John Heldoorn knew his son, Dan, was different right after he was born. When Dan was taken out of his crib, he would start crying instantaneously. He felt insecure the minute he left his bed and would start shaking.
It did not take long for Dan to be diagnosed as a person with autism.
“We knew almost right away when he was born,” said Heldoorn.
One organization that was there for Dan when he moved into an apartment was the local agency, Avenues Supported Living Services, Inc.
For 20 years, this agency has been supporting Dan so he can live a fulfilling life. With their help, Dan has found a sense of community and even worked at Lowe’s Home Improvement for five years. Dan is not the only person this organization has assisted though.
The agency celebrated 20 years of helping others by hosting a cornhole tournament at the Old West Masonic Lodge in Santa Clarita on Saturday. There were silent auctions, food, vendors and plenty of camaraderie to go around.
Lori Shepard founded the agency with her husband, Scott, in 1997. She believes that people can live to their fullest when they are helped to live their own life. With the agency’s support, people with developmental disabilities can still live a productive life and be a viable member of the community.
“What became the best thing was having people have their own life,” she said. “Supported living is the term for what we do.”
John recognizes that he owes his son’s life to the agency. Dan would never be able have this positive lifestyle without their assistance.
But John also owes his own life to the agency. With their help, he and his wife are able to live a full and romantic life.
“My wife and I (are able to) have a life,” he said.
The agency plans to continue helping with supported living. Right now, they have 23 clients and next year, they hope to be celebrating their 21st anniversary at another cornhole tournament.
“We’re hoping we can get certain people to come back…and make it an annual event,” said Shepard.
Shepard hopes to make at least $2,000 from the event, but would be happy just to break even and bring another annual event to SCV.
“We’re hoping that this annual fundraiser will be something that the Santa Clarita community looks forward to every year,” she said.