It can be difficult to see your child leave home to live independently, but for Eddie’s mother, Kathie, it was something for which she had always planned. Kathie’s journey with Eddie began when he was six years old and a student in her class at Lincoln School. When asked to take him in one weekend, she did not hesitate and quickly welcomed him in to her home. What was supposed to be temporary turned permanent almost immediately as Kathie and her husband, Bud, chose to foster Eddie for the next four years. In 1977, they adopted him, expanding their family as their daughter Sarah had recently been born.
Kathie felt “he made us a family, he fulfilled us and he deserved to be loved and cared for.”
One year later, with the help of Kathie and Bud, MOKA got its start. Bud was asked to be on the MOKA Board and later became its President, a role he played until his untimely death in August, 2017. The original MOKA board meetings were held around Kathie and Bud’s kitchen table. MOKA’s original mission was to facilitate the successful transition of individuals residing in state institutions to community-based settings. This mission now had a special meaning to Kathie and Bud as they knew Eddie would one day leave their home for his own. After opening its first home in May of 1979, MOKA rapidly expanded by opening thirteen more homes throughout West Michigan by April 1981.
When Eddie graduated from school in 1995, he made the transition from home to living at one of MOKA’s residential homes and began participating in a day program. Kathie describes the first two years of the transition as the most challenging. During this time, Eddie was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and as a result began having severe behaviors. Her persistence in advocating for the right psychiatric supports for her son, along with the support of the staff at the home, helped Eddie to slowly return to the “easy-going, happy” guy he has always been.
With Kathie’s strong advocacy, he overcame these challenges and eventually Eddie moved to another MOKA home that allowed him to live more independently. He found employment with Sunshine Properties, paid his own rent, did his own grocery shopping with support from the home’s employees, and began to thrive in his new environment. Kathie credits the staff with “taking every step they could possibly take to make the transition work.” After another successful transition, Eddie now resides at MOKA’s Indian Trails home. Due to his outgoing personality, Eddie quickly built many strong relationships with the staff. Home Supervisor Tony Beck and the home’s staff have done an excellent job pursuing opportunities for Eddie to be an active part of his local community.
He attends church every week, loves to spend time swimming, biking and bowling and attends a music class every other week. His favorite part of all is getting to interact with others, and that is more than evident by the smile that spreads across his face as he excitedly greets guests entering his home. Eddie’s successful journey started on that fateful day when Kathie and her husband agreed to take him in. His story, like so many others, illustrates the joys and sorrows along the road to finding acceptance and inclusion in our communities. Eddie is thriving and for Kathie, that is more than enough, “I just want him to be happy and loved and cared for, that is my goal for him, he deserves every bit of it.”