“2019 – Inspirational Story” 

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Janelle’s life has not been an easy one.  Abandoned at an orphanage in Seoul, Korea at the age of 3 months, Janelle was adopted by SCV residents when she was about one year old. She came to her new home mal-nourished, covered in bug bites, and began having grand mal seizures a few days after her arrival. She had numerous hospitalizations in her early years and was in Special Education classes due to her intellectual disabilities.  Despite her disabilities, she graduated from High School, passed some college Early Childhood Education classes and became a teacher’s aide at a preschool.  She also excelled in numerous Special Olympics sports and represented the United States at two World Game Competitions, earning a bronze medal in an equestrian competition in North Carolina in 1999 and humbly celebrated a 4th place victory playing on the United States Women’s Basketball team in Dublin Ireland in 2003.

But her hard achieved life was further challenged when she began having auditory hallucinations and was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 27 years old. Despite countless medication trials, Janelle has been diagnosed with “treatment-resistant schizophrenia” and bravely copes with menacing voices in her head on a daily basis, as well as struggles with the complicated side effects of the cocktail of medications she needs to take.

Despite all of these curve balls that life has thrown her, at age 36, Janelle serves as a model champion of integrity for Social Change. Her determination to succeed and live life to the fullest and her resilient nature has earned her the nickname of being “one tough cookie”! She doesn’t want anyone’s pity nor does she want to be segregated from society by being in a rigid institutional care facility, locked mental hospital, or in a sheltered workshop. She simply wants to be an example that with the support she receives from her family and the non-profit agency, Avenues Supported Living Services, she has been able to overcome adversity and reach her maximum level of personal achievement and independence.

The Family motto or code of ethics is to “Be Kind and Considerate” and Janelle exemplifies these qualities in her everyday life.  Janelle contributes back to the community and regularly volunteers at animal rescue facilities; collects gently worn shoes for Soles4Soul; bakes cookies for her neighbors when they are sick, or to thank them, or to help them celebrate birthdays, and she often donates her recycling to raise money for the homeless shelter.  She proudly holds a part-time job at a local fitness Gym (and doesn’t even like to miss a day at work) and proves that people with intellectual disabilities can get and maintain integrated employment alongside non-disabled co-workers. She has lived in her own home for the last 5 years (with 24-hour support staff) and is mastering life skills. Janelle is an active community participant who enjoys church activities, acting in a drama club, and she demonstrates outstanding sportsmanship at Special Olympics competitions. She traveled to Sacramento and met with legislative representatives to advocate for Social Change and the needs and rights of people with intellectual disabilities to further promote their acceptance and inclusion in society.

Janelle has positively touched the lives of all those who have come in contact with her. She has had a remarkable effect on others and has reciprocal relationships with friends (both with disabilities and without disabilities), co-workers, neighbors, her support staff, housemates (who are professional non-disabled young women), and acquaintances in her neighborhood and the community at large. Janelle is someone who has the ability to change society by simply living right.  Janelle is not only kind and considerate, but also VERY appreciative and thankful for those who help her live her life to the fullest. She is empathetic, compassionate, polite and full of love, giggles, and laughter.  Her home is appropriately decorated with “Live, Love, Laugh” messaging. She truly is an example of a person having the highest integrity and strives to live a WHOLE complete life. Janelle is a true advocate for Social Change to help reduce discrimination and stigma associated with intellectual disabilities and mental illness…so she and others with disabilities can be accepted, appreciated, and valued for what they CAN do, instead of what they CAN’T do.

Avenues SLS’ year-end giving campaign was created to tell the stories of our Avenues friends to further educate our community on how your donations support and encourage their efforts through volunteering and community interaction. You can help Janelle continue to give back her community by supporting her volunteer efforts and her personal philanthropy. Please make a donation today, Text the word Fuel7 to 71777
Donations received are tax-deductible and will go directly into the Avenues SLS transportation fund. Thank you.