”

“He had health issues that whole first year, and he overcame every one. It was hard, and we didn’t know what we were doing as parents, but he just showed us, every step of the way. He was such a happy baby. It made it so much easier.”

To this day, she says, “He’s all about joy.”

She’s  not only very happy with his progress this past year since they started with Full Life Hawaii, but also with his schooling. Kamakoa spends part of each school day in a third grade classroom, with an aide, and the rest in a special ed class. Malia says he loves school – the social interaction, and being included with the rest of his classmates.

“The majority of the morning, he’s one-on-one with language arts and math,” she says, “and when it comes time for science and social studies, they have him in inclusion. It’s a nice balance for him.”

Kat adds that the school is also working with him physically. “The physical therapist said he needs to strengthen his core, so his arms and everything else will get stronger, and they’re emphasizing this at school with floor exercises and the jungle gym. They just started with dodgeball the other day. They’re getting him running and dodging the ball. He loves that.”

When school’s in session, Kat and Kamakoa spend four afternoons a week together, and they have more time together when it’s not.

They play basketball, swim, or climb on the park’s playground equipment. When other kids show up, Kamakoa introduces himself. It’s another area he and Kat are working on – getting someone’s attention appropriately, and issues of personal boundaries.

Malia talks about how good Kat is with Kamakoa. “She is just so perceptive, and whatever goals we have for him, she really strives for them,” she says. “She is very professional about how she approaches everything.”

And she appreciates that Kat doesn’t baby him. “She said she wants to be his ally, someone he can depend on – but not like a mom. She’s just been a rock star for our family. We are so pleased to have her.”

Kat and Kamakoa

Kat and Kamakoa

Kat’s happy, too. She says, simply, “I love Kamakoa. We became best friends within the first couple months. The closer we get, the easier it is to teach him the things he wants to know and needs help with. Having that kind of rapport, I think, really benefits our goals.”

She calls it “a sweet job. It’s really sweet working with him and seeing his excitement. I get really excited seeing him take steps on his own.”

Kamakoa’s parents’ goals for him, which Kat and Full Life are helping him work toward, are that one day he will graduate from high school and be able to live independently. “Whether he wants to be in his own apartment, or in a group living situation,” says Malia. “We just hope he will become a successful citizen; and somehow contribute to his community, wherever he ends up.”

She says she can see him doing it. “We just have to be patient and get him there. I am so pleased with how it is going.”

When Kat considers Kamakoa’s future, she says, “He’s smart. He’s going to do something great. That’s all I know.”

After a few more games of thumb wrestling at the park, it was time to say goodbye. Kamakoa put his arm around me as we walked together to the parking lot. “I’ll help you with your door,” he said. He opened my car door, I got in and he closed it. I mimed an exaggerated “Bye!” through the window and got a huge grin in return.

Kamakoa and Dog

Daylan Toribio: ‘The Person I Am Now’

Daylan Toribio wears long shorts, his green Garden Exchange T-shirt and Converse tennis shoes as he moves down the aisle of the Hilo garden supply store, “fronting and facing” the merchandise. The 21-year-old’s dark hair is close-cropped and his shy smile is genuine and friendly.

His life these days, says his mother Lorilynn Rapoza, is such a far cry from what she feared when he was diagnosed with developmental delays at around six months old and then with autism during preschool. Those unknowns, she says, were very scary.

Even five years ago, she says, she wouldn’t have dreamed her son could do all that he does now.

But, she says, since last December, when Daylan became a client of Full Life, a Hawai‘i Island nonprofit that supports and empowers people with developmental disabilities, he’s been making amazing progress.

Hilarie Enriques is Daylan’s primary Full Life direct support worker and she works with him in two areas: employment services and personal assistance.

It was Hilarie who helped Daylan get a volunteer position working at Garden Exchange, the family business her great-grandparents founded.

