Former Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson had an NFL Hall of Fame-worthy career, but he thinks his current role is more important.
He’s leading a re-energized effort, the Ken Anderson Alliance, to create a place in Hamilton County where adults with developmental disabilities can have a safe place to live, work and play.
One in six adults has a developmental disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control. With the growing prevalence of autism and other developmental disabilities and with those with disabilities living longer there’s a growing need for communities where they can lead fulfilling lives.
Anderson knows the issue firsthand. His nephew Drew, now 25, is severely autistic and lives in a group home in eastern Ohio.
“I realized how few choices there were for him,” Anderson says. “I discovered that although there are many resources to benefit children and teens with disabilities, there is a serious lack of options once they reach adulthood.”
Anderson and his wife Cristy have been raising funds through events such as Stadium Strides, Autism Rocks and Strikes for Autism since 2014 to create a community for developmentally disabled adults with autism. Last year they joined forces with Lighthouse Landing, a nonprofit in Loveland pursing a community for adults with Down syndrome with an assist from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley who pointed out the two groups shared the same goals.
“We scheduled a working meeting with board members from each group and found there was tremendous synergy,” Anderson says.
The combined entity brings together individuals with disabilities and their families, business leaders, local and national experts, and the Anderson family.
The term “Alliance” was chosen to emphasize the importance of community partnerships that will result in an expanded range of choices in the lives of adults with developmental disabilities.
Lynn Esmail, director of advancement, says the idea is to create a network of “live, work, play’’ options. The residential component will offer a variety of housing options. The concept also includes those without disabilities.
“In the field it is called natural supports where it’s not a staff person but a neighbor who is there and keeping an eye out for them and taking them out to eat once in awhile and enjoying a friendship,” she says.
Anderson says the alliance hopes to identify a site for the residential option later this year. The goal is to open by 2021.
The alliance also will begin offering community activities for individuals with and without disabilities to interact and enjoy things such as going to a Reds game, eating out or doing volunteer work.
“What I often say is you get one chance to make a difference,” says Anderson. “Maybe this is a way I can make a difference and help not only my nephew but someone else’s grandchild, daughter or son. There’s a tremendous need for a facility like this.”
For more information visit the alliance’s website at kenandersonalliance.org.
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