Tom O!

Tom is RA of Isaiah House

Tom O! is short for Tom Oliver, who has been the Resident Assistant for Isaiah House since taking over December 1. 

There are a few other Toms around the Ranch, so it we had to add the “O” to clarify matters.

The exclamation point?  Well, that just has to be there.  If you meet him you'll see why.

We first met Tom through Special Olympics meets when he worked for the State Supported Living Center (formerly the “Austin State School”). 

Our coaches and athletes would meet Tom and his athletes and get to talking, and before long back at the Ranch we were hearing things like, “You've got to meet this guy.  He's a natural for Down Home Ranch!”

So in the course of things we did, and he is. 

Isaiah House was brand new when Tom and his guys started moving in.  It took a while for everybody to settle in together, as several trial visits needed to happen in order to fill the house the get the mix right.

Tom, Jay, Jason, Kyle, Tom H, Nick, and Travis in the woods behind Isaiah House

“I was really impressed with the guys during that process,” said Tom.  “They were cool with adapting to whatever was going on with the new guys.  But I admit it's great fun now that we've all had a chance to just settle in together.

“Like the other night, well, usually I've got two guys working to get dinner ready with me in the kitchen, but this night every one of them came to hang out, just leaning over the counter or sitting at the table.  They just wanted to share their day and talk about things, and it was all so natural and fun, and I just felt like, wow, these really are just the buddies I'd hang out with no matter what.  Can't imagine anything any better!”

I asked about challenges and he laughed and said he'd realized he was like a nervous mother every time he heard a cough or someone said his stomach hurt.

“It's just not right, you know.  My  guys?  Get sick?!  No way.  Not on my watch!  But sometimes they do and I really just hate that 'cause I take it personal.  And like if I'm ready to take Travis to work at the HEB and he starts to get in the car and I see he's got a little dirt under his fingernails I just say ‘Whoa, hold on!  We gotta take care of that before we pull out of here!'

“And of course they're all different.  Most get up in the morning just fine, but Jay–he's a real sleepy head and he'd usually rather sleep in.  So first what I did was turn getting up into scenes from movies.  I'd bust into his room and pretend to be some character or other and say, ‘Jay!  Get up man!  There's Klingons in the kitchen and I need help getting them out of there!  And he'd laugh.

“And then I discovered the walky-talky is a great way to keep on making sure he's up and getting dressed.  He loves using it and he doesn't feel nagged.  It works great!”

I asked him what he most looked forward to in terms of his work at the Ranch, and he said, “More and more activity.  Activity is life.  Activity heals!”  Tom plans to become certified as a personal trainer in order to help Ranch staff and Ranchers increase their activity levels and “get more out of life, man!”

We're hatching a plot to build a challenge course of concentric ovals in which people can compete with one another at different levels of challenge.  It took me a while to get the idea, but Tom sketched it out with great enthusiasm.

When energy was being handed out, let's face it: Tom got several extra doses.  He's out every evening with his house and others, creating novel and exciting ways to get folks moving.  Last night it was football skills in front of Barnabas House.  Tonight it might be track. 

But one thing it won't be is boring.