By Bill Young, Board Vice President for both Hammer and Hammer Travel
It was 2009, and I was having a bad day at work. I stepped out of the elevator on my way home and ran into a coworker, Mark Flannery who was the immediate past President on the Hammer Board of Directors. He said, “I have great news! We want you to join the Board at Hammer!” Immediately, I went from a bad to great mood.
I have long admired Hammer, almost from the moment I arrived in Minnesota. It was 1985 and my wife, Bonnie, was pregnant with our first child. We became serious about finding the right church. After looking around, we found our way to Holy Name of Jesus in Medina. That’s where I first learned of Hammer. I saw a young man wearing a cowboy hat, sitting in the front row. He was glowing, smiling, socializing with everyone, and loudly singing (very much off-key). The young man with Down syndrome turned out to be our dearly departed friend, Donnie Rudd. Looking around the church I saw multiple adults with Down syndrome. Expecting our first child and new to Minnesota, I wondered why there were so many adults with developmental disabilities sitting at mass. Was there something in the water? Inquiring, I learned these individuals were supported by Hammer Residences. As a ministry, parishioners would drive them to mass each week. At Holy Name we have been able to embrace the gifts Hammer has brought to our faith community.
It took a while, but eventually, I found my way to the Board. I joined to give back, to help people with challenges, and to exercise the skills I’ve gained over the last thirty plus years in sales and leadership positions. However, something quite profound has happened; I have received more than I have given. I’ve learned that the more I do, the better I feel. And, it’s not just me. My family has also benefited. Bonnie and our daughter Allison, when not away at college, volunteer as well.
During my tenure on the board, I have seen strong growth in the individuals we serve and the services we offer. One area I have particularly enjoyed is Hammer Travel. Starting as an idea from program managers, Josh Senso and Tom Ryan, it has blossomed into a growing business. Not only does it provide our own residents the opportunity to “live life to the fullest” through travel, but it now serves people with disabilities from all over the United States.
I receive so much joy hearing the stories of the travelers. Some of my favorite stories include: a forty year old man confined to a wheelchair who rode a roller-coaster at Disney World for the first time; a woman from New Mexico who traveled to NYC, to meet the stars of the Today Show and be on the set of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; the recent group who attended Twin’s Spring Training and joined Joe Mauer on the field; or the group at a NASCAR race who were invited into the pits and onto the track.