BOSTON (CBS) – This month, thousands of families will celebrate a milestone anniversary. The Arc of Massachusetts was founded 60 years ago on November 19.
It was founded by parents who refused to accept that their children – with developmental or intellectual disabilities – would have to spend their lives in institutions or, essentially, forgotten.
They worked to establish new laws, new opportunities and a culture that values individuals who want what we all want: to live full, happy lives.
WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes spent time with a man who embodies progress. He is 25-year-old Ted Wong of Needham, who always knew he wanted to be just like everybody else.
These days, he works 27 hours a week at the Walpole Walmart stocking shelves. Ted is, arguably, Walmart’s happiest employee. He sings on the job, dances every now and then and greets customers with a smile.
His mom, Corine Burke says, “Even when he’s sick he wants to come to work. That’s a success story.”
Doctors did not diagnose Ted’s Down Syndrome at birth. He was diagnosed at 10 months old. And immediately, Ted’s parents began looking for resources.
They did not have to look far. The Arc of Massachusetts helps families with educational information, referrals, education, employment, housing and more.
“You see what it does for individuals when they have a purpose,” The Arc’s Executive Director, Leo Sarkissian explained. “They feel good about their role and that is what we need to have happen for everybody.”
But attitudes change slowly. That is why Ted educates customers and co-workers with every shift he works. He is also debunking the myth that people with similar disabilities can’t do the job.
“It’s just the opposite,” Sarkissian said, smiling. “He’s learned the job so well, he could probably teach other people.”
And customers adore Ted.
“I think he’s a nice man,” Annie Butler told WBZ. “He’s very nice to everyone who comes shopping here.”
Ann Rogers agreed. “It makes us proud. The world is a place we all get to enjoy.”
It’s safe to say that few enjoy it as much as Ted Wong.
For more information on The Arc of Massachusetts, visit the organization’s website.