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.
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.
Tony works at Valentino’s restaurant as a dishwasher, one of several RHD clients who’ve been able to maintain employment in the community. 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?”
“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.”