Nic Waller and David Swisher, equipped with less than most, have built lives with small steps and persistence, and the support of loving people and good places.
Now the longtime friends, 20 and 19 years old, respectively, want to help build another place for people similarly challenged.
The two developmentally disabled young men have contributed coins to the campaign to erect a new $6.5 million Children's Respite Care Center at 5321 S. 138th St. They will participate in the groundbreaking today at 4 p.m. The facility should be completed by February 2014.
“I get to dig a hole for the new day care,” Swisher said this week. “So does Nic.”
The care center currently has two locations, near 88th and Blondo Streets and at 13336 Industrial Road. Center administrators will replace the latter space, which it leases, for a bigger place with more room for physical, occupational and speech therapy. The building will feature more classrooms where infants, children and young adults up to age 21 learn life skills, social skills and receive other training.
Children's Respite Care Center also gives parents a place where they can trust that their kids will be safe and will make progress during the day or after school. The center also has weekend programs and a summer camp.
“I wouldn't be able to have my job if I didn't have that,” Waller's mother, Cyndi Waller, said of the center.
Waller had heart surgery a month after birth and still has a tube in his trachea to keep his airway clear. When Swisher moved in with the Jennings family, he hid his face and shut down if asked to speak. Now he loves to chatter. Both of the young men do.
Waller started going to the respite care center at 18 months old. Swisher began attending the center at 5, right after Kimm and Darrell Jennings became his legal guardians.
And so Waller and Swisher grew up together. They admired professional wrestling and attended summer camp. Waller tolerated Swisher's attachment to the Texas Longhorns, and Swisher accepted Waller's appreciation for Justin Bieber and Honey Boo Boo. They went to Millard South High School together, attended an organization's special friends prom and graduated.
They're now in the Millard Public Schools' Young Adult Program, which gives them work skills. Through that program, Waller works part-time at Millard Central Middle School and Swisher part-time at Millard Lumber.
They continue to attend Children's Respite Care Center in the afternoon. They will transition out of both the Millard schools program and the respite care center at age 21.
A few weeks ago Waller brought in some change and gave it to care center development director Amber Burk. He wanted it to go to the capital campaign. Swisher brought coins in the next day.
And so it has gone between the two, one bringing in coins, then the other, multiple times. Burk estimated they've brought in close to $50. She has told them to keep their dollar bills.
When center co-founder Terri Fitzgerald heard about the guys' contributions, she wept. Then she wrote them formal thank-you notes, just as she does to foundations and individuals who contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I'm happy,” Waller said of plans for the new center.
“I'm excited,” Swisher said.
They want to see the drawing of the thermometer in the lobby go up and up, measuring how close to completion the campaign is. It's at 80 percent now.
They know little donations help. Small steps make a difference. They've learned that through experience.
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