RHD Lifesharing Participant Receives Self-Advocacy Award

Filed Under:

RHD Lifesharing had a great reason to celebrate on the afternoon of March 28, when one of its participants, Brandon Gessitz, received a Self-Advocacy Achievement award during the 17th Annual Celebration Awards ceremony.

When Brandon joined RHD Lifesharing, as an emergency placement in 2018, he was struggling with behaviors and choices that negatively affected his mood and health. In the ensuing years, Brandon endured both triumphs and setbacks. However, in the last year, he’s made great strides, having found a strong support system that has helped him develop proactive communication skills, leading to his emotional growth.

RHD Lifesharing offers community-based residential services, unlicensed home and community habilitation, and respite services for people with intellectual developmental disabilities and/or autism. Lifesharing helps individuals based in Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, and Pike counties in PA.

At Brandon’s first Lifesharing home, he learned how to start replacing old behaviors with new, healthy ones. When he suffered the loss of a loved one, he remained strong, leaning on his Lifesharing community to help him process the loss and grief in a healthy way.

He grew especially close with his Lifesharing provider’s son. When the son eventually moved out of the house, Brandon began to struggle with the loss of connection he had with him. Some of his old, unhealthy behaviors began to resurface. At that point, the decision was made to find Brandon a new Lifesharing home that would be a better suit his needs.

In 2022, Brandon met Nilda and they immediately clicked. Nilda became interested in becoming a Lifesharing provider once her children grew older and left home. Despite them visiting her often, she sought out a more constant way to help others. Since moving into Nilda’s home, Brandon has been living his best life, attending community events, and celebrating with his new Lifesharing family. He proactively communicates with Nilda and others when experiencing big and/or more complex emotions. When Brandon’s good friend – who is also Nilda’s grandson – was deployed to the military, Brandon responded positively, even accompanying Nilda to the airport and wishing his buddy well. Now, Brandon looks forward to speaking with him on the phone.

The awards were presented by The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, an organization dedicated to helping and advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Self-Advocacy Achievement Award is presented to individuals who are actively working to make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others.

The award ceremony was held at the Lehigh Valley Hotel and Conference Center in Bethlehem, PA. Brandon was one of 12 award winners at the Celebration Awards. Several Lifesharing staff members and participants attended to take part in the festivities. IDD programs and participants from Lehigh and Northampton counties enjoyed lunch, guest speakers, and even appearances from two Lehigh Valley minor league mascots – FeRROUS from the IronPigs and meLVin from the Phantoms.

As Brandon got up to receive his award, joined by his Lifeshare program specialist, Ian Suji Oduor, he raised his hands in triumph. Staff and participants from RHD Lifesharing applauded, cheered, and shared in his enthusiasm. When the Lifesharing community gathered with Brandon for photographers after the ceremony, their shared joy and strong bonds were apparent to anyone looking.

It’s moments like these and stories like Brandon’s that make RHD and Lifesharing so grateful to be able to support individuals throughout the ups and downs of life, while also facilitating genuine relationships and family connection. To donate to and learn more about RHD Lifesharing, visit www.rhd.org/program/rhd-lifesharing.