By Elliott Dale
Elliott Dale is a FACT Oregon Board Member who lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon and is a business attorney. He shared a version of these remarks at the 2017 FACT Oregon Annual Breakfast.
At the heart of what we do, FACT Oregon is about families. As a board member, I wanted to share a little about my family. We are not unique; we are one of thousands of families in Oregon that walk a little different path, because we have a family member that experiences disability.
In this photo you will see my wife, Jennifer, a CPA and currently the controller of a local non-profit and adjunct accounting professor, as well as our daughters Maddie (age 9, 4th grade), and Lizzie (age 5, Kindergarten) and our son Charlie (age 4, pre-K).
I like to think about being a parent of child with special needs as being part of a “club.” My ticket into this club was the birth of Lizzie, who was born with Down Syndrome. The price of admission is pretty steep – constant learning curve, seemingly never-ending series of navigating new bureaucracies and new acronyms, and a new set of challenges everyday. This is not too different from typical parenting, but also, really different.
There are very few experts you can turn to, because even though certain disabilities share some characteristics – all our kids are unique, and it’s this special parenting that creates expertise. In this club, you can’t turn in your membership or simply walk away. There is no option to quit. But it is immensely rewarding, incredibly enriching, totally humbling, and none of us would trade places with another family for anything – like all parents.
Because of all that I have learned, I am excited about Lizzie’s opportunities to lead a whole life in our community, and importantly, I am also excited for her classmates this year and all the years from here. They will have a completely different experience and set of norms around experiencing disability than we do. They will change their communities because of their experience.
This holiday season and beyond, I am asking you to join me in supporting FACT Oregon’s mission and become a regular monthly donor at $25 a month or whatever level fits you. Supporting FACT Oregon has ripple effects far into the future. We know that 1 in 5 people experience disability, and the issues are bigger than all of us, yet each of us can make a difference. Please join me in helping FACT Oregon reach more families!