We believe every individual we serve has hope for a bright future, no matter what challenges they face. Our best-practice services have a long history of transforming lives. These are a few of the thousands of stories we help rewrite each year.
Xander, diagnosed with autism at age 2, was prone to aggression and self-injurious behavior from a young age. His parents Eric and Francis say that, while he has always been affectionate, he would get upset at not having a way to communicate with anyone–and often lash out.
“We would literally be covered in cuts and bruises from head to toe,” said Eric. “We used to measure how good a day was based on our number of injuries, or if we made it through without spraining something.”
School had its own set of challenges. Eric and Francis credit Xander’s public school for using every tool at their disposal to create an environment where he could thrive, but the incidents escalated. It reached a point where Xander was sent home early each day and he lost the benefit of a full school day where he could develop with his peers. When private placement was recommended, Eric and Francis chose to enroll him in the Villa’s Sarah Dooley Center for Autism. They have been amazed by the changes in Xander since then.
“His quality of life has improved in every way. He is extremely fond of the teachers. They let Xander teach them how he wants to learn and interact with the world, and they turned that into a game plan to help him build skills,” said Francis.
“Xander is still nonverbal, but he is able to express himself,” said Eric. “He has started forming relationships with classmates. He shares toys, he laughs… for the first time we see him building bridges with others,” said Eric.
Xander continues to grow at the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism as he learns to be more independent and develops new communication skills.
Hannah’s friends know her for her big heart and genuine desire to help others–but before coming to St. Joseph’s Villa, she was overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. She faced bullying from her peers and struggled to keep up in class. Her self-esteem was lost.
Even at home, forming positive relationships was a struggle for Hannah. Eventually her frustrations led her to become violent toward her family. She came to the Villa’s Therapeutic Day Treatment after-school program to build her confidence, social skills and self-control.
Program clinicians teamed with Hannah’s family to create a behavioral plan tailored to her needs, including a specific set of goals to work on at home. Hannah’s family and Villa staff stayed in close communication to ensure she was making progress.
Hannah achieved all of her behavioral goals and graduated from the program. Her relationship with her family improved and she is now trying out for school sports teams. With the help of Villa specialists and the support of her family, Hannah is comfortable being herself again.
Keimon had a hard time going against peer pressure, which led to trouble at school and at home. At the Villa, Keimon found a place where he could pursue his interests by participating in Career and Transition Services (CATS). While exploring vocational possibilities, he joined a snack preparation and delivery program serving Villa students with autism, and interned with Villa athletic operations. Keimon also toured local colleges and worked with college student mentors on a variety of skill-building projects.
Now Keimon feels confident stepping out from the crowd to become his own individual. He even performed in a live play through the University of Richmond’s Jepson Shakespeare Project–something he never pictured himself doing. His time at the Villa encouraged him to dream big for his future.
“I want to be a counselor one day, because I like how the counselors here treat me,” he said.
The positive relationships Keimon formed with Villa staff and college mentors also inspired him to mentor an elementary student in the Villa’s Dooley School. He enjoys imparting the lessons he has learned, and feels that serving as a mentor is a great way to prepare for a career in counseling.
“CATS changed me a lot,” said Keimon. “I’m a whole different person.”
Tyriek served in Afghanistan for three years as a unit supply specialist for the U.S. Army. He was released from his position when the Army experienced budget cuts. When he returned to his fiancée Bianka and son Tyriek, Jr. in Richmond, their joy in reuniting was cut short by the housing crisis they faced.
“I didn’t have good home life growing up,” said Tyriek. “I was beaten down emotionally by my family, I hung around a bad crowd, and I made some bad financial decisions. We didn’t have anything to fall back on.”
The family tried staying with Bianka’s relatives at first. They had one twin bed to share in a high crime area, and quickly realized different solution was needed.
Options for staying together were limited. Not wanting to be split up by a shelter, Tyriek and Bianka sought assistance from Flagler Housing & Homeless Services. Within a few weeks, Flagler helped them find an affordable apartment in a safe neighborhood, and obtain a lease in their own name. Housewares from the Villa’s Donation Center made it feel like home in no time.
“The neighbors are very nice. We’re proud to have them over,” said Tyriek.
Tyriek and Bianka are now married and financially stable. From the comfort of his home, Tyriek finished his degree in audio engineering. He believes his life has turned a new corner, and wants to help others live good lives through the power of music. He ultimately hopes to become a minister.