Tony walks down to the water at Holmes Lake, carrying his fishing pole and tackle box, and casts a line far out onto the water. He's got the lake to himself; the only thing breaking the stillness of the early morning is the geese swimming slowly past him. A fish jumps a few feet out, and Tony eyes the splash and says: "I'm going to get him in a bit."
Fishing is one of the activities Tony loves, and something he can now do whenever he likes in what he calls his "new life" at RHD. Tony is a client at RHD Nebraska, which provides residential supports to individuals with developmental disabilities.
RHD Nebraska specializes in providing person-centered services, assisting individuals as they work toward meaningful and successful lives in their communities. Tony lived at the Beatrice State Developmental Center (BSDC) from 1999 until coming to RHD in 2011. He now lives independently in his own apartment, works at a local restaurant and plays music in RHD's Live Yes Studio day program. Staff describe him as upbeat and helpful -- he starts the day by helping Sharon, an RHD client in a wheelchair, from the van into the studio and ends it by helping her from the studio back to the van -- and Tony says he's grateful for his independence and the peace it's given him.
"I feel like I can breathe," he said.
RHD Nebraska has seven clients who once lived at BSDC. All are now living successfully in the community, transitioning from the institution to living in their own residences with support from staff.
Check out more success stories at RHD Nebraska
Tony works at Valentino's restaurant as a dishwasher, one of several RHD clients who've been able to maintain employment in the community.
RHD Nebraska emphasizes education, life skills and creative opportunities for growth and personal expression. Clients like Tony have made a successful transition into the community due to their own motivation to reach their goals with the support of the staff at RHD Nebraska. To illustrate Tony's journey, Director Kierstin Reed retrieves Tony's last evaluation from BSDC and reads: "Depressive mood may increase" as he "from time to time becomes preoccupied with the desire to live in the community."
"Well ... yeah," Reed said.
When Tony walked into his first apartment after coming to RHD, he walked around the space wide eyed for several minutes. Finally he turned to Reed and said: "You did this for me?"
"That was," Reed said, "one of my favorite days at RHD."
"I can do what I want; I can ride my bike, I can watch a movie," Tony said. "I know what it's like to not have freedom. It's quiet here. I have peace. I can go out and get fresh air, if I want. I can go to the store by myself. I love it. I'm staying."
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