Things are looking great for Darren and his Network these days. Darren and his family have been associated with PLAN for a number of years but in the last year his Network has really been taking off.
Darren’s parents give credit to his community connector, Jen. “She’s a super, fantastic person,” they affirm, “a positive person who really includes Darren in the conversation and has a great way of listening to what he wants to do.” They appreciate Jen’s follow-through, not just finding new activities where Darren can meet people, but also tracking down what’s in the community and then making sure the ideas are put into action.
For Darren, too, it is the activities that are important. When asked about his Network, Darren talks about all of their recent outings: horse racing, the Celebration of Lights, BC Lions football games, the upcoming Vancouver Canucks Superskills competition, video nights at his place and an interest he has recently discovered, going for nature walks. “Jen helps me find where the places are, like Burns Bog. I’ve never been to the trail at Boundary Bay,” he says with anticipation, knowing that Jen is checking into that for him. “I really like going out to these events,” he emphasizes, “we all enjoy ourselves.”
In addition to the activities, Darren also values the friendships that his Network has helped build. “They are good people who support me and help me out when I need it.” Because he is enjoying the company of his current Network members so much, both he and his parents hope that the Network will continue to expand.
Many people, including Darren, have found that the best way to meet new people is through doing things that they enjoy. For those who have a network with PLAN, a community connector helps find ways to invite potential friends to continue their contact. During the last 20 years, PLAN has watched again and again how some people really “click” based on similar interests or personalities and, over time, develop close relationships. Some of these people are eventually invited to become Network members.
Of course, the pleasure of getting connected goes both ways. One of Darren’s newer Network members, Carol, describes how much she has enjoyed getting to know him, who lives only five minutes away from her place. “We go to IHOP together and go for walks. You always have a good time when you’re with Darren!”
Darren’s community connector, Jen, describes spending time with Darren and his Network as “an absolute treat.” As she talks about them her voice is full of excitement. “It totally changes your perspective when you meet people as open and caring as Darren and his parents,” she explains, “it can’t help but be contagious.”
The biggest surprise (and delight) for Darren’s parents was realizing that though they had always attended all Darren’s Network meetings, this was no longer necessary. His father, John, explains, “At first we were feeling guilty for not being able to come. Then we realized we needed to let them have some time without us.” “It’s called letting go,” says his mother Nora, as they both share a laugh.
There is lots of learning for everyone involved in Darren’s Network. His community connector talks about how much she’s grown, and how Darren’s “amazing” personal goals have inspired her to be open to all possibilities in other parts of her life. “My time with Darren has really taught me to never say never. You just go out and make it happen,” she says.
Through his Network, Darren is expanding his connections to new people and to doing new things in the community. “He seems to be doing a lot better than when we first met,” says Carol, “he’s more outgoing and relaxed.” “PLAN is introducing Darren to different things that we might not have thought of and his Network members are super people,” explains John, “it’s excellent for Darren and it’s excellent for us.”