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Little City and “Together for Choice” unite in DC

Sen. Dick Durbin stands with Sister Rosemary Connelly of Misericordia and self-advocates from Little City and Misericordia for Illinois Day on the Hill.

Washington D.C. welcomed Little City and other members of “Together for Choice” on Nov. 8th for Illinois Day on Capitol Hill.

“Together for Choice” is a national advocacy organization with a mission to protect and advance the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live, work, and thrive in communities and settings of their choosing. This organization works to ensure that all individuals with disabilities have access to the same high-quality choices available to all people.

With the increasingly complex array of federal Medicaid and state agency rules that govern these critically important and personal housing and employment choices, regulations are reducing options and availability of long-term care services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Including Little City, thirty-two individuals representing Misericordia, Clearbrook, Trinity Services, Inc., Good Shepherd Manor and Park Lawn joined together on behalf of “Together for Choice” to have their voices heard. Family members of individuals being served by agencies, as well as self-advocates, passionately spoke to discuss the importance of communities like Little City and the positive impact the choice to live there has had on their lives.

Sister Rosemary Connelly, Executive Director of Misericordia, reinforced this sentiment to lawmakers including Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D), among others.

“Our purpose here is to redefine the definition of what community really means. It means choice for these individuals and their families,” Sister Rosemary said.

The represented agencies were encouraged by the staunch support of many of the lawmakers including Sen. Durbin, who agreed that there should be flexibility in how a community is defined.

Self-advocates were also eager to speak up for themselves. Ciara Craig, a resident of Little City in Palatine, emotionally addressed the room.

“I have a lot to do every day because of Little City,” Ciara said. “I lift weights, work in the community and spend time with my friends. Little City is my home and I love my life there.”

Little City was also represented by two parents, Lianne Paterson and Sue Garesche, who both have sons at the organization. “I never thought Austin would get to experience all the opportunities that Little City offers. It has provided him with the quality of life I have always dreamed of.  He is the happiest he has ever been and of course that gives me the greatest piece of mind,” Sue said.

Lianne, whose 11 year old son lives at Little City, added that “Tim is provided with high quality care and lives in a beautiful new home. He is taught valuable skills for independence and participates in campus- and community- based recreation activities. We see Tim almost daily and he loves visiting the family home to play with his siblings, watch a movie or eat dinner together. We are thankful for Little City and the balance it has provided for our family; when raising child with a significant needs, it truly does ‘take a city.’”

Along with “Together for Choice,” Little City will push for change in how a community is defined, and at the forefront of that definition, is choice. With powerful voices carrying a unified message, these supporters will continue to tirelessly advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities the right to live, work and thrive in a place of their own choosing.

“Little City uses an affirming message – that it’s a good world, there’s a place for my kids in the world and Little City will help them find it.”

Rachel, mother of children receiving home-based support services