The mission of BOTH is tied up with its history. If you will take the time to read this background information it will provide you with a better understanding of our purpose and our goals.
When Maureen was a child it was common for her to give her stuffed animals to visitors upon leaving as a way to say that she enjoyed their company. As she grew up the desire to be a philanthropist and work with children (as her mom had) but with those less fortunate became a life goal. When she was younger, the field of medicine and the specific desire of research or rehab with the March of Dimes was a strong driving force in he education. Her favorite non-assigned reading books were related to children with disabilities and of particular interest were true stories about autistic children. Maureen was able to work in a pre-school kindergarten with her mom (Margaret) for about 10 years while volunteering at nursing homes and hospitals until she eventually worked in a physical therapy department. Life took its course with twists and turns and these childhood desires were not fulfilled. Fast forward to her parent’s failing health, her mom’s passing away and then her dad’s failing health that lead him to a particular nursing home. While seeking to find a safe, happy and healthy place for her father she knew she was at the right place for her dad ("momo") when she met Mike (a young resident) and a few of his friends - they were happy and well cared for.
Momo and Mike fast became friends. One time when Mike entered Momo’s room Momo turned to Maureen and with a smile on his face said “Who let that bum in?” At first Mike was hurt until we told him that was Momo’s way of saying “I like you and I’m glad that you are here.” One of the highlights of 2009 was getting a contact with the Dodgers to get Mike 3 tickets to a Lakers game for his birthday. Due to Mike’s special needs it takes 2 people to transfer him from his motorized wheel chair to a vehicle and out again. Hence, he needs at least two adults with him outside of the rehab facility. Most everyone in the nursing home knew of Mike’s upcoming Lakers game for weeks before he went and he was the talk of the home the day of the game – oh what a nite he had. Mike was so excited about his outing that the nite before the big game he hardly slept.
Imagine being a parent, caring for a special needs person in addition to working and meeting a family’s needs. Then imagine what it would be like having a child that might have a “melt-down” while out and having strangers – usually adults – muttering under their breath that they could discipline that child; a child with autism. Imagine spending $100.00 to take your family of 4 to the movies and then have a special needs family member who needs your help or attention during the movie. Or a physical limitation that requires extra help at the theater or bowling alley or restaurant. Would you plan such events knowing that you might have to leave part-way through because others would be disturbed by these inconveniences or “strange” behaviors? If you had a child with a peanut allergy would you take the risk of attending a baseball game knowing that the people around you will probably be eating peanuts and tossing the shells on the floor – a normal and expected practice at a ballgame? It's likely that you would soon learn to avoid such obstacles.
The lost money, the extra energy and the temporary embarrassment for you and/or your children could be too negative to contemplate dealing with; there’s no insulation. But, the desire to do normal social activities does not magically evaporate; humanness is alive in a body with limitations.
A bit more about Mike and Momo: Mike was often found in Momo’s room – adjusting the CD player to Momo’s favorite cowboy music or tucking him in at nite. In short, Mike became Momo’s little angel - his blessing of the heart. It was a blessing to others at this home to see the relationship between Mike and Momo, one that most of the staff, several of the residents and many visitors knew about. It was while visiting her dad and seeing his interactions with Mike that Maureen was able to complete the puzzle that started decades earlier – it was time to start a non-profit organization to allow special needs persons a chance to do normal activities; to attend a ballgame, go bowling, attend a movie. This experience was the inspiration for the creation of Blessings of the Heart (BOTH).
Within a few weeks of Blessings of the Heart becoming incorporated, Momo became very ill and was hospitalized. When Mike found Momo “missing” from the nursing home he called Maureen to tell her; he cried when he learned that Momo was so very ill. On January 14, 2010 (one day before the anniversary date of Margaret’s passing) Momo too completed his journey here and started his eternal life. One of the most difficult moments was sharing this news with Mike - we cried together and Mike whispered “pray, pray pray.”
Blessings of the Heart desires to bring families with special needs persons together for social activities such that they won’t always have to leave an event early just because a family member needs some extra attention. At the same time BOTH wants to provide an opportunity for non-affected individuals to help meet those needs while learning to become more compassionate and understanding and supportive for the road walked by these special families.
To fulfill this goal it takes us “both” those with special needs to allow us (perhaps to trust us, too) to participate in their world at their pace and for those more able (but also with needs, perhaps a lot less obvious and hidden) to choose to become involved in providing an opportunity for special needs persons; to experience normal social outings that we just take for granted and perhaps even complain about doing. Mike has shown us all that being a blessing to another has nothing to do with the amount of money in your bank account, your education or social status, your address or even your physical ability. It has to do with your heart and choosing to be a blessing to another, to clap with one hand, to touch the heart of another – to be that Blessing of the Heart. BOTH is now able to give each new special needs person a brand new stuffed animal - to say that we liked your company and we're glad you joined us.
As BOTH takes a step forward to complete this puzzle, we ask that you consider joining us - perhaps by the donation of your time, money, talents and/or contacts. Where can you be a Blessing of the Heart to a special needs person?
Board of Directors: Stacy Barnard, Dan Houghton and Maureen Sassoon (founder)
Graphic Artist: Al Kung
Blessings of the Heart
PO BOX 2028
Palos Verdes Peninsula, California 90274