By Jan Hopper, Program Manager
Tristan has lived at Hammer since 1978 when he was 10 years old. Like all of us, his life has changed as he aged. His family moved to Seattle, and he had to travel to see them (about once a year). These trips became the high point of his year and were his main topic of conversation. He would hardly return from a trip before he started talking about the next trip. This was no surprise, as his family always planned fun activities and travel when he was with them.
In meetings, his mother would talk about how Tristan loves to travel and is such a fun travel buddy. This started his staff thinking, maybe more travel during the year would give Tristan more topics of conversation and more events to look forward to sharing? The hesitation was, Tristan became anxious when alone in a group of people he didn’t know.
Working with Hammer Travel, we arranged a custom trip for Tristan and two of his house mates – a fall train ride to Chicago for a weekend stay. The trip leader came and spent an evening with Tristan, getting to know him and talking about the trip. The funding for Tristan’s expenses was supplemented by Hammer’s Quality Of Life fund, as he didn’t have enough to afford everything himself. The trip was a huge success! Tristan had a new topic of conversation. He could discuss the trip before (“Do they have nice hotels in Chicago?”), and then tell everyone about it when he got back. We posted photos at the house, and he would point to them to discuss the trip.
Because the Chicago trip went so well, another was scheduled for San Diego earlier this spring. Tristan loves animals so the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park seemed to be perfect places for him to visit. He also loves the ocean and was excited to see it from the shores of California. This time, Tristan went without anyone he knew. The trip leader met with him twice and even went to dinner with him before the trip to make sure he was comfortable. He spent a lot of time talking about how the ocean might look or what animals he might see.
Again the trip was a success! He continues to talk about it, especially the ocean (“It is so big you can’t see the other side.”) and the big cage of birds he could walk through at the zoo. He liked the trip leaders, Lisa and Emily. On the way home from the airport he was telling me all about his trip. Just before we pulled in the driveway he became quiet for a minute. Then, with a smile he asked: “What makes Lisa’s smile so pretty? Is it her eyes?” I agreed that it was probably her eyes.
People that haven’t seen Tristan in a long time are commenting on how much chattier he is and the increase in his eye contact. His mother reports the same thing about her conversations with him on the phone. He is more social and talkative. He has stories to tell and places about which to talk.
Tristan is planning a trip to see his family soon, and he is talking about it…not with the same intensity as in the past. Now he has other things to talk about too – how big the ocean is, the birds at the zoo, the weather in San Diego or the hotels in Chicago. Because of travel, his world has opened up and he is living a fuller life. This was made possible with help from Hammer Travel and the Quality of Life fund that many of our donors generously support.