Heather Dyson is vivacious and friendly, and that is instantly clear to anyone who meets her. “Heather has always been happy – it’s as if she doesn’t know anything about being mean,” remarks her aunt, Brenda. Born with cerebral palsy, Heather uses a wheelchair, but she doesn’t let that stop her from bouncing up and down with excitement and glee when things make her happy.
With painted fingernails (done weekly by Brenda), a braided blond ponytail, and a coordinated outfit, Heather greets visitors and friends alike when they walk into the Adult Day Support program at SOAR365@Staples Mill. Since she is blind, she recognizes people by their voices, and she welcomes them eagerly.
“Heather is always looking around and listening, she’s very attentive,” observes Cheryl Holmes, one of Heather’s Direct Service Professionals. Cheryl has worked at the Staples Mill location – formerly A Grace Place – for more than 14 years, and when SOAR365 took over and renovated the facility in 2018, Cheryl transitioned to the SOAR365 staff. Heather, too, was a client at A Grace Place for many years, and she was happy to return to her daily routine when SOAR365 opened the doors. With a smile, Cheryl says that Heather rarely misses a day at SOAR365.
Brenda, Heather’s closest relative, agrees. “I just love to hear about all the activities that Heather does at SOAR365,” she says. One of the hallmarks of SOAR365@Staples Mill is the creative activities the staff initiate with their clients, and that is evident to Brenda. “It really makes Heather happy to visit different places in the community, shop at the mall, play with sensory toys, have contests and performances, and most of all, sing!” she says.
Until she was in her mid-teens, Heather lived at home with her grandparents, who cared for her. But when her grandmother passed away and her grandfather became sick, she moved to a group home for overnight care and started spending days at A Grace Place, now SOAR365@Staples Mill.
“I promised my mom that I would look after Heather,” explains Brenda. “I told her I would make sure Heather is always safe and in a good place.”
And everyone at SOAR365@Staples Mill couldn’t be happier to help live up to that promise.