Daylan Toribio“For the first few months I was helping him acclimate, and building a bond between us,” she says. “After that, it was learning the duties at Garden Exchange, through modeling. I would do something, and then after I did it, he would do it. We went ahead and made analyses for each duty. I asked if he could describe what he does, like he’s the old employee and I’m the new one, and he had to explain how to do it to me. It built his confidence. With routine and consistency, he learned how to do it.”

At first she worked right alongside him, teaching him each task step-by-step, and then she backed off a bit so he could do it independently.

Daylan is also learning to grow seedlings, and he sells his plants at Garden Exchange’s nursery. Garden Exchange donates pots and soil, and Hilarie and Daylan set up a small nursery behind her family’s home where he grows hibiscus, marigolds, snapdragons, cabbage and more.

He got his first paycheck from selling plants last month. “I gave it to my mom so we could take it to the bank,” he says. “Now we’re planting Manoa lettuce and sweet red peppers.”

And nowadays, when a Garden Exchange customer asks what kind of fertilizer he or she needs, Daylan knows, because he actually uses them himself.

He and Hilarie work in the store four days a week for four hours a day. Daylan has learned how to do inventory and use the inventory log on the computer; water plants in the nursery; put flat flower boxes together upstairs with the giant, free-standing stapler; repack fertilizer into 5- and 10-pound bags and provide customer service.

The goal, she explains, was for Daylan to learn to do those tasks by himself. And he has.

So much so that he was just hired for a regular, paid position at Garden Exchange.

“He loves it,” says Hilarie. “And everybody loves him at Garden Exchange. He’s like family.”

Daylan’s mom says that he and Hilarie have a great rapport. “He responds to her directions well, and he’s able to communicate back to her very well,” she says. “He’s able to follow rules. She’s taught him things over there that I don’t know how to do! Measuring mixtures of fertilizers, analyzing what he just did; I’m taken by how much he gets it.”

Daylan also works with Hilarie a couple hours a day on independent living goals, such as personal accounting, telling time and exercising.

They also work on cooking. They decide what he wants to learn to make, and go to the supermarket together and find the ingredients. He’s learning how to pay for them. At home, he can now go into the kitchen and cook himself eggs, rice, gravy and other simple meals. He can bake a cake from a mix.

“I’ve seen a major turnaround,” says Hilarie. “In the beginning he had a difficult time even cracking an egg. We watched a couple YouTube videos, wrote down the ingredients, made an analysis. I would do one egg, model it and he would do another egg.” Now they are working together on creating a cookbook for him with healthy recipes.

On Saturdays, they go to Special Olympics, where the seasons rotate between sports (currently it’s basketball). His favorite sport there is softball, and when they are doing track and field, his favorite is the running long jump.

And then on Saturday afternoons they are on to the park, where Daylan participates in Amtgard, a live-action role-playing game where participants use foam-padded replicas of medieval weaponry.

Daylan’s mom says communicating used to be a real problem for Daylan, and that his communications skills have really improved.

“He’s started using words that I use,” she says. “For instance, now sometimes he comes and stands by me and watches what I’m doing. If I say, ‘Can I help you?’ he says, ‘Oh, no, I’m just curious.’ He uses words like ‘analyzing.’ He’s learning so much. I’ve seen such a big growth in him, and in his vocabulary.”

She says that he is up every morning these days, ready to go. When he gets home, he goes and finds her. “I ask, ‘How was your day?’ And it’s always good. He tells me what he’s going to do tomorrow…”

She says she is ecstatic at how happy he is and how well he is doing. “I’m thinking, as long as he has the right tools, encouragement and the right people making him feel important and that he can do things, I cannot ask for more. Seeing what he has already accomplished is great. I can only see him achieving more!”

And she feels he is definitely on the right path. “I can see Daylan reaching that goal of being independent, where he would be able to live on his own one day and maybe have a steady job. I’m very content. Very content.”

Daylan, too, is happy with how his life is going. He says his work with Hilarie has given him great opportunities.

“It’s the best thing in my life,” he says. “It’s made me the person I am today.”

Who is that? “A caring, kind and good person,” he says with a smile.

Daylan Toribio