It seems almost everyone in the Northern Denver area has heard about the infamous Glenn (you know, the keyboard rockin’ musician, the most sublime apple pie baker, the best in class grocery store worker, and the biggest dinosaur enthusiast). After all, he was voted most popular at Thornton High School when he attended.
“He is considered a legend around here,” Catherine, Glenn’s sister exclaims. “We can’t go anywhere in the Northglenn, Thornton, or Westminster area without someone recognizing him.”
While many know Glenn, no one knows him or understands him quite like his sister Catherine.
Catherine shares, “Glenn is an expert in all things trees, weather, dinosaurs…”
“Roar!” Glenn interjects.
“And, of course, history of the wars, baking, chocolate, and muscle cars!” Catherine continues on.
“Vroom, vroom,” Glenn finishes Catherine’s sentence, as they both chuckle.
If you couldn’t guess it, Glenn and Catherine had a naturally close bond growing up. Glenn has Williams Syndrome, which made some aspects of their childhood different, but the two never skipped a beat. Whether Catherine was chasing after Glenn on his Big Wheel down to the park or they were bonding over their favorite 80’s band, the two were and still are partners in crime.
It was a sibling bond so strong and impactful, that Catherine felt inspired to dedicate her life to helping people just like her brother Glenn.
“I was in high school and I knew I was going to go to college and I wanted to teach. My advisor said I was too shy and too quiet. But, I proved them wrong! I went to UNC because they had a special needs program and at that time there were very few schools who catered to that type of degree,” Catherine recalls.
And, she did just that. Catherine got her degree and masters in special education.
“Glenn had everything to do with me choosing this career. I had a special gift in understanding this population. There was no second guessing it at all,” Catherine shares. “I understood the challenges he had. I understood the challenges my parents had. I understood the challenges of school districts not having all the resources for him, and I understood how to navigate that.”
Catherine would spend 30 successful years as a special needs teacher— with her career beginning right here at Laradon in 1989. Even though Glenn didn’t attend Laradon as a student while his sister was there, he was able to attend some of the fun holiday events.
“I went to a Christmas celebration there!” Glenn remembers with a smile across his face.
While Catherine was pursuing her passions as a teacher, Glenn was doing the same. In High School he took a cooking class and instantly fell in love with all things food, cooking and baking. After graduating High School Glenn followed a career in the grocery store industry.
“He runs into someone all the time and they recognize him for the work he does at the store,” Catherine says.
When Catherine retired from teaching a couple of years ago, another opportunity for her to be the best big sister in the world opened up. As their mom was getting older, someone needed to step in to assist and support Glenn. And, Catherine was more than willing to do that—this time with the support of Laradon.
The siblings are part of Laradon’s Family Caregiver Program, where individuals receive services directly from a family member, with paid support. The two spend three to four days a week together working on skills that create more independence for Glenn and provide him with skills to advocate for himself. They do everything from cooking Pizza’s on Tuesday nights to taking fun outings.
“Glenn is very independent. He always has been,” Catherine shares.
“Bring it man, bring it!” Glenn chimes in with a laugh.
The support Glenn has received from his sister and family has allowed him to not just become more independent, but has created space for him to explore all of things he is passionate about—like his job at Sprouts, playing the keyboard, or baking the world’s most delicious pizzas and pies.
“If I could tell the world one thing it would be to support programs that keep individuals with their families in their homes as much as possible. The familiarity, routines, and the community of love— you can’t put a price on that,” Catherine shares. “I encourage other people who don’t have family members in the IDD community to become Host Home Providers. Glenn has grown leaps and bounds!”
“Leaps and bounds,” Glenn echoes.