John’s Story of Friendship

John would describe a true friend as someone who is nice to you, treats you with respect, and gives you hugs when you need comfort. Before moving to Down Home Ranch, John had one person he considered a true friend, but now he says he has more friends than he can count!

John was born in Ohio, and moved to Atlantic Beach, FL when he was 8 years old alongside his parents and four siblings. He attended a Catholic grade school in downtown Jacksonville for children with differing abilities. Specialized transportation was not an open opportunity in the 60s, so John learned to ride the city bus to school, a 12-mile bus ride both ways! After graduating High School and working in various occupations, John’s mother signed him up for a weeklong summer camp for people in the IDD community. John described this experience as a week in heaven. At first, he was a camper, but the staff soon realized he was an excellent assistant. He helped with first aid, counseled campers, and became the go-to guy when a camper was struggling. After spending the next 14 summers at St. Elizabeth Camp, John was convinced that this was the life he wanted –living in the
great outdoors, surrounded by friends, and plenty of opportunities to serve.

At the age of 20, John moved to Alexandria, VA to enroll in a fairly new program that specialized in supported independent living with vocational assistance. While attending this program, John met David, a man who would become his roommate and best friend for the next 25 years. After having a companion for so long, John was saddened when David moved to another state to be closer to his family. With David gone, John chose to live alone while continuing to work as a messenger for the federal government. But, having no social life at home really took a toll on John. He spent many more hours alone, which led to mild depression. At the same time, his job became more challenging both physically and emotionally. All of these factors combined led to the decision that John would retire. John’s family knew that social opportunities for him would be nonexistent unless they found a place for him to find community and purpose.

In the words of John’s sister Elizabeth, “John had worked so hard for 57 years to fit into a mainstream life and that was always a struggle. What he desired most was to find a home that he could relax in and feel safe, as
well as a social group with like-minded folk. That is exactly what he has found at Down Home Ranch. He finds the friendly and helpful people to be refreshing. He relishes the stars in the rural night sky. The ability to wear boots and a cowboy hat as a daily uniform is delightful. His purpose now is to help his friends wherever he can, whenever he can, because he can.”

The Better Together campaign is aimed at sharing the beauty and strength behind the friendships made at Down Home Ranch. This campaign showcases how the mission of DHR brings people from all walks of life to stand together in community. We are stronger, we are happier, and we are better when we are together.