Dennis’s Story

Dennis started at Laradon when he was just 9 years old in 1972. Shortly after starting the school program, his mother asked if he’d like to live on campus as well. Dennis agreed, and began to enjoy his time living with his newfound friends at Laradon. Every day began with classes, then recreational activities like kickball or softball, then spending time at home in the dorms with friends. On the weekends, Dennis was on the “Home List”, meaning he would go back home to spend time with his mother. Dennis happened to attend school while our founders, the Calabrese family, were still alive. Mr. Calabrese taught classes, Mrs. Calabrese took care of the dorms, and Larry and Donald attended the school. “Larry would say hi to me in passing,” Dennis said, “He was always smiling.”

His favorite part about Laradon, was being a member of the children’s choir. They would often perform at Laradon as well as out in the community. “Mr. and Mrs. Calabrese really enjoyed our performances,” said Dennis.

Not only did Laradon provide a place for him to live and get an education, but it served as a place to launch into adulthood as well. As Dennis grew older, he became more independent and started working in Laradon’s vocational programs. He has worked at Taco Bell for over 20 years with the support of Laradon’s employment program managers. He also met his current girlfriend of 20 years, Sharon Dawson at Laradon. She was a fellow participant in Laradon’s vocational programs, and they now live with Host Home Providers that also happen to be neighbors.

Nowadays, Dennis is an active participant in The Laradon Officers group (a self-advocacy group at Laradon that focuses on discussing rights and policies). He still enjoys performing by participating in local community theatre groups and has wishes to speak to others with IDD about his experiences with independence and self-advocacy. When asked where he would be without Laradon, Dennis had only one thing to say: “Thank god Laradon is here.” As Laradon has evolved over 70 years, Dennis is excited to see the new changes in progress and development that come with its capital campaign.

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