ImageTaylor Hardouin, a 28-year-old with autism, doesn’t have much to say. In fact, he rarely talks or shows emotion, even to Christy Cachere, his personal care assistant who works with him two days a week in Volunteers of America’s Supported Living Program.

But one thing brings Taylor out of his shell—airplanes and flying. Every Wednesday, Christy takes him to Lakefront Airport where he watches planes take off and land, as part of her committed search for ways to help develop Taylor’s abilities. “He could watch the
planes all day,” she says. “He grins from ear to ear. There’s something about the sound of the engines that gets him excited.”

Yet Taylor remained earth-bound. He had never actually flown. That is, until recently. Christy took Taylor to the airport so often they became a familiar presence to the staff, who spread the word about his dream of flying. Helicopter pilot Brayton Matthews decided to help and gave Taylor the thrill of his life. He took him up for a flight over Lake Pontchartrain and surrounding areas. Taylor sat in the co-pilot’s seat, and was animated and communicative throughout the afternoon. Taylor hopes to fly again soon and expand his horizons.

Helping people with disabilities like Taylor realize their full potential—whatever that may be—is the goal of our Supported Living Program. We help persons with activities that range from accomplishing the tasks of daily living to pursuing interests that unlock their minds. This sometimes is challenging, but it always is rewarding.

Volunteers of America’s services for people with disabilities like Taylor have recently experienced state budget cuts of 3.7 percent. Our challenge is how to financially manage support for persons with disabilities while maintaining the highest quality of services they deserve.

